NARITA —The operator of Narita airport, an international gateway to Tokyo, is preparing work to alter an L-shaped section of a taxiway that have caused flights to back up, airport sources said Sunday. Although a curved taxiway is rare for an international airport, Narita’s second runway has one with two curves and another that is almost M-shaped as they have to circumvent plots of land owned by long-standing opponents of the airport’s construction.
The curves have not only provided a headache for pilots and air traffic controllers but have restricted traffic on the B runway to 14 takeoffs and landings per hour, less than half of the main A runway’s 32.
In a historic move since the airport opened in 1978, Narita International Airport Corp has acquired about 85 square meters of land that has prevented the curved taxiway from being altered, the sources said.
In January last year, the Supreme Court ordered opponents, who have campaigned against the airport for 40 years, to abandon land they owned, clearing the way for the airport operator to purchase the land.
Improving the taxiway has become a pressing task as the operator has rescheduled the opening of the B runway’s extended section to Oct 22, five months ahead of the previous plan.
Under International Civil Aviation Organization regulations, emergency evacuation areas for departing and arriving planes are set up along runways but the curved taxiway arches out into this area of the B runway, forcing taxiing planes to wait and causing planes to back up when takeoffs or landings are under way.
The planned improvement work will move the taxiway far enough from the runway so that planes will no longer be forced to wait, according to the sources.
Taxiways linking passenger terminals and aircraft parking aprons to are normally about 20 to 30 meters wide.
Curved taxiways at Narita are notorious for requiring pilots to be more careful than at other airports when maneuvering, airport officials say.
When an airplane is backed up, it wastes fuel as engines are repeatedly halted and restarted as it progresses.
In October, the B runway will extend to 2,500 meters long, as required for landings by wide-body aircraft, compared with the current 2,180 meters. The longer runway will clear the way for an increase in the annual number of landings and takeoffs at Narita to around 220,000 from 200,000 at present when the flight schedule is updated next March.