State officials hope to land Asian airlines for revamped BWI

October 19, 1994|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Sun Staff Writer

Armed with a slide show touting a $16 million runway extension and a planned $130 million international terminal, Maryland transportation officials this month will try to convince Asian airlines that BWI Airport is again ready for direct service to the Far East.

It won't be a quick sell.

"We don't expect to bring back anything signed and sealed from this trip. We want first to plant the idea that we are ready," O. James Lighthizer, the secretary of transportation, said yesterday.

"Airlines plan years in advance, and what we are hoping for is decisions that will be made three or four years from now," he said.

Mr. Lighthizer and a team from the Department of Transportation will be selling the airport and the port as part of a 61-member Maryland trade delegation, headed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. They will use the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's tour to South Korea, Taiwan and Japan to open doors to promote exports from Maryland, investment in Maryland and use of Maryland facilities by Asian businesses.

The delegation will include 14 government officials, 31 senior executives from 24 Maryland businesses and 16 academics from Maryland colleges, mainly the University of Maryland.

Yesterday, the governor and the mayor joined other delegation members and BSO figures at a press conference at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The delegation leaves Saturday, and its leaders will return to Maryland on Nov. 7.

The trip is the first chance the state's transportation department has had since the lengthening of the state's main runway to spread the word in Asia that BWI is ready to reclaim the Far Eastern connection it lost in 1992, when Japan Airlines switched to Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

Before the extension at BWI, the limitations of the airport's 9,500-foot main runway made it impossible to get a serious hearing in Asia because jumbo jets could not take off fully loaded during the summer, Mr. Lighthizer said.

"It cost $16 million to add 1,000 feet to the runway, but now we can show Asian carriers that their jumbo jets will be able to take off even on hot summer days, with full loads of cargo and passengers -- and with the full loads of fuel they need to make a direct flight to a Far Eastern destination," Mr. Lighthizer said.

The delegation will meet with Korean Air and other airlines that Mr. Lighthizer would not name "for competitive reasons."

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