Former US air base in Philippines may host commercial flights to North America
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2017
An airport that once hosted the largest U.S. Air Force base in the Philippines is negotiating to host commercial flights to North America, a move welcomed by veterans who have settled in the country.
The corporation that runs Clark International Airport, known as Clark Air Base before the Air Force departed in 1991, announced talks with airlines last week.
“We are currently in negotiations with air carriers, pertaining especially in connecting Clark to North America,” airport chief executive Alexander Cauguiran told the Manila Bulletin newspaper.
The airport, which has not named the airlines it’s talking with about U.S. routes, already hosts domestic flights and international routes to the Middle East, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore.
There are plans to build a new passenger terminal with an 8 million-passenger capacity by 2019, according to the Philippine Inquirer.
Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Angeles City and Subic Bay near the airport list more than 2,000 members.
John Gilbert, 69, a retired Army first sergeant and senior vice commander VFW Department of Pacific Areas, said links between Clark and the U.S. are the only way to decongest the airport in Manila.
Most people are keen to avoid driving into the Philippine capital, which boasts some of the world’s worst traffic, he said.
“I went to Charlotte, N.C., from Clark to Dubai, then [John F. Kennedy International] and Charlotte in July. Still better than going to Manila,” Gilbert said.
Veterans would also welcome flights from Clark to Tokyo, he said.
The drive to and from Manila adds about six hours to a trip to the U.S., said Mike Sculley, who served at Clark in 1975-78 and 1987-90 before settling in Angeles City.
Veterans sometimes take advantage of space-available flights out of Clark, which hosts U.S. military aircraft intermittently. The Angeles City post pins a list of upcoming flights on its notice board. However, Sculley said U.S.-bound military flights are limited.
“There was a flight to Hawaii last month, but nothing regularly,” he said.
Sculley, an Air Force veteran who returns to the U.S. at least once a year, said he has flown home through South Korea twice just to avoid driving to Manila.
“For my last trip back, I flew Clark to Hong Kong, then stateside,” he said. “It required me to spend two nights in Hong Kong, but again I avoided Manila. I am sure flights out of Clark would be extremely popular.”