Honduras is preparing Palmerola International Airport for commercial flights to replace Toncontin, one of the most dangerous airports in the world.
The first flights in Palmerola, located in the Comayagua valley, 40 miles north of Tegucigalpa, will start next month when the control tower and facilities for airlines and passengers are completed.
“With Palmerola, Honduras is at the forefront in air connectivity,” said President Juan Orlando Hernández at the inauguration ceremony. “We are going to maintain the civil terminal and our joint task force (military with the United States) because that is good for Honduras.” The United States built the Palmerola base in 1985.
Toncontín, which handles about 800,000 passengers per year, will remain open for domestic flights. It is considered extremely dangerous by international aeronautical organisations. There have been numerous crashes, near-misses and hundreds of deaths since 1985.
To land there — located on a small plain surrounded by high mountains — planes must navigate slopes sometimes covered in fog, then descend steeply over the roofs of houses and near a boulevard to a runway of just 1,900 metres.
Pilots have to land with precision and brake immediately so as not overrun the table top runway, fall off a cliff and onto a busy road of vehicles. When planes take off, they have to climb immediately so as not to crash into populated hills.