Construction proceeds at Mexico City's new airport. Construction proceeds at Mexico City's new airport.

Will AMLO’s airport plan fly? Experts say no due to aeronautics

The existing airport is too close to the air base López Obrador proposes using

How feasible is the proposal by a presidential candidate to scrap the Mexico City airport project and use an existing air force base instead?

Not very, according to an official at a leading aviation research center and a pilot.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Morena party candidate who polls say will be elected president on July 1, has labeled the US $13-billion project corrupt and unnecessary, and has proposed keeping the existing airport open and using the air base for commercial flights as well.

But according to the experts that won’t work, and the reason why is simple: the two facilities are too close together, meaning that aircraft would be dangerously close to each other in the same limited airspace as they descend to land.

“This is out of reach because of physics and aeronautics laws,” Bernardo Lisker of the Mitre Corp.’s Center for Advanced Aviation System Development told the news agency Bloomberg.

The international aviation director at the Virginia-based non-profit research organization said that he had studied López Obrador’s alternative plan and determined that it is not viable.

When building an airport “the number-one focus needs to be aeronautics,” Lisker said.

Mexican pilot Ángel Valero, who is also a former president of Mexico’s School of Aviation Pilots, explained that because Mexico City is located in a high-altitude valley, the surrounding mountains dictate the approach that jets have to take when landing in the capital.

There is little room to vary that approach, Valero said, adding that “airports have to be built from the air down to the ground.”

However, Javier Jiménez — who López Obrador has said will be his transport secretary in a government he leads — told Bloomberg that his team has also consulted aviation experts and said, “we don’t agree at all that the trajectories would overlap.”

The Santa María air force base, located within the capital’s metropolitan area in México state, is about 40 kilometers north of the existing Benito Juárez International Airport.

The presidential candidate has pledged to review all airport contracts if he wins the July 1 election, charging that the project is corrupt and too expensive.

His stance has put him at loggerheads with the private sector and opposition parties but the leftist Morena party leader has refused to back down and despite claims that his airport proposal — and others — will have a detrimental effect on the economy, he has a commanding lead over his rivals.

The International Air Transport Association said in a statement that if he wins the presidency and actually scraps the airport project, passenger traffic could drop by 20 million a year by 2035 and gross domestic product (GDP) could decline by US $20 billion.

López Obrador has also pledged to review all oil contracts awarded since energy reform implemented by the current administration opened up a long-monopolized sector of the economy to private and foreign companies.

State oil company Pemex said that any move by López Obrador to wind back the energy reform would be a “shame.”

Financial services company Citibanamex also cautioned that slower growth, higher inflation and a weaker peso would likely follow an AMLO victory in the presidential election.

Opinion polls, however, show that a significant segment of the population is seemingly unperturbed or unconvinced by the unfavorable economic assessments and is ready to vote for the 64-year-old political veteran.

Less than two months out from the election, the candidate for the “Together We Will Make History” coalition has 48% voter support, according to Bloomberg’s poll tracker, an advantage of almost 20 points over second-placed Ricardo Anaya.

Source: Bloomberg (sp)

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