Airfield Is Almost Ready to Open
By Jesús Aguado
In upper San Miguel, there is a landing strip. Although it has some flaws, it is paved. If the airfield were open, small planes like Pilatus, Caravan 206, and King Air 182 (aircrafts with a variety of uses, including luxury personal transportation) could land on that strip.
There is also a sticker with a NOTAM (notice to pilots to be aware of dangers, closed roads, military exercises, etc.). This is land that does not belong to the government, and there are many dreams of attracting tourism with higher buying power to this city. However, those visitors, if they come, must land in Celaya.
An old black and white picture is also posted. It was allegedly taken when the unpaved landing strip opened on October 3, 1937. In addition there is the comment from the public servant who told Atención, “When I got married, I went on my honeymoon to Puerto Vallarta, and we took off from this unpaved airfield. It was very funny.” The history is there, as well as the most recent events generated in the last four years, including documents that registered the bailment for the airfield that Amigos de la Aviación had surrendered to the local government. Atención also recorded the work done by the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial de San Miguel de Allende and the closing of the airfield to aviation. On the “waiting list” is the repair of the electric cables crossing the Bicentenario Park. Those nonfunctional cable lines make 500 meters of the land strip useless.
There is no border control office to allow arrival of international flights, and there are no hangars, no permit for aviation, no money. Now, according to Mayor Ricardo Villarreal, private companies are interested in investing 50 million pesos to have a working airfield, even an airport “like the one in Querétaro.”
In 2012 then Mayor Mauricio Trejo granted an interview to Atención during which he stressed that San Miguel could not grow its streets or services further. Tourism needed to be focused on attracting bigger buying power to generate larger gross revenue than what was currently provided by tourists. The current mayor remarked that San Miguel needed infrastructure, including the opening of the airfield. “The airfield needs restoration to allow the landing of private flights. That will allow us to improve tourism in the city.” Later the state governor, Miguel Márquez, commented that “in the near future,” the airfield could handle air taxis, and Fernando Olivera, Secretary of Touristic Development, came up with the idea of domestic flights to the main Mexican destinations.
In 2014 Trejo told Atención that a company designated by the General Department of Aeronautics was conducting three studies at the airfield. The results of these studies—soil compacting and wear and tear—would be handed over to the local administration, and they would grant the airfield the license to open.
The opening never came and the ideas kept changing because the city council created a local company in early 2015, made up of members of the local administration and the private sector, which would be in charge of getting the permits from the General Department of Aeronautics to allow the landing of aircraft like Pilatus, Caravan 206, and King Air 182 in the first phase of the airfield development. In the second phase, once the local company begins operation, hangar construction and a control tower would begin, and some electrical work would also be done to allow the landing of air taxis, “always respecting the regulations,” Mayor Trejo said.
The third phase of the airfield “will reach out as far as the imagination can take us,” remarked Trejo. The former mayor said that he did not want Sanmiguelenses to see or hear the airplanes. “There will be an unbroken entrance and exit into the airspace,” he said, emphasizing that the city’s image would not be damaged.
According to Trejo, the upcoming opportunities for San Miguel are “huge.” In the meantime, he was trying to attract specialized medical companies to invest in the municipality with the advantage of having a landing strip for their ambulances.
Trejo’s administration ended on October 9 last year, and the airfield was not even close to get the license for opening.
The City Council’s Decision on the Land
At a city council meeting on June 6 of this year, the Commission of Urban Development requested the separation of a plot of five thousand square meters from the public property situated at the zoning plot of Antiguo Camino Real a Querétaro. Later, this land will be handed over to the Municipal Institute of Housing, which will give land located in the San Ricardo development to the local administration. It was said at the meeting that with this agreement (approved by the 12 members of the city council), the administration does not have to pay for the purchase of land to widen the landing strip of the municipal airfield.
Mauricio Trejo generated expectations that, with the “upcoming opening” of the airfield were too great, and he always remarked “we are almost there” but never said when.
In an interview with Atención, current mayor Ricardo Villarreal said, “You cannot open a project of this magnitude when you are not even the landowner.” The strip is 1.5 kilometers long, and he remarked that the land has three owners. Two are citizens, and the other is the administration. The Ramirez family from Guadalajara and Senora Navarro each own 6,500 square meters of the land. The rest of the space is public. “It is absurd to think that we can invest in something that is not ours. In addition, defective work was performed on the landing strip with the asphalt; it was so defective that the General Department of Civil Aviation canceled the license to land small planes.” Villarreal remarked that he has not worked on getting the license back because the most important factor now is the legal certainty of the property. He also said that there are verbal agreements with the families who own part of the land, and there will be some exchange of properties. “All the negotiations will be public once the deal is done.”
An Airport like QRO
The fact is that 50 million pesos are needed now to reopen the airfield, not as an airfield but as a commercial airport. Of those million pesos, 12 million—according to an existing executive project—are needed just to fix the nonfunctional electric wires and towers from the Federal Commission of Electricity (CFE). According to Villarreal the towers and wires are so high that the planes cannot land before meter 500 of the airstrip. Villarreal said that he would not give dates for the end of the project because legal ownership of the land comes first. That could be resolved this year. After that, there would be a public call for investors who have the financial resources, experience, and credibility to work in the area, making the electrical wires operable, as well as constructing the facilities for border control, hangars, an FBO (fixed-base operator), and the control tower. After that, jets with a capacity of 50 passengers could land there, even international flights. “This could be something like the airport in Querétaro. But we are far away from that now. Everything is in the air, and we need the land first,” remarked Villarreal.
The Celaya Airport (CYW)
Last September, the state secretary of Touristic Development, Fernando Olivera Rocha, granted an interview to the paper El Financiero, in which he assured that with the growth of Honda and the construction in progress of Toyota, the arrival of private jets to CYW has increased. At that time, the arrival of 15 daily flights transporting people from the automotive companies was registered. He assured that during the weekends, people who attended weddings in San Miguel were also landing there.
The airport offers only landing services. Because the fees for landing go from 1000 to 2000 pesos, the income is low for the airport operators. The secretary said that this airport—which is responsible for the SMA airfield—could have more revenue if it would offer customs and migratory services, as well as fuel loading. The airport operators could make up to 35 thousand pesos per plane. This airport is the closest to San Miguel and has a 1900-meter-long landing strip. Aeromar, a Mexican airline company used to offer round-trip flights from Celaya to Mexico City, Monterrey, Querétaro, and Ixtapa, but due to the low number of travelers, the service was canceled.
50 minutes to Paradise
The number of regional destinations that airlines offer from the Guanajuato International Airport (BJX) keeps growing. Currently, TAR (Transportes Aéreos Regionales) flies twice a week to Puerto Vallarta, and now it has added a new destination: Manzanillo, Colima.
On June 10, TAR announced that it will fly Monday through Friday at 2:45pm from León to Manzanillo. The flight lasts only 50 minutes. The operations will start on Monday, June 18.
BJX offers flights to nine national and six international destinations. Compared to 2012, the number of airlines offering flights from BJX has increased 67 percent