One of the world's most notorious airfields, Toncontin International, was closed to flights Saturday after a Taca A320 skidded off a rain-drenched runway and onto a nearby road on Friday, killing four people on board and one on the ground. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said a new international airport would be built to finally replace TGU.
Built in 1948, Toncontin has been dangerous since the day it opened, 3,300 feet above sea level. Normally, that altitude would call for more runway room than usual, but TGU gives pilots just 6,112 feet of asphalt to land on. The short runway was clearly a contributing factor in Friday's accident.
If it weren't already dangerous enough, the airport is situated in a valley surrounded by hills, meaning pilots have to execute some hair-raising turns just to line up for a difficult landing. On our last flight into TGU, the pilot made a quick announcement during our descent to put nervous fliers at ease before banking in for a landing.
All that said, Friday may have been the last day for Toncontin. Zelaya's proposed new passenger terminal at Soto Cano Air Base in Comayagua won't be ready for at least another two months, so flights are already being diverted to San Pedro Sula. Good thing, too: The runway at SAP is a comfortable 9,203 feet, sitting just 91 feet above sea level.