With two of Bangkok's airports, Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi, reaching design capacity in the next few years, the Thai government is planning to transform the Royal Thai Navy base at U-Tapao into a third airport for the Thai capital.
U-Tapao, which has one 12,000-ft. (3,500m) runway built by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, is two hours by road from the capital, but this travel time is expected to be reduced to less than one
hour after a new high-speed rail link will be completed.
The airport currently serves about 8,000 commercial flights per year, mostly leisure charters to the area’s beach destinations around Pattaya.
Separate from the main terminal - which services scheduled and charter flights - U-Tapao Airport is also a Royal Thai Navy Air Station and home of the Navy's First Air Wing. For this reason, passengers are asked not to take photographs out of the window during take-off and landing. In addition to passenger services, integrators also utilize the airport which is roughly 40 km away from Bangkok.
The Thai government may build a second runway, which is expected to be completed by 2021.
Masterplan under way
The newly created U-Tapao Airport Authority (UAA), which was set up earlier this month to run the airport, is in the process of commissioning a Los Angeles-based airport consultancy to draw up a master plan for the U-tapao development, which will take about a year to complete.
The master plan will not only cover U-tapao airport's future development, but also the development of aviation-related industries and operations such as an MRO facility and an air logistics hubs, with the latter being facilitated by the proximity to two deep-water ports.
Nol van Fenema