Last year, some 63.6 million passengers passed through Schiphol, up from 58 million in 2015, according to airport figures. (Shutterstock/File)
Amsterdam‘s rapidly growing Schiphol airport is reaching its limits for the safe movement of planes on its busy airstrips, the Dutch safety watchdog warned recently, saying runway risks needed to be addressed before any further expansion.
“The boundaries to safely conclude air traffic movements are approaching,” the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) said in a report.
“There are no indications that the airport is unsafe at this point, but stakeholders need to act to reduce the safety risks,” the OVV said in the 215-page report.
The aviation hub is now one of the top five busiest in Europe. Last year, some 63.6 million passengers passed through Schiphol, up from 58 million in 2015, according to airport figures.
There were 479,000 aircraft movements around Schiphol’s five main runways in 2016, the airport said in a separate report last year.
The safety watchdog launched a probe after “several incidents over the last few years”, it said, including so-called “runway incursions” when a plane, person or other object is on a runway without authorisation, planes taking off from taxiways, or taking off or landing without permission from air traffic control.
Included in the investigation was the 2009 Turkish Airlines crash that killed nine people and injured 120 others.
The Boeing 737-800 from Istanbul to Amsterdam crashed on approach on Feb 23 that year, which the OVV later mainly blamed on a faulty altimeter, but also on pilot error.
The OVV warned no further expansion could take place at Schiphol unless safety issues are dealt with.
“Before any decision can be taken about the expansion of Schiphol, the risks in and around the airport need to be addressed,” it said.
“A fundamental discussion is needed about the future of Dutch aviation … for which the Dutch state needs to take responsibility,” the OVV said.
The airport last year concluded that “we will reach the agreed limits of growth at Schiphol sooner than expected, probably as early as 2017.”
It said it had agreed to limit air transport movements to a maximum of 500,000 by 2020.
“The unexpectedly strong growth in passenger numbers in 2016 may have something to do with the fact that Schiphol is now nearing that limit,” the airport said, citing factors such as globalisation and cheaper airfares as some of the main reasons.
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