Trees pose danger to Dumaguete airport

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The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Wednesday said Dumaguete Airport in Negros Oriental will be restricted to propeller-type commercial aircraft and general aviation jets, citing trees posing as hazards.

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CAAP Assistant Director General for Operations Rodante Joya said that “CAAP is in the process of shortening the usable length of the runway for safety concerns posed by tall trees obstructing the glide path of incoming flights on the approach to runway 09 from the west.”

The country’s aviation regulator said pilots complained that the trees, located in a private lot less than 100 meters opposite the runway, almost graze the bellies of planes approaching for touchdown, posing threat to life and property.

CAAP’s notice to airmen (Notam) came after an Airbus A320 of Cebu Pacific on Tuesday was forced to stay overnight at the Dumaguete Airport following a hydraulic leak on the right side of its main landing gear.

Aircraft mechanics found tree leaves on the aircraft’s landing gear “attributed to tall trees lining up on the runway approach.”

Joya explained the decision to limit the airport to propeller-type aircraft is in keeping with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), particularly where the trees pose significant safety issues, endangering the lives of commercial jet passengers, as they are located within the final approach of the runway.

“The obstruction limits the required ground visual contact of the pilot to the threshold during final approach and may cause unstabilized approach, shortness of landing distance available which may lead to aircraft overshooting the runway or unnecessary missed approaches,” Joya said.

He added that “during bad weather condition, low level approaches may cause the pilot to lose sight of the runway, resulting in the aircraft hitting the trees, damaging the landing gear and other aircraft parts, which may cause fatalities.”

Last year, authorities in Dumaguete Airport were in a quandary after a private lot owner refused to trim down or cut tall trees, obstructing the glide path angle on the final approach of the airport’s runway 09.

Several letters have been sent to the owner since December 2013, but to no avail, so that even Sibulan Mayor Emmanuel Diputado, where the airport is located, could not convince the owner to cut down the trees.

Joya cited a finding by the agency’s Aerodrome and Air Navigation Safety Oversight Office, which described conditions at the Dumaguete Airport runway as “critical and has the potential to result in loss of life, serious injury or damage to facilities and which requires corrective action to be completed immediately and if not may lead to downgrading of aircraft operation to a similar airplane or worst, closure of the airport.”

The airport hosted Cebu Pacific, CebGo and PAL Express domestic flights, serving an average of 14 commercial flights daily from Manila to Dumaguete and to Cebu, while 15 general aviation flights or private aircraft are landing or taking off daily.

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  1. Now the first tree-strike incident has occurred at this airport, because of a problem which has been known for several years. Luckily, no injuries and only minor aircraft damage, this time.
    One may ask: Are Philippine authorities unable to make a decision and take necessary action concerning the safety of travellers, or do they not have access to chainsaws or axes ?