Air Transport World

The Pearl-Y gateways. (new airports in the Chinese Pearl River estuary)(includes related article on Macau)

MACAU and SHENZHEN--Five substantial airports in South China he within an arc of 75 mi., radiating from Hong Kong. Hong Kong--Kai Tak now, Chek Lap Kok later--is the most important, of course. But four more provide substantial capacity to one of the fastest-growing regions in the fastest-growing large economy in the world.

Guangzhou is the province's capital with a well-established airport that handled more than 10 million passengers last year, the farthest north of the five; Zhuhai, on the west bank of the Pearl River, opens its new airport this year; 3-year-old Shenzhen, on the eastern bank, is the first locally developed airport in China. Macau, on the west bank across the mouth of the Pearl, 60 km from Hong Kong, will open it's firstever airport this summer, although cornmercial operations may not begin until early next year.

Macau is more than an interesting airport project. It is one of the most interesting and "in play" cities in the world. After decades--no, centuries--of development that proceeded at a pace that beggars the term "measured," the Portuguese colony is engaged in a frenzy of building and land reclamation that will expand the tiny territory's usable property by more than 20%. And China, the proprietor of Macau, come Dec. 20, 1999, is deeply involved in all of the goings-on. Even the land reclamation enlarging Macau is Chinese-based. Developers are filling up harbors and spaces between Taipa and Coloane, the territory's two islands, with material bought from China, which is obliging by leveling a fair-sized mountain to spread around the colony.

This land-reclamation activity also includes the runway and much of the future ramp expansion of the new Macau airport.

The last scheduled airline service to Macau involved flying boats. That was in 1940, 55 years ago. Macau felt neither the need for an airport nor the economic base to support one--until now, that is.

Macau has not been isolated. A large fleet of high-speed catamarans and turbine-powered, Boeing-built hydrofoils shuttles millions of passengers around the region, mostly to Hong Kong, an hour's journey across the 60-kin-wide Pearl River estuary, with frequent departures from modern sea terminals designed along the lines of airport models.

And the traffic is voluminous, for gambling is the major attraction of Macau to the Hong Kong vacationer or business visitor. Macau is the Monte Carlo of southern Asia, although more plebeian than the Mediterranean original. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.