Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith performed the ceremony to officially start the construction of the new gateway and also inspected the progress of the project.
He said the new airport was being constructed on a 920 rai plot. It would be the 29th regional airport under the supervision of the Airports Department and its construction was set from 2016 to 2019.
According to him, the project is progressing as planned. The construction of a runway, a taxiway, local roads, a power supply system, a passenger terminal and other buildings already started.
The construction is expected to finish in July 2019 and the new airport would start services in time for the 2020 New Year holidays, the minister said.
He expected it to facilitate transport to Yala and further trips to Malaysia through the bordering district of Betong and to promote economic development and security in southern border provinces.
With the new airport, the number of visitors to the three southern border provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala would rise from 600,000 to 1 million annually and the region should generate about 4 billion baht in tourism-related income per year, Mr Arkhom said.
Darun Saengchai, director-general of the Airports Department, said the runway of Betong airport would initially be 1,800m long to serve about 4,000 flights of 80-seat planes a year. The runway construction was 32% completed.
Later, the runway would be extended to 2,100m to serve big aircraft like Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s, he said.
The passenger terminal will be 7,000-sq-m wide to serve 300 outbound passengers an hour. Its construction was 8% completed and the terminal was designed to handle 500,000 passengers a year, the minister said.
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