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Concorde crash sparks calls for new airport in Switzerland

The military airbase at Payerne could become Switzerland's new international airport Keystone

The crash of a supersonic jet outside Paris has reignited a debate about aircraft and airport safety in Switzerland. The head of the air accident investigation bureau, Jean Overney, has put forward suggestions for a new airport at Payerne.

On Tuesday last week, all 109 people on board a Concorde were killed when it came down only minutes after leaving Charles de Gaulle airport. But another five people were killed in the hotel into which the burning aircraft crashed and exploded.

In the wake of the accident, Overney has pointed out that the country’s three main airports are all on the edge of urban areas, and that the risks of a similar disaster are that much higher as a result.

The airports are also all seeking to grow, but have almost no room to expand.

To solve both the expansion and the risk problem, Overney has proposed the creation of a single Swiss hub for international air traffic, to be based at Payerne, at the site of the current military airport.

He said its rural location would minimise the effect of noise pollution and reduce the risk of an aircraft crashing on a populated zone. He said it could also also be given three parallel runways.

Overney said the fact that an international airport at Payerne would be far from any of Switzerland’s three big cities, Basel; Zurich; and Geneva, need not be a problem. He pointed out that New York’s airports are 80 and 100 kilometres from the city, and said that the new airport in Payerne could be linked up to a planned high-speed underground railway known as Swissmetro.

Swissmetro could cut travel time to Zurich to under an hour.

Overney warned that the more flights there are, the greater the risk of an accident.

Zurich currently handles 270,000 departures and take offs a year, but that is set to rise to 420,000 once the current expansion phase is over, increasing the chance of an accident by 64 per cent.

In built-up areas around the airport, the unease following the Concorde crash is palpable. SAirGroup and the director of Zurich airport, Josef Felder, have cautiously welcomed Overney’s proposal.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR