Subic Bay International Airport (Filipino: Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Look ng Subic) or SBIA (IATA: SFS, ICAO: RPLB) serves as a secondary airport and a main diversion airport of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It is also the airport serving the immediate area of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and the general area of Olongapo City in the Philippines. This airport used to be the Naval Air Station Cubi Point of the United States Navy. Its airport terminal has 2 gates.
In January 2010, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator and CEO Armand C. Arreza expressed interest in closing Subic Bay International Airport in favor of converting the area to a logistics hub. This was due to the closure of FedEx's delivery hub, which is located within the airport complex, and the planned expansion of the nearby Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.
Guam-based Aviation Concepts has declared its intent to set up a full service business jet center at Subic Bay International Airport, reviving hope for the long-term sustainability of the airport.
In 1950, Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet, envisioned an army base in the Western Pacific to enhance Seventh Fleet capabilities. In 1951, construction started on the Subic Bay Naval Base. In 1952, Admiral Radford made his first landing at Cubi Point. After decades of used by American forces, Mount Pinatubo exploded in 1991, burying Cubi Point in 18-36 inches of ash. Despite this, the American government wished to keep the Subic Naval Base and signed a treaty with the Philippine government. The treaty was not ratified, however, failing by a slim margin in the Philippine Senate. Attempts to negotiate a new treaty were soon abandoned and the United States was informed that it was to withdraw within one year. U.S. forces withdrew in November 1992, turning over the facility with its airport to the Philippine government. Initially some 8,000 volunteers guarded the facility and prevented looters from damaging the facilities. The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) was created by intense lobby of then-Mayor Richard Gordon to manage the facility under Republic Act No. 7227. He was appointed first Chairman and Administrator.
Twenty days after the departure of American forces, the airport ushered in its first commercial flight from Taiwan via Makung. In February 1993, NAS Cubi Point was converted to Cubi Point International Airport, a few months later, it was renamed Subic Bay International Airport. To herald its designation as an international airport, President Fidel V. Ramos chose to arrive from an official visit to the United States using the airport. This flight also proved the capabilities of the airport as the President arrived aboard the delivery flight of Philippine Airlines's first Boeing 747-400. Construction of the present runway commenced in 1993 Hanjin Heavy Industries Construction and was completed in April 1995 in time for the inaugural landing of FedEx Express MD-11 and the opening of FedEx's AsiaOne hub at SBIA. In time for the 4th APEC Leaders' Summit, the new passenger terminal built by Summa Kumagai was inaugurated in November 4, 1996. In 1997, SBIA topped the 100,000th passenger count. In 2006, there were limited regularly scheduled commercial flights from Subic Bay.
Subic Bay International Airport boasts of modern facilities, which include the following:
Airlines and destinations
As of October 2010, there are no cargo airlines operating in Subic Bay International Airport.
FedEx Express closed its hub at Subic Bay on February 6, 2009, this was the first hub to be closed in FedEx's history. The hub operation was relocated to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China and while ground and technical operations were transferred to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Angeles City. Together with its support company Corporate Air.
The airport is also a base of a flight school Aeroflite Aviation Corp since 2006. Aeroflite utilizes the Midway ramp as its aircraft parking ramp. Training flights are conducted everyday except for holidays and as long as the VFR in Subic Bay International Airport is open. The flight school has a fleet of Cessna 150, 152, 172, Piper Seneca and Beechcraft Baron 58. Flight training in Subic Airport is done under controlled airspace where radio communications is vital.
Incidents and accidents
On December 13, 1995, SBIA became the main diversion airport when the Ninoy Aquino International Airport had a problem with its runway because of Asian Spirit Flight 897. On that day, it served 1,674 passengers from various international airlines while serving 212 passengers from various local airlines.
On October 17, 1999, a FedEx Express MD-11 from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, upon landing into Subic Bay's runway 07 rolled onto runway 25, hitting a concrete post and slamming into a wire fence before plunging into the bay. All of the plane submerged except the cockpit. The aircraft was written off.
On August 18, 2007, SBIA became one of the main diversion airports due to "Super Typhoon" Typhoon Sepat (2007) (also known as Typhoon 'Egay') which struck Taiwan and parts of China and the Philippines. At least 37 aircraft took shelter in Subic Bay International Airport, 18 of which were FedEx Express. SBIA could handle up to 41 aircraft at a time. Most of the aircraft which diverted or sought shelter from the Typhoon were from China and Taiwan, numerous inbound and outbound Philippine flights were also delayed and cancelled due to the typhoon.
On June 2010, The Doppler Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range ( DVOR ) controlling the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Navigational aid conked out due to a short circuit. The Manila International Airport Authority got the replacement parts from Subic Bay Airport's own VOR thus disabling the Subic VOR from June to September 2010. As of October 2010, the airport still cannot accomodate instrument flight because of the lack of Radar, Weather Radar, Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS), calibrated ILS and a calibrated VOR. Pilots flying in IMC or in Instrument Flight into or from Subic Bay International Airport are expected to fly visual upon arriving or departing the Subic Bay Airspace. The airport cannot make repairs and calibrations for its navaids due to lack of income.
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