Two news stories with quite different visions for Kunming's defunct airport were published in the Yunnan press this week. One discloses initial plans for a sprawling redevelopment project on the site of Wujiaba Airport while the other reports a provincial official has proposed the now unused runways and terminals be reopened.
City planners unveiled their vision for Wujiaba in the summer of 2013, 13 months after the facility was mothballed. The massive urban renewal project calls for the renovation and repurposing of ten square kilometers of prime Kunming real estate. Announced as a "new center of finance and economics" for the Spring City, the blueprint also outlined plans for mixed-use public-use, retail, business and living spaces.
New, more specific, designs were made public on January 18. The old, 3,400-meter runways are slated to be replaced by a man-made lake. Lining the lake will be a park incorporating manicured gardens, walkways and more than three hectares of recreation and sports facilities.
Architects have incorporated sustainable architecture designs for most building plans. Designs call for office and retail space to utilize this sort of technology, as do blueprints for the construction of housing for more than 200,000 people.
One high-ranking attendee of the ongoing Eleventh Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of Yunnan Province (政协云南省第十一届委员会) had other ideas for Wujiaba. During the first day of meetings, Jiang Zuotai (姜作太), a standing member of the committee, suggested Wujiaba be reopened as a "complimentary" facility to Changshui International Airport.
Jiang cited a growing litany of instances where Yunnan's 19 month-old flagship airport has been closed down by fog or snow. He pointed out that not only do such closures inconvenience travelers, they mar Yunnan's reputation as a tourist destination and hurt local business. According to Jiang, the local economy suffered direct economic losses of 70 million yuan (US$11.6 million) when Changshui International closed down on December 28 and again on January 3.
Reopening Wujiaba, Jiang went on to say, could help alleviate flight delays and cancellations during inclement weather. It could also open up more opportunities for carriers that do not service Kunming to enter the local market.
Lin Wei (林卫), Deputy Secretary of the Kunming Planning Bureau, later told reporters that such options had previously been considered and ultimately rejected. As reasons, he cited the complexity of managing Kunming's airspace if two airports were operating simultaneously and then referred to the aforementioned urban renewal plans.
Lin said he was confident the weather issues at Changshui International could be solved by "improving emergency response mechanisms and installing an Instrument Landing System to assist with blind landings." As of January 1, all commercial pilots in China were required to undergo blind landing certification for the first time.