A pilot for Latam Airlines, formerly Lan, says the dangers of Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport have been exaggerated and that the airport should not be subjected to landing and take-off restrictions.
“Cuenca has a short runway for a high altitude airport but it is not a problem for skilled pilots,” Latam pilot Carlos Reyes said Friday on Cuenca Radio Tamebamba. “Generally, the runway is in good condition since it was resurfaced four years ago and I was surprised by the restrictions.”
Reyes added that the city’s plan to extend the runway by two hundred meters is a good idea. “That will certainly help but in the meantime we are fine flying in and out.”
Latam operations director, Carlos Egüez, agrees with Reyes about airport conditions. “We only allow pilots with experience with the airport to fly to Cuenca, but we have not had major problems with landings and take-offs.”
The Cuenca airport was closed for a week following an April 29 accident in which a Tame Airline jet from Quito skidded off the runway. There were no serious injuries and the accident was blamed on wet conditions on the the runway.
Last week, civil aviation authorities imposed a wet weather take-off and landing restriction on the airport. The restriction continues to August 11.
Both Reyes and Egüez say there were factors in the accident that point to issues other than runway conditions. Neither elaborated.
Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera met with aviation authorities twice this week in hopes of having the ban lifted before August.
Egüez says that Latam has had to cancel 36 flights to Cuenca since the accident and restrictions, and says he hopes operations will return to normal soon.