CHIBA - The operator of Narita airport reached an agreement Tuesday with the Chiba Prefectural Government, local municipalities and the transport ministry on a plan to expand the hours for landings and takeoffs in bid to improve the facility’s competitiveness as an international gateway.
Still, the agreement was reached despite concerns by some nearby residents about increased noise, .
It marks the first time the airport will extend the time allowed for incoming and outgoing flights since it opened 1978. On top of the 2½ hour extension, the parties also agreed to build a third runway at the airport.
The new flight hours will increase the annual number of takeoff and landing slots from the current 300,000 to 500,000. The new schedule will see flights from 5 a.m. at the earliest to 12:30 a.m. at the latest.
The agreement was reached during a meeting in the city of Chiba by representatives from the prefectural government, nine municipalities including Narita, the transport ministry and Narita International Airport Corp.
The ministry also aims to allow aircraft to fly over central Tokyo around Haneda airport, the capital’s other international gateway.
Designating the tourism industry as a key growth sector, the government aims to attract 40 million overseas visitors annually by 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics. The goal by 2030 is 60 million visitors.
But challenges abound, with residents around Narita airport continuing to oppose the extension of flight hours due to concerns such as noise.
In principle, the airport, situated inland, only allows flights between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
“We’ll have only 4½ hours of quiet time (under the new schedule),” said a resident of an area sandwiched between the runways.
To ease the local residents’ concerns, the airport is planning to introduce two separate schedules for its runways — 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. — to secure seven hours of no flight time for each runway.
Under the new plan, flight hours for the 4,000-meter runway will be extended by one hour. The length of the 2,500-meter runway will be extended by 1,000 meters by 2020, while the third runway, which will be 3,500 meters long, will be built in the 2020s.