BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Seventy-five years ago – on March 15, 1941 – 5 businessmen rode a Beech Model 18 twin-engine plane driven by Paul Iyring Gunn and Emil Scott, from Nielson Airport in Makati to Loakan here in Baguio City.
It was the maiden flight of Philippine Airlines (PAL), the oldest Asian commercial airline in the country.
A copy of the first ticket showed that William Smith held the first ticket of PAL, which was named as such only two days before by operator and general manager Andres Soriano. Gunn was his personal pilot.
There was hardly any celebration in Loakan Airport two weeks ago regarding the milestone. In fact, it was ironic that the first airport PAL landed on cannot attract any investor today to fly a regular commercial flight here.
Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Abaya, in his visit here recently, said that his agency is still not giving up on the American-made airport. He said, however, that they are still looking for private investors to service the route for tourists and other passengers.
Abaya said that, for now, the 1.6 kilometer airstrip will be maintained as a lifeline for Philippine Military Academy and locators of the nearby Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
“It will now be up to the airline companies if they want to service the route amid geographic issues and the absence of appropriate airport facilities,” Abaya said.
Through the years, several commercial operators have attempted to reopen commercial flights for Loakan Airport, but no agreements were sustained. The last time was 4 years ago, when a local commercial airline tried to open a Baguio-Tuguegarao-Batanes flight.
In 2015, another airline company opened talks with the local government of Baguio and an association of hotels for a Baguio-Manila-Baguio flight.
No agreements has been signed so far regarding the return of regular commercial flights.
Part of the problem for Loakan airport is about safety – the airstrip is regularly traversed by residents staying on the other side of Loakan Proper village.
To remedy this, the Regional Development Council suggested the building of an access road and the raising of a perimeter fence surrounding the airstrip, both costing about P60 million.
Other suggested improvements are the upgrading of the airport lighting system and construction of a new passenger terminal building. – Rappler.com