Proposal for new domestic airport
A steering committee looking at the options for a new airport for Greater Reykjavik has concluded that the area of Hvassahraun (see map below) is the best candidate.
The group’s remit was to assess the suitability of four new sites (as well as adaptations to the current site) for a new airport in Greater Reykjavik to take over operations from the current domestic airport (RKV) located in the Vatnsmýri area of Reykjavik.
The group selected Hvassahraun as the most promising site for future development – taking into account such factors as weather, space, obstacles, cost and the environment – and presented its report yesterday.
Operational conditions at Hvassahraun are to be thoroughly assessed this winter. If a consensus forms, the committee proposes setting up a joint preparatory company for this purpose.
The ‘Reykjavik airport issue’ has been a bone of contention for decades and reactions to the new proposal are already flooding in.
Firstly, it is widely pointed out that moving domestic flight operations from Vatnsmýri to Hvassahraun will move Iceland’s air-ambulance service further away from Reykjavik’s main hospital. Air ambulance transport times are expect to lengthen, owing to longer flight and driving times, by some 8%.
Mayor of Reykjavik, Dagur B. Eggertsson, was a member of the steering committee and has hailed the conclusions as an “important milestone”. “I don’t think that any of us had Hvassahraun at the front of our minds when we sat down at our first meeting,” Eggertsson explains. “But the data, work, research and arguments led us to that conclusion.”
Iceland’s Progressive Party (‘Framsóknarflokkurinn’), one of the two current government parties, has reaffirmed its support for keeping the present Vatnsmýri airport in its current configuration and is disappointed that this option was not part of the steering group’s remit.
“Not the solution”
Minister for Industry and Trade, Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, is sceptical about the committee’s conclusions. “Do we have a spare ISK 22-25 billion [approx. €150-170 million] to build a new airport a quarter of an hour away from Keflavík International Airport, as the report provides for?” wonders Árnadóttir. “No, I think they need to go back to the drawing-board. The issue is whether or not domestic flight operations should continue at Vatnsmýri. This is not the solution.”
Reynir Einarsson, senior instructor at the Icelandic Flight Academy has also suggested that there are safety concerns associated with an airport located on a lava field and that interest in private flying and flying instruction will be affected if operations cease at the current Reykjavik airport.