The airport in the devastated Philippine city of Tacloban, which was also severely damaged by five metre high storms surges created by the Category 5 super-typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) last Friday, has begun to service military and commercial flights carrying humanitarian relief and equipment, albeit limited to turboprop aircraft.
The heavily damaged control tower at Tacloban airport.
Captain John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said the Tacloban Airport would accept around 20 flights each day, each carrying up to 90 passengers.
Though the airport’s runway remains serviceable despite the damage to the rest of the facility caused by storm surges Andrews said aircraft have to do a visual approach because ground equipment has been damaged. “There is really no airport to speak off,” he said. Prior to the typhoon which thundered into the province of Samar and Leyte with 350 km/h winds, the airport served nearly a dozen commercial flights a day, mostly A320s.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino surveys the damage at Tacloban airport.
CAAP personnel on the ground are working double-time to bring operations back to normal, he said. Even so, it will still take days or even weeks for Tacloban to accept larger, commercial aircraft like A320s orB737s because the terminal, including its communications tower and radar equipment, was completely destroyed by the typhoon.
A day after Haiyan battered Tacloban with howling winds and five-meter-high storm surges, the airport’s runway was cleared to allow the military’s C-130 planes to land and bring in supplies, rescue and relief personnel. It continues to be the main transit and arrival point for supplies needed to aid devastated Tacloban and the entire province of Leyte.
Andrews said limited ground to air communications had been established to facilitate the flights, including those being mounted for relief and rescue operations by the military. He added that all fees and charges would be waived for “flights that will transport relief goods, medical personnel, relief operations personnel, security personnel and recovery equipment, etc. for the recovery operations”.
Cebu’s Mactan International Airport has been designated as the main staging point for international aid coming into Tacloban and the other areas hit by the typhoon.