Update on Rio Hato Airport Panama

By Juan Carlos Martinez

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The decision has been made, and President Martinelli has announced that the new international airport to be built in the Central Provinces will be built in Rio Hato. Preliminary schedules indicate that it should be operational by mid 2013. The tender process for this project is expected to open for bids in two months. Currently the Authority of Civil Aeronautics is working on the design of the new airport, the technical specifications and the reference terms.

This airport will be built in Rio Hato where there currently exists a landing strip built by the US armed forces. This spot was chosen based on a study by the Andean Corporation for Promotion (CAF, acronym in Spanish) which indicated that the existing landing strip would reduce the costs. The location is also quite close to the tourism development cluster created by the new hotels that have opened up in the area.

The plan is that the Rio Hato airport be able to serve 300 passengers (arrivals and departures) and allow the landing of Boeing 757-200 airplanes. The runway will be 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) long, and the passenger terminal is expected to reflect the area's characteristics and its sun and surf style.

Originally several localities in the interior were being considered however costs played a major role in the decision to build in Rio Hato. An already built strip, even though it needs to be fixed, is less costly than building a whole new infrastructure. The airport in Rio Hato is expected to cost between $60 to $80 million, whereas a new airport in Santiago or Chitre would cost more than $100 million.

The current landing strip was built by the US armed forces around 1942. It reverted back to Panama in 1970 and remained in use until 1989. Within minutes of Rio Hato you will find several resorts such as Breezes, Decameron, Playa Blanca and Buenaventura as well as many high end residential developments adjacent to these resorts.

This airport is expected to attract even more hotel projects as tourists would only need to travel some 20 to 25 minutes by land to reach the surrounding all inclusive hotels while today they land in Tocumen Airport and they must travel at least one hour and thirty minutes to reach the nearest resort.



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