Tag Archives: ipoh airport

Ipoh Airport Officially Reopened

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 Ipoh’s Sultan Azlan Shah Airport which was recently upgraded, was officially reopened by the Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah. Search results for apt

Also present at the ceremony was the Raja Puan Besar Tuanku Zara Salim, Raja Dihilir Raja Jaafar Musa, his wife Raja Puan Muda Raja Nor Mahani Raja Shahar Shah, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi and Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.

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The upgrading work consisted of a new roof, facade and enlarging the arrival and departure halls which have been fully air-conditioned for passenger comfort. Additionally and equally important, the runway has been extended 200m to 2km in order to accommodate B737-800 and A320 aircraft operations.

The total cost of the upgrade was RM42 million and work was completed last November.

More Flights Please

Zambry in his address hoped that the Ministry of Transport will assist to add more airlines such as MAS and AirAsia to use the upgraded facilities. In so doing, it will benefit the state’s tourism and transport industries.

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Zambry also proposed that the airport be used as an aircraft MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) centre. Incidentally, located alongside the airport is the Air Police Unit Base, and a privately-operated flight school.

Subsequently, at a separate interview Zambry elaborated that the he had discussed the issue of more flights with the Ministry of Transport (MOT) for over two years now and had brought it up again last year. However, MOT to date has not given a timeline when Ipoh airport can expect to see additional flights.

Zambry further added that the State is currently considering having discussions with Malindo Air.

Ipoh Airport through the ages
Ipoh Airport through the ages

JAG

What is happening to Ipoh Airport?

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By James Gough

Much has been said and written about the Ipoh Airport or the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport. Hence when it was reported earlier this year that Sunway Construction Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Sunway Holdings Bhd, was awarded the tender to upgrade the airport, it was greeted with much expectation. Finally, a positive outcome seems imminent. The value of the contract was reported to be worth RM37.36 million.

The current Sultan Azlan Shah Airport or Lapangan Terbang Sultan Azlan Shah (LTSAS) was developed from a small Fokker airfield to accommodate medium-range jetliners such as Boeing 737s and an instrument landing system was installed in the late 80s when Sultan Azlan Shah was the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.

Many would remember that the airport was readied in time for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II who paid a courtesy visit to the Royal Town of Kuala Kangsar in 1989 the same year that HRH Sultan Azlan Shah was crowned the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The current ‘short cut’ road linking Jalan Lapangan Terbang to Jalan President Kennedy was also opened at the same time, just for the visit.

Although the federal government had provided an allocation of RM60 million for its upgrade last year, there was still talk of relocating the airport to the Dindings district as well as construction of a new airport up north within the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER).

Dato’ Samsudin Hashim

A check with Dato’ Samsudin Hashim, the Chief Executive of Perak State Development Corporation – the state authority overseeing the project, provided an insight of what Perakeans can expect come September 2012, the date for completion of the project.

According to Samsudin, most of the work is being handled by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and he thanked the federal government for accommodating the requests of the state government. The work is not confined to extending the runway by 200 metres but covers the whole airport.

Operations’ Background

Samsudin provided a background of the airport’s operations, saying that in its heyday when MAS was operating from Subang, over 500,000 passengers passed through its doors and it also had a healthy cargo operation.

Subsequently, when the North-South Expressway was opened in 2005, domestic travel between Ipoh to Penang and Kuala Lumpur became more practical by car.

The abrupt stop of services by MAS followed by a similar termination by Air Asia in 2006 turned the airport into a white elephant. Air Asia’s reason for stopping their Ipoh-Senai (Johor) route was due to their switch of aircraft from Boeing B737-200 to Airbus A320, with the explanation after the switch, that Ipoh Airport’s  “current runway was just too short to accommodate the new aircraft”.

Air service has became more competitive since the introduction of double tracking and electric trains which run right to the centre of Kuala Lumpur. Due to the accessibility of these services, Ipoh Airport has to reconsider its strategy. It now embarks on becoming a truly regional airport.

Scope of Work

According to Hj Mohd Rosli, MOT’s Undersecretary  (Development Division) the upgrading plan includes extending the runway by 200 metres, improving the airport’s terminal and apron, extension of the building and upgrading the existing customs and immigration facilities. Aircraft refuelling facilities available now will also be upgraded. “The completed airport will have its current passenger and visitor capacity increased by more than 10%,” added Rosli. Cargo handling and aircraft maintenance services have also been included into the upgrading plan, clarified PSDC Samsudin when asked.

Airport a Catalyst

Samsudin added that, “Logistics support is a key component for industrial development. The state’s objective is to position Ipoh as a regional airport and be economically viable by linking it with other international service airports within a radius of 2.5 hours.”

“Industrial development cannot depend on the domestic market any longer and has to go regional. Whilst in the process of promoting the State’s industrial development we will also be promoting the airport’s services”.

Ipoh’s position within the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMTGT) is strategic and this has been indicated to the IMTGT member countries. “This is a way forward for the airport and we will be promoting it to other ASEAN countries” giving the example of Singapore who “has been a significant contributor to the State’s industrial development.”

According to Samsudin the most important factor in this upgrade is the Flight Operator. Currently only Firefly is using the airport twice daily to Singapore. “PSDC will be approaching other Flight Operators and hopefully other budget airlines will offer their services”.

Other Commercial Services

Providing cargo services is important and all sectors whether trading or manufacturing will be positive beneficiaries, acknowledging that the aquaculture and agriculture industry players have been requesting for this service earlier.

Another service that the state is promoting is aircraft maintenance services especially for helicopters and small aircraft which it views as having “good potential”.

Eighteen Months Too Long

When enquired if the 18 month duration for the completion of the airport was too long, Rosli from MOT replied that, “Ipoh Airport is a running airport. You have commercial flights daily and a lot of activity is contributed by the flying school…18 months is normal.”

Tourism

Regarding the tourism industry Samsudin advised the stake holders to take note of the date September 2012 as an “opportunity to expand their business value. There should not be a delay targeting September 2012.”

 

Ipoh – A Feeder Airport for the Region

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Thinking Aloud

By Jerry Francis

The need for a good viable commercial airport in Ipoh has been felt ever since Air Asia abandoned the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in 2006, citing unsuitable runway as the reason.

Now that plans for a RM60 million extension of the runway have been approved by the Federal Government, there are talks to turn the airport into a feeder airport in the region.

Being a big state, Perak needs a strategically located functional airport to boost economic development. This is generally the view of the people, particularly those in the business and manufacturing industry, who have made various appeals to the state government for the revival of the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport.

The question is when can the much publicised extension of the runway, which has been an off-and-on topic for years, be carried out?

Runway Extension A Priority Project

Even the Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir could not firmly state when the construction would begin.

“I’ve spoken to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat to speed up the work on the extension of the runway at the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport. I do not know when work will start but it is a priority project for the State”, he was quoted at the recent launching of Silver Fly, a budget airline, at the airport.

“We have to re-define our strategy… not competing, but as a feeder airport to link to other airports in the country and region to attract visitors and investors”, he added.

The state government also signed a five-year collaboration agreement with Firefly, which now flies daily between Ipoh and Singapore.

Zambry said Firefly’s cooperation with the state was in line with the vision to make the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport a feeder airport.

However, can it materialise? Having seen a number of projects fail to take off in Perak, we cannot blame anyone for expressing doubt.

Humanitarian Airport

And let’s not forget that just before the General Election in 2008, there had been much publicity on the proposal to establish a first airport in the world to be dedicated to humanitarian efforts, at Bandar Seri Iskandar in Perak Tengah District.

The airport, about 50 km west of Ipoh, would provide emergency medical care for the Asia-Pacific region – described as one of the most disaster prone areas on the planet, with earthquakes, volcanic explosions, tsunami and floods occurring regularly.

Perak Government was to allocate 800ha of land for the transit hub of the global relief operations. It will include at 500-bed hospital and a 3,760-metre-long runway to accommodate aircraft, such as Boeing 747, and other related facilities.

Apart from accommodating rescue aircraft and helicopters for deployment to disaster areas, the airport will also host commercial airlines’ facilities – thereby becoming an alternative international air terminal in Perak. The cost, estimated at RM1 billion, is to be provided through a foreign humanitarian fund.

A memorandum of understanding was said to have been signed with the State Development Corporation and that the Civil Aviation Department had approved it. Just as fast as a flash flood emerges and subsides, the news about the proposed airport too suddenly fizzled out. What surprises me is how so much was said to have been done and achieved since 2006 and yet, a curtain could suddenly be drawn over the project.

Peak in 2003

Sultan Azlan Shah Airport, at its peak in 2003, handled about 116,000 passengers and 500 metric tonnes of cargo with 1,572 aircraft movements. It was then interlinked with major towns in the country, including Kuala Lumpur and Penang. International flights from Singapore and Sumatra also arrived on a frequent basis. As such the airport was fully supported by various facilities, including customs and immigration. It started to slide in 2005 when the North-South Expressway was completed and travelling times by road to the Penang and Kuala Lumpur were sliced. The Malaysian Airline System (MAS) began to reduce the number of its daily flights schedule and eventually it stopped. The final blow was when Air Asia too terminated its Senai-Ipoh route.

Other Activities Pick Up

The airport’s statistics began to gradually decline and by 2007 only 814 passengers went through the airport and 10 metric tonnes of cargo were handled. Fortunately, other activities at the airport began to pick up. Its role began to switch from being a passengers’ airport to a hub for light aircraft. There was an increase of aviation activities at the airport. There are currently a flying academy, a police air wing’s base and aircraft maintenance facilities at the hangars. As a result, the number of aircraft movements took a sharp climb to 32,462 in 2008 from just 954 in 2006.

State Involvement Needed

However, having a viable commercial airport alone is insufficient to attract investors and tourists to the state. There must be good investment environment and good tourist attractions. Otherwise, such an airport will only serve outgoing tourists from the state and not the other way round. Who would want to come to the state if there are no ideal investment opportunities or renowned tourist attractions? Therefore, the state needs to improve and develop business and tourism aspects, commensurate with the development of the airport so that it would not merely facilitate transportation but be an avenue for economic development.