Long running concerns over the future of Midway Island airfield in the north Pacific could be resolved later this month after the US Senate returns from its winter recess.

Senators are expected to vote on a bill concerning funding responsibility for the site's upkeep. Midway is a crucial extended range twin engine operations (ETOPS) diversion airfield for airlines operating between Asia and the US West Coast.

The bill, which would also cover intermediate funding to secure the airfield's continued operations through September 2004, is expected to recommend an Office of Management and Budget-brokered plan for shared responsibility between several US government agencies. These could include the departments of Transportation and Interior as well as the Federal Aviation Administration.

Boeing, which says it has "...been in touch with all the interested agencies just pointing out how critical it is for all of aviation", says: "Once the bill is passed it will hopefully get all the agencies together."

David Behrens, IATA director of infrastructure (Asia-Pacific) says the association has been lobbying US authorities to try and keep Midway open.

"I think the US government is trying to wrestle with this issue and decide what is the best solution," says Behrens. "We are making our wishes known...especially with Wake Island down for six months and with both [Wake and Midway] down it is significant especially for flights across the Pacific to Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Taiwan," he says.

Wake was closed for six months from the end of July 2003 for runway resurfacing.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has been managing the airport since the US Navy pulled out in 1997.

Washington has been forced to intervene with emergency funding several times to keep Midway open. On 6 January a Continental Airlines 777-200ER became the latest twin to make an emergency diversion into Midway.


Source: Flight International