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Defence minister rejects using military airport as international hub

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

The defence minister, Adolf Ogi, has poured cold water on proposals to turn the military airport at Payerne into a hub for commercial international flights to and from Switzerland.

This content was published on July 31, 2000 - 13:29

In a newspaper interview on Monday, Ogi rejected the idea out of hand, saying Payerne, in western Switzerland, was the country's main military airport.

He was reacting to a proposal put forward over the weekend by the head of the air accident investigation bureau, Jean Overney. In the wake of the crash of a Concorde jet into a hotel outside Paris last week, Overney said the proximity of Switzerland's three main airports to built-up areas increased the risks of a similar accident here.

He suggested that moving the international traffic from Zurich, Geneva and Basel airports to Payerne's rural location would reduce the risk of an aircraft crashing into a populated area.

At the same time, Overney said the move would eliminate the constraints faced by airports seeking to expand. Zurich and Basel in particular have little room for expansion and are constantly hampered by residents' complaints. Geneva airport, only seven kilometres from the city, is one of the closest to an urban area in Europe.

The defence minister said the plan was "simply impossible". Ogi noted that under a series of military reforms begun in the mid-1990s, several airports used by the air force had been closed and that Payerne must therefore be maintained. But he said he was willing to discuss opening up the airport for limited commercial use.

swissinfo with agencies

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