Red Brick Daily

It would seem like the best way to get to Kenting.

Hengchun Airport cost over NT$500 million to build and began operations in January 2004. It is located literally 20 minutes from the downtown main strip of Taiwan’s southern beach resort.

Most people from the north catch a high-speed rail train and then transfer by taxi or bus … making the entire trip somewhere on the order of 4 to 5 hours.

By plane, it would take about an hour. So why hasn’t Hengchun Airport seen a flight arrival since 2014?

Despite occupying a surprisingly large and flat chunk of land along what is generally a jagged rocky coastline, the airport suffers from some distinct disadvantages.

On more than one occasion flights that did try to land in Hengchun were forced to divert to Kaohsiung as “Katabatic winds” — or strong downward thrusts of wind — are common near the southern tip of the island.

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(Wikimedia Commons)

The airport is also unable to handle anything larger than a midsize plane … meaning a flight might carry a few dozen passengers at most.

The government, however, has still been shelling out for the upkeep of the airport — losing a reported annual NT$60 million.

The Pingtung County Government has grown weary with supporting this ghost airport and so in recent years suggested shutting it down and turning it over to the military … which already uses the area for exercises and other training.

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But the Tsai administration is hoping to give Hengchun Airport one last chance to survive.

Earlier this week officials from the Ministry of Transportation decided to grant the airport two years during which changes will be attempted to allow for commercial jets or larger aircraft to service the route.

Larger planes find it easier to navigate the powerful downslope winds and could make flights profitable.

The ministry says it will task KHH International Airport with providing customs and immigration officials should international flights begin arriving.

It’s a Hail Mary pass for this unassuming yet ideally located airport that has so far been a dud.

Could we see international passenger jets arriving in Kenting within a year or so?

It’s hard not to root for the ‘little airport that couldn’t’ … But the challenges are formidable.

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