By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Despite indignant claims to the contrary by verbatim-government-spiel-monger Ana Elizabeth García Vilchis, it turns out that the control tower at Mexico’s new Felipe Ángeles International Airport does indeed lean.
The highly respected trinational architect and structural engineer Axel Belfort confirmed Wednesday, Sept. 22, that the structure has a slope of about 18 centimeters due to alluvial sedimentation since its construction began last year.
Much like Italy’s famed medieval Leaning Tower of Pisa, the airport control tower was constructed on very soft (and, consequently, unstable) soil, which recently began to give way under the weight of the structure, Belfort told reporters on Wednesday.
The Felipe Ángeles control tower was intended to be the crowning glory of one of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) pet projects, a controversial and questionably feasible installation that he ordered built out of a former military airstrip to replace the construction of a ultramodern, $7 billion airport project in Texcoco that he ordered halted on a whim at the start of his term when it was more than 70 percent completed.
But despite warnings from both national and international civil engineers and environmentalists that the Felipe Ángeles project, located at Santa Lucía in the State of Mexico (Edoméx), was not viable, AMLO has already poured more than 82 billion pesos into its construction, which is so far only half completed.
On Wednesday, many major newspapers across Mexico ran stories and photographs showing the control tower’s inclination.
Indignant that the media had dared to berate his new airport, AMLO immediately responded by siccing his anti-media bulldog, pseudo-journalist García Vilchis on them during her weekly intervention in his daily morning press conference.
Declaring all those publications and reporters who had dared to point out the tower’s structural flaw as “unethical liars,” García Vilchis proceeded to “verify” that the tower was perfectly erect and that the images of its physical inclination were nothing more than an “optical illusion.”
And as proof that her facts were reliable, García Vilchis said that they had been provided to her by the Mexican military, which AMLO commissioned to build the Felipe Ángeles Airport. (In other words, the government said so, so it must be true.)
But within hours, Belfort, who first drew attention to the control tower’s dubious construction on his Twitter account, responded, presenting tangible and verifiable architectural evidence that the structure is inclined.
Belfort said that the tower’s 18-centimeter tilt was “not necessarily catastrophic and could possibly be repaired.”
He went on to explain that the tower’s inclination is caused by its heavy weight, which forced that soft ground under it to sink in some spots.
He likewise said that the tilt is “still within the regulatory safety range,” but that it is important to continue monitoring it so that it remains safe.
In the event that the sinking continues, Belfort said, a correction could be made by sinking the higher parts to level out the structure.
“Thus, if a construction sinks slightly in Santa Lucía or Texcoco, the immediate response is not necessarily catastrophe,” he said.
“But constant inspection, control and maintenance will be needed.”