Toncontín International Airport

Last updated
Toncontín International Airport

Aeropuerto Internacional Toncontín
Tegucigalpa Airport overview OJEV.jpg
Airport typeMilitary/Public
Owner/OperatorEMCO S.A
Serves Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Elevation  AMSL 3,307 ft / 1,008 m
Coordinates 14°03′42″N087°13′01″W / 14.06167°N 87.21694°W / 14.06167; -87.21694 Coordinates: 14°03′42″N087°13′01″W / 14.06167°N 87.21694°W / 14.06167; -87.21694
Honduras location map.svg
Airplane silhouette.svg
Location in Honduras
Direction LengthSurface
Statistics (2018)
Total Passengers617,526
Source: AIP, [1] EMCO, S.A. [2]

Toncontín International Airport( IATA : TGU, ICAO : MHTG) or Teniente Coronel Hernán Acosta Mejía Airport is a civil and military airport located 6 km (4 mi) from the centre of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


The History Channel programme Most Extreme Airports ranks it as the second most extreme airport in the world. [3] The approach to the airport is considered to be one of the most difficult in the world to all aircraft, especially in inclement weather conditions.


Toncontin in the 1980s Toncontinairport.jpg
Toncontín in the 1980s

Since the 19th century, the plains south of Tegucigalpa became known as the "Potrero Los Llanos", part of a farm adjoining the farm Loarque. In these areas, some political events took place. José Santos Guardiola defeated General José Trinidad Cabañas, seizing presidency of the republic. "El Llano" as it was known, is to the south end of Comayagüela. On a road to the south is the field that served for the takeoff and landing of aircraft. Currently, this forms the Hernán Acosta Mejía (HAM) Air Force base. The first landing was in 1921 when a single-engine plane from the Bristol Aeroplane Company landed with Captain Dean Ivan Lamb in command. He was received by President Rafael López Gutiérrez who broke a bottle of champagne on one of the aircraft's propellers.

The origin of the name Toncontín is unknown, but experts say that it is a word derived from the Nahuatl word "Tocotín", the name of an ancient and sacred dance of Yucatán in Mexico.

Aviator Luigi Venditti conducted several flights using the natural floodplain from Toncontín. Jose Villa, an Italian national, was another precursor of Honduran aviation who conducted flights from Toncontín; as did Starnaivola, Enrique Massi, Ball, and Clarence H. Brown.

The civil war in 1924 caused President Tiburcio Carías Andino to realise that aviation had a great future in Honduras, providing an ideal transport solution for the mountainous country; as well as being a strategic military weapon. For these reasons and with the growth of commercial aviation and the emergence of the Honduran Air Force, General Tiburcio Carías, acquired the land that was to become Toncontín Airport in 1933. On January 5, 1934, the airport was inaugurated with the landing of a Douglas DC-3 from Pan American World Airways. Months later TACA opened "Hotel Toncontín" to accommodate passengers in transit, and Pan-Am built a hangar.

During the Football War of 1969, Toncontín was a major target for the Salvadoran Air Force, and was bombed on several occasions.


Interior of Toncontin Toncontin.JPG
Interior of Toncontín
Toncontin before the removal of the hillside Toncontinearly.jpg
Toncontín before the removal of the hillside
Toncontin after the removal of the hillside 757finalTGU.jpg
Toncontín after the removal of the hillside

The airport received much notoriety as being one of the most dangerous in the world due to its proximity to mountainous terrain, its short runway, and its historically difficult approach to runway 02. [3] For years efforts have been made to replace it with Soto Cano airport in Comayagua, currently an airbase. Toncontín has, however, been significantly improved by the work of the Airport Corporation of Tegucigalpa (ACT) and InterAirports, a company contracted by the Honduran government to administer the country's four major airports.

The airport has a single asphalt runway, situated at an elevation of 1,005 m (3,297 ft) AMSL. Until May 2009, the runway was only 6,112 ft (1,863 m) in length. In 2007, the approach to runway 02 was made significantly easier by work which systematically bulldozed a large portion of the hillside, immediately before the threshold. Following this work, in May 2009, the southern end of the runway received a 984 ft (300 m) extension, lengthening it to 7,096 ft (2,163 m). As of 2011 the runway is listed as being 2,021 m × 45 m (6,631 ft × 148 ft)

Boeing 737-800s operated by Copa Airlines are the largest aircraft that normally land at Toncontín. Even with its recent runway extension, Toncontín's runway is still significantly shorter than that of most international airports. It is so short, in fact, that many aircraft seen by plane spotters are seen to be touching down on the displaced threshold of the runway, which by aviation law is not allowed to be landed on.

Historically, larger aircraft have occasionally landed at Toncontín, such as a Douglas DC-8 on a mission with Orbis International in 1987, a C-17 Globemaster in 2008, 2009 and 2011, [4] [5] and Boeing 757s operated by American Airlines, which in 2015 replaced them with Airbus A319s. In the 1980s and early 1990s, SAHSA operated Boeing 727s and Boeing 737s from its hub at Toncontín.

Toncontín International Airport has 4 gates (2 in the new terminal), a post office, a bank and bureau de change , many restaurants, and several airline lounges, as well as a duty-free shop, car rental services, and a first-aid room. The old terminal is undergoing renovation, and will be used for domestic flights in the future. The new terminal is now used for international flights.

Toncontín is also the home of the Aeroclub de Honduras (Honduran Air Club).

International flights suspension

On May 30, 2008, the tragedy of TACA Flight 390 prompted the announcement by then Honduran President Manuel Zelaya that all large aircraft operations would move to the Soto Cano Air Base. This move would effectively move all international traffic from Toncontín, limiting its use to only domestic flights and small aircraft. [6]

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) completed a review of Toncontín and made safety recommendations regarding the airport. On June 25, 2008, President Zelaya reiterated his position of severely restricting international traffic to and from Toncontín and announced his intention to form a commission that would oversee implementing the safety recommendations of the ICAO report.[ citation needed ]

On July 8, 2008, President Zelaya announced the reopening of Toncontín airport at a news conference following a three-hour meeting with businessmen, who had demanded commercial flights resume at Toncontín due to Soto Cano Air Base being too far from Tegucigalpa. Zelaya reiterated that all commercial flights would eventually use the new airport at Soto Cano Air Base from 2009. This however, was canceled after Zelaya was removed from office on June 28, 2009, in the 2009 Honduran coup d'état. [7] International flights continue to operate to Toncontín.

Toncontín today

Aerial view of Toncontin International Airport Aerial view of Tegucigalpa 2008-12-14 02.jpg
Aerial view of Toncontín International Airport

Airlines and destinations


Copa Airlines Boeing 737-700 in Tegucigalpa Copa Airlines Boeing 737-300.jpg
Copa Airlines Boeing 737-700 in Tegucigalpa
TACA Airbus A320-200 in Tegucigalpa TA320TGU.jpg
TACA Airbus A320-200 in Tegucigalpa
Aerolíneas Sosa La Ceiba, Roatán
American Airlines Miami
Seasonal: Dallas/Fort Worth [21]
Avianca El Salvador Guatemala City (suspended), San Salvador, San Pedro Sula (suspended)
CM Airlines La Ceiba, Puerto Lempira, Roatán, San Pedro Sula
Copa Airlines Panama City–Tocumen, San José de Costa Rica (suspended)
La Costeña Managua (suspended)
Lanhsa La Ceiba, Roatán
United Airlines Houston–Intercontinental


DHL de Guatemala Guatemala City


Runway 02 approach

Because of the terrain in Tegucigalpa, aircraft cannot easily be accommodated on a traditional straight-in approach for Runway 02, the most frequently used runway because of wind direction. Instead, an RNAV (GPS) approach is used, resembling a circle-to-land approach. Aircraft are routed through shallower terrain in a circular fashion, then follow along the Anillo Periferico road to a cloverleaf interchange, at which point aircraft take a sharp left turn to line up with runway 02. Until the partial demolition of the hillside, aircraft experienced limited ground clearance just before the threshold.

To maximize the amount of runway available, many aircraft land on the 350 metres (1,150 ft) displaced threshold, just before the actual 02 threshold. [22]

Runway 02 departure

Departures from runway 02 must turn to a heading of 018 degrees and then climb swiftly to 9000 feet to avoid mountainous terrain just north of the airport. Because of the short length of the runway and the high altitude of the airport, aircraft require a large amount of power to do this, making late go-arounds potentially dangerous if not executed properly.


See source Wikidata query and sources.

Accidents and incidents

See also

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