New rules suspend Cuenca airport operations when the runway is wet
Ecuador’s Civil Aviation Directorate has ordered that take-offs and landings at Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport occur only during dry weather. The order went into effect May 10 and will continue to August 11.
The action follows an April 28 accident in which a Tame Airlines Embraer 190 skidded off the runway during rainy weather. Although the final accident report has not been released, witnesses say the aircraft lost traction on the wet runway and appeared to hydro-plane at one point.
Although the civil aviation order will be a financial burden for the airport, it comes as Cuenca is entering three months of relatively dry weather.
Although there were no serious injuries in the April 28 accident, it highlighted the limitations of the Cuenca airport. The 1,900-meter (about 6,200-foot) runway is one the shortest high-altitude landing strips in the world that handles full-size passenger jets. The airport sits at 8,300 feet elevation.
Although the city has been looking at sites for a new airport for years, Mayor Marcelo Cabrera says the current facility must be expanded as soon as possible at the current location. He projects a cost of $30 million to extend the runway by several hundred feet to the south end of the airport.
In more than 60 years of operation, there have been no air commercial passenger fatalities at the Cuenca airport, authorities say.