Ciudad Real Central Airport
|Ciudad Real Central Airport|
Aeropuerto Central Ciudad Real
|Serves||Ciudad Real and Puertollano|
|Location||Ciudad Real, Spain|
|Elevation AMSL||636 m / 2,086 ft|
Ciudad Real Central Airport (IATA: CQM, ICAO: LERL), previously known as Don Quijote Airport and South Madrid Airport, is a former international airport, situated south of Ciudad Real in Spain. Constructed at a cost of €1.1 billion, it was opened in 2009, and became the first international private airport in Spain. Operations at the site ran for three years until April 2012, when its management company went into receivership, after the last flight operator, low-cost airline Vueling, withdrew its last route from the airport.
The airport features a single runway, 4,100 m (13,500 ft) long and 60 m (200 ft) wide, making it one of the longest in Europe. Its design was to enable the airport to accept all forms of commercial airliners, including the Airbus A380. The passenger terminal was designed so that it could process a maximum of ten million passengers a year, while its cargo facilities were designed to handle a maximum of 47,000 tonnes a year. One part of the airport was designed with facilities to cater for private flights and sport flights. The airport was linked by road to the A-41 motorway.
As part of its planned expansion, the airport was to feature a maintenance area, a heliport and an industrial zone of over 8 km². In addition, a 300 m (980 ft) long foot bridge was built to connect the terminal to the nearby Madrid–Seville high-speed rail line, towards a site for a railway station; construction of this transportation link was never started, though had such a project been undertaken and completed, it would have made Ciudad Real Airport the first in Spain to be linked to the AVE rail network.
Following its opening in 2009, the airport's first flights were to Palma de Mallorca, run by Air Berlin until it discontinued this service in 30 May 2010. Ciudad Real Airport began handling international flights in June 2010, with its first international service launched by Ryanair. The airline service ran three flights per week from London Stansted, until its discontinuation on 11 November that year, having flown approximately 22,000 passengers into or from the airport. The cancellation of the route, which resulted in the loss of 22 jobs, was the result of a breakdown in trade agreements with Ryanair, and financial difficulties being faced by the airport. Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling became the only airline serving the airport at this point, running flights to Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, until it eventually ended services on 29 October 2011.
By 2012, the airport's financial difficulties forced the management company to file for bankruptcy, after accumulating more than €300 million of debt, eventually going into receivership. By 13 April 2012, all airport operations were shut down.
Reasons for bankruptcy
Much of the fault behind the closure of Ciudad Real Airport lay within two factors. The first factor was centred around the poor planning of its construction. During the early planning stages, several major deficiencies were overlooked. One such issue was the distance between the airport and Madrid - although it was originally intended to act as an overflow airport for Madrid, its location was situated approximately 227km from the Puerta del Sol (from which Spanish motorway distances are counted), effectively making road journeys to the airport being over two hours long. Had construction of a station on the Madrid–Seville high-speed rail line been made, as had been originally planned, journey times to the airport would have been more reasonable - at present, travel times from Madrid to Ciudad Real by train stand at around fifty minutes.
The second factor behind the closure was due to the overoptimism, on the part of large financial investors, towards a belief that passenger numbers for the airport were anticipated to be up to 10 million. In 2006, the main airport of Madrid (Barajas) had finished work on an expansion that would allow it to handle 70 million passengers a year, which meant that it effectively diminished the potential number of passengers that Ciudad Real Airport would receive when it opened. This factor was further worsened by the management company's failure to secure interest from potential airlines that had been considered; only one single airline was signed up to fly out of the airport, and passenger traffic as a result was measured within the low thousands. When the airport finally closed, a BBC News magazine report published suggestions that the airport's investors had intended for the airport to fail; all had benefited from construction contracts awarded to their own companies.
On 9 December 2013, having been considered to be a significant contributor towards the financial trouble of the creditor institutions and the Castilla-La Mancha Regional Government, Ciudad Real Airport was put up for auction with a minimum asking price of €100 million. No offers were made, and so extensions were made to the sale period over time, with the Commercial Court of Ciudad Real agreeing a 7th extension to the sale deadline on 27 July 2014, but with the asking price reduced to €80 million by this time.
On 17 July 2015, Chinese investment company Tzaneen International put forward a bid of €10,000 to buy the airport, stating that their intention was to invest an additional €100 million towards redeveloping the airport towards becoming a European hub for Chinese cargo shipments. However, the Commercial Court rejected the bid on the grounds that the offer was too low, and that the unfinished terminal building and the car parks would not have been included in the deal. In September 2015, an unidentified UK group made an offer to the court of €28 million for the airport, though complications led the sale to fall through. As of May 2018, the airport currently remains for sale after receiving another extension to the purchase period and a further reduction in its sale price.
Before opening and after closure, the disused airport has been used in a number media ventures:
- In 2012, Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar used the airport to film a number of portions for his film, I'm So Excited!.
- In 2013, Volvo Trucks used the disused runway to film the "Epic Split" commercial. The scene featured Jean-Claude Van Damme narrating and performing the splits between two moving trucks driving in reverse. Planning for the stunt involved the use of professionals to drive the trucks, with filming done within one take and directed by Andreas Nilsson.
- On 14 July 2013, Top Gear aired a special feature film for the third episode of its 20th series, in which presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond visited the disused airport during a "budget" supercar challenge in Spain, filmed earlier that year. The presenters took time to explore the empty terminal building, before their cars - a McLaren MP4-12C Spider, Audi R8 V10 Spyder and Ferrari 458 Spider - on the closed runway, both for a standard drag race, and one with special rules.
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- Ryanair cancels the route between Ciudad Real and London from 11 November, La Vanguardia, 27 October 2010
- Don Quixote's phantom airport – El Pais, 31 October 2011
- About the Ciudad Real Central Airport.
- Marcinkoski, Christopher (2015). The city that never was. New York: Princeton Architectural Press - New York. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-61689-390-3.
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- "Spain's unused, billion-euro Don Quixote airport is about to be sold to a Chinese investor for just $11,000".
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- Burgen, Stephen (17 July 2015). "Welcome to Don Quixote airport: cost €1bn - now it could sell to China for €10,000". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
- "Un grupo británico, a por el aeródromo de Ciudad Real". El País (in Spanish). Ediciones El País S.L. 14 Sep 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
- Busch, Simon (2013-12-10). "Spanish 'ghost airport' goes on the block". CNN. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
- on YouTube
- Scutt, David (20 July 2015). "The abandoned Spanish airport made famous by Top Gear may be about to sell for only 10,000 euros". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 7 May 2016.