A much overlooked destination gets another opportunity. You could fly into Tioman in the 1970s and 80s, even from Singapore, yet it never developed in any significant way. A blessing?
Six years after calling off plans for a new airport on Tioman Island due to environmental concerns, the Federal Government is now mulling over realigning the airport’s existing airstrip to accommodate the Aerei da Trasporto Regionale (ATR) turboprop aircraft.
Discussions are ongoing between the Federal Government, Pahang government, Malaysia Airports Berhad and the East Coast Economic Region Development Council on a proposal to lengthen the 992m air strip in Kampung Tekek to 1,200m.
Currently, the airstrip only caters to Berjaya Air’s 48-seater DeHavilland Dash 7 aircraft. If the upgrade materialises, it would be able to accommodate the 72-seater ATR aircraft.
Tourism Ministry Pahang’s director Edros Yahya said Berjaya Air was forced to use the discontinued Dash 7 aircraft for the Tioman route as it catered to the extreme short take-off and landing conditions.
He said the realignment of the existing air-strip would allow ATR aircraft, including Berjaya Air’s ATR 72-500 aircraft to land.
“The Dash 7 series is no longer in production, making it impossible to cater to the increasing number of tourists. The best solution will be to expand the airstrip which will allow more people to arrive by air,” he told New Straits Times.
Edros said the airstrip expansion plan would not pose any threat to the rich and colourful marine life, a haven for divers from around the globe.
Meanwhile, a source said the proposed realignment would study several factors including the potential increase in vibration and noise level, including its impact on land use.
“Previously the locals, chalet operators, divers and non-governmental organisations had protested plans to build a new runway. Although the airstrip refurbishment will not consist of major works, the main aim will be to safeguard the environment,” he said.
In 2003, the Federal Government had planned to build a RM120 million airport in Kampung Paya on the island, which would feature a 2,000m-long and 45m-wide runway on the sea, which could accommodate Boeing 737 aircraft.
However, then Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat cancelled the construction in 2009 saying the decision was made after considering various factors, especially the environmental impact.