The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam held a seminar in HCM City on May 14 to discuss the issues facing the proposed 8 billion USD Long Thanh International Airport near the city.

Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the CAAV, said building an aviation hub or entrepot was a long-term strategic mission of his agency.

The airport would also help resolve the issues facing Tan Son Nhat International Airport like noise and air pollution and threats to the safety of densely populated urban areas nearby.

"In future Tan Son Nhat will no longer meet the demands of airlines flying to Vietnam."

Tran Dinh Thien, the director of the Vietnam Economic Research Institute and an enthusiastic backer of the project, said since the airport was closely linked with the country's future, there should be a vision for a longer term than just five or 10 years.

Even if Tan Son Nhat was expanded to double its current size, it would remain a traditional terminal, and in any case, due to its urban location, expansion was impossible, he said.

"The regional hub cannot always be Singapore. If we want to compete with Singapore and Thailand, we should have a different view on Long Thanh International Terminal. It should not only be a place for transporting passengers; it is also a transit point for cargo."

Le Manh Hung, General Director of the Airports Corporation of Vietnam, said Tan Son Nhat had a capacity of 25 million passengers a year, and would be overloaded by 2017.

To expand its capacity to 40-50 million, an additional 641ha of land would be needed in Tan Binh, Go Vap, and Phu Nhuan District and 500,000 people would have to be relocated, he said.

"The location selected for building the international airport has adequate conditions for establishing a transit international terminal that will be competitive in the region."

Dr Tran Dinh Ba, who had proposed the much-debated straight-line air route between HCM City and Hanoi, expressed the fear that the new airport's 18.7 billion USD cost was too high for the country.

Deputy Minister of Transport Pham Quy Tieu said it was imperative to quickly build Long Thanh airport, adding it would give a boost to the country's economic development.

Long Thanh, approved by the Government in 2011, is scheduled to open in 2020 with a capacity of 25 million passengers a year, according to authorities in Dong Nai province, where the airport is to be built.

To be built in three phases, it is expected to be fully completed by 2035 with a capacity of 100 million passengers.

Construction is scheduled to begin this year.-VNA