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Hiroshima Nishi Airport to Become Heliport - Japan's First Commercial Airport Closure

Hiroshima Nishi Airport to Become Heliport - Japan's First Commercial Airport Closure

Hiroshima Nishi Airport

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At midnight on November 15, Hiroshima Nishi Airport, located in Nishi Ward, Hiroshima and operated by the Hiroshima Prefecture government, officially closed after its history of more than half a century. The facility will begin operating as "Hiroshima Heliport."

The "first Hiroshima Airport" opened here in 1961. The prefectural government took over operations after the current Hiroshima Airport opened in 1993, but regular commercial flights stopped serving the airport after Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. (JAL) stopped operating flights there in October 2010. The City of Hiroshima rejected the prefecture's proposal to close the airport and turn it into a heliport because it wanted to take the facility over in order to maintain flights to Tokyo and elsewhere, but the city abandoned the plan due to the difficulty of maintaining demand for air travel. The official decision to close the airport and convert it into a heliport was made in May of last year.

The new heliport will be jointly operated by Hiroshima Prefecture and the City of Hiroshima. After the decision, construction work commenced to place pavement, aeronautical lights and so forth, along with 14 helicopter parking spaces. The prefectural police, municipal fire department and other organizations will base their helicopters here.

In the past, other Japanese airports and airfields have temporarily or permanently closed, such as Rebun Airport and Teshikaga Airport, while Makurazaki Airport is scheduled to close in March 2013. However, Hiroshima Nishi is the first airport to close after having previously served regular commercial flights.

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