U-Tapao Pattaya International Airport (IATA: UTP, ICAO: VTBU), also spelled Utapao and U-Taphao, is a joint civil-military public airport serving Rayong and Pattaya, cities in Thailand. It is approximately 90 miles (140 km) southeast of Bangkok, near Sattahip on the Gulf of Siam. It is located south of route 3 (Thanon Sukhumvit) at km 189, about a 45 minute drive from Pattaya (Thailand's most popular beach resort).
It also serves as the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, home of the Royal Thai Navy First Air Wing.
U-Tapao is the home of a large Thai Airways maintenance facility, servicing that airline's aircraft as well as those of other customers.
Due to the blockade of Bangkok's airports by opposition protesters, U-Tapao briefly became the main air gateway to Thailand between November 26 and December 5, 2008.
Airlines and destinations
During the winter high season, U-Tapao is or has been used for charter flights by numerous operators including Finnair, Korean Air, Aerotur.kz, Mak Air, Transaero, and UTAir. During the 2009/2010 high season, U-Tapao received charter flights from the following airlines,
SCAT airlines (VSV) with a Boeing 757-204 once or twice weekly from early December 2009 up to late March 2010 from and to Almaty(UAAA/ALA).
Trast Air (TST) with a leased A320-211 for several flights in late December and early January 2010 from and to Almaty via Lahore(OPLA/LHE), Pakistan.
UT Air (UTA)one TU-154 from Nishnivartorsk, Russia(USNN/NJC)(UTA9003/9004)arrived on 02 January 2010 for a 2 week stay.
Atlant Soyuz Airlines (AYZ) with 2 IL-86 flights.
China Southern Airlines(CZ/CSN) with 2 Boeing 737-800 flights from Kumning(ZPPP/KNG),PRC.
Korean Air (KE/KAL)with twice weekly A330 flights from and to Seoul-Incheon(RKSI/ICN) during January 2010.
During the Vietnam War U-Tapao was a military base for the United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers, known as "Bi-hasip-sawng" to the local people. U-Tapao was a front-line base along with the other US bases at Korat, Udon, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom and Takhli. The USAF B-52 made regular sorties over Thailand's eastern neighbors, especially North Vietnam, carrying an average of 108 bombs of 500 and 750 pounds per mission. Entertainer Bob Hope used to visit the base every year between 1964 and 1972 with his USO Christmas show.
The closeness of the U-Tapao USAF base to Pattaya during the Vietnam War era is frequently cited as one of the main reasons for the development of prostitution in that town.
November 2008 protests in Bangkok
With the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport in late November 2008 due to protests, U-tapao became for a time Thailand's main international gateway.
Airlines including AirAsia, Air France, Air Madagascar, Aeroflot, ANA, Asiana, Thai Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, China Airlines, El Al, Emirates Airline, Etihad, Ethiopian Airlines, Eva Air, Hong Kong Express, Iberworld, Indian Airlines, Iran Air, Japan Air Lines, Jet Airways, Jetstar, Kenya Airways, Korean Air Lines, KLM, Kuwait Airways, MAI, Mahan Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qatar Airways, S7 Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, Thai AirAsia, Orient Thai, Tiger Airways, Transaero and Vladivostok Avia arranged special flights from and to U-Tapao to ferry international passengers stranded because of the seizure of the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Several governments including Italy, Macau and Spain also sent chartered flights to evacuate residents.
As many as 100,000 passengers were stranded in Thailand until early December. Although its runway can accommodate large aircraft, U-tapao's terminals are not designed to handle more than a few flights a day. Travellers were subject to many hardships, and since the security was not up-to-date, some US-bound flights were diverted to Japan in order to make the passengers go through a supplementary security-check.
Accidents and incidents
On 28 October 1977, a Douglas DC-3 of Air Vietnam was hijacked to U-Tapao International Airport where the four hijackers surrendered. Two people on board the aircraft were killed in the hijacking. The aircraft was on a flight from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc Airport, Duong Dong.
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The content above was published at Airports-Worldwide.com in 2010.
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