In July 2014 newly appointed Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai stated that the Transport Ministry would consider the proposed new Kulim Airport Project. Malaysia’s State Chief Minister revealed the construction cost of the proposed airport was estimated at USD500 million, covering land acquisition, infrastructure developments and two runways. In August 2014 the Ministry of Transport announced it would conduct an independent feasibility study on the airport proposal. The Northern Corridor Implementation Agency (NCIA) would undertake a similar assessment on the airport proposal after receiving approval from the Economic Planning Unit. In December 2014 Kedah Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) Mukhriz Mahathir said the Kedah State Government planned to construct an ‘aerocity’ at the proposed Kulim Airport; an industrial and business area located on the 600 hectare airport precinct would “accommodate all industries related to air transportation”. In March 2015 Mukhriz said Kulim Airport would initially operate as a cargo facility. The project was still at a preliminary stage and subject to Federal Government approval. In February 2019 Mukhriz said Kedah state had received Federal Government approval to establish a company called KXP AirportCity Holdings (KAHSB) to coordinate and manage development of Kulim Airport. KAHSB is fully owned by the state government via the Kedah Development Corporation (PKNK).
Mukhriz made a speech at Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre in March 2019 in which he said that a Northern Aeropolis and Aerospace Hub would be set up in Kedah, following the signing of seven memorandums of understanding (MoU) between Mentri Besar Kedah Incorporated (MBI Kedah), the Kedah State government investment arm, and four Malaysian companies. The companies were Global Aerospace Sdn Bhd, AeroPlans Asia Sdn Bhd, UA Aerospace Sdn Bhd and TGAC Group. Mukhriz said that signing of the MOUs would result in construction of the Aeropolis and Aerospace Hub along with establishing final assembly facilities for Avic Harbin Y12 aircraft and MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) for the Avic Harbin A312E Helicopter. In May 2019 Mukhriz said “we are planning to focus on aerospace industries through the creation of a new industrial park near the airport, which would see foreign investors coming in”. The state government said many parties from China and Europe had shown interest in building the airport.
In August 2019 The Star newspaper reported that the proposed Kulim Airport (also referred to as KXP) would occupy a land area five times the size of Penang Airport. Mukhriz’s Penang counterpart Chow Kon Yeow expressed concern that Kulim Airport might steal Penang’s position as the northern gateway to foreign visitors and current position as Malaysia’s manufacturing hub. It was reported that construction of a new interchange along the North-South Expressway would be connected to the new Kulim airport. A presentation leaked from Kedah’s Budget 2020 Dialogue showed the proposed KXP will have two runways and be situated on a 17sq km piece of land at the Kedah state border with Penang, with development financed by sale of an 18sq km piece of land around the airport site to developers and investors over a ten year period. The presentation detailed ‘sale of land bank through a master development together with KXP’. An announcement on the tender for environmental impact, social and traffic assessments was displayed on the KAHSB website and a tender calling for consultants to develop the masterplan for KXP AirportCity or Aerotropolis had closed on 31st July.
Aeroport de Paris Ingeniere (ADPI) was appointed to draw up the Kulim Airport / KXP Aerotropolis Masterplan and a signing ceremony took place on 10th February 2020. In addition a number of consultants had been appointed for several mandatory studies, assessments and evaluation for the project. Mukhriz announced that 3,982 hectares of land for KXP Aerotropolis and development had been gazetted for public purpose under the Land Acquisition Act 1960. He said the gazette would ensure that development studies for KXP Aerotropolis could begin on the demarcated land parcels. A land caveat had been approved on 30th January 2020, following which at least 40 teams of surveyors had conducted topographical and geospatial survey works at the site. Mukhriz said “Other entities, such as the Valuation Department, the Land Office, and consultants will also enter the site this week. This gazette will ensure that the whole area will be exclusively used for the aerotropolis development”. He also said the Federal Government had agreed to provide a sizeable loan facility to the Kedah State Government for the purpose of funding KXP Aerotropolis land acquisition and that “This loan will enable the state government to expedite land acquisition, without having to wait for a private investor to come in first”. Mukhriz said land acquisition for KXP had been finalized under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1960 which meant a block on any form of transaction in the area, and that the boundaries had been identified along with the landowners with whom negotiations would commence. The state government would manage land acquisition to avoid difficulties.
On 2nd July 2020 Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who began serving as Kedah Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) in May 2020, said he hoped the Federal Government would help fund an airport in Kulim and help build associated mixed development next to the airport. He said “The Kedah Aerotropolis in Sidam Kiri, including the airport, and the Sidam Logistics Aerospace and Manufacturing Hub, is what the state needs to push our economy to greater heights”. Mustapa Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Economic Affairs, said the Federal Government would consider building the airport and related projects requested by the state under the 12th Malaysia Plan. He said the airport alone would cost over USD1.2 billion to build, with land acquisition costs constituting about half of this amount.
In October 2020 Penang Chief Minster Chow Kon Yeow called for the Federal Government to clarify its approval of KXP, which had been announced by Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor on his Facebook page, where he said the Kedah government’s proposal to build an international airport in Kulim was one step closer to reality with plans being approved by the National Physical Planning Council (NPPC) which evaluates all large scale projects in the country. Chow begged to differ, saying that the NPPC had not given the go-ahead to begin the KXP project but had merely given a list of conditions that Kedah would have to comply with before beginning the project. In response Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said approval in principle is subject to further consideration by the Transport Ministry and other government agencies including the Department for Environment, the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM). Elaborating, Wee said the KXP proposal is also subject to the findings of the National Airports Strategic Plan (NASP) due to commence in 2021, for all existing and proposed airports. He added that the KXP project owner would be requested to provide pertinent information to NASP consultants, with realistic and accurate projection of passenger and cargo service demands, along with airlines that have committed to KXP.
In November 2020 it was reported that Kedah was working closely with the NCIA to implement strategic high-impact infrastructure projects, including KXP, under the recently approved Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) Strategic Development Plan 2021-2025 (SDP). KXP was described as ‘an airport city that will be an integral part of the Kedah Aerotropolis economic region driven by intermodal connectivity focussing on cargo, logistics and industrial development’. KXP’s cargo facilities and the development of the aerotropolis will be complemented by the Sidam Logistics, Aerospace and Manufacturing Hub (SLAM). Project feasibility studies and land acquisition were nearing completion and preliminary works on basic infrastructure expected to begin in 2021. The Kedah Aerotropolis page on the NCER website describes an aerotropolis as ‘a metropolitan subregion whose infrastructure, land use and economy are centred on an airport’. It states that the proposed 3,983 hectare Kedah Aerotropolis development will consist of Kulim International Airport (KXP) and SLAM. The projects aim to support the growth of e-commerce not just in the region but in Southern Thailand and accelerate advancement of high-tech industries such as the MRO subsector. The website states that ‘KXP has readily available land that can cater for its expansion for the next 20 to 50 years’.
At a press conference in February 2021 Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor announced that a new company had pledged to acquire 4,000 hectares of land in Sidam Kiri to build Kulim International Airport (KXP). He said the new company had entered into a joint venture with KXP Airportcity Holdings Sdn Bdh and would develop the entire project. The company had been given six months to raise the RM2 billion (USD2,560,000) required to acquire the 4,000 hectares of land, for which land acquisition had already been approved. Sanusi said the state government had also approved an additional 14,000 acres (5,666 hectares) of land to be acquired by the government, upon request of the new company. A new special purpose vehicle (SPV) company would be created between a state government-linked company (GLC) and the new funder to negotiate for an airport licence from the transport ministry. the new SPV would also build the Sidam Logistics, Aerospace, and Manufacturing Hub, adjacent to the airport, to allow factories and logistical infrastructure to be built.
On 24th February 2021 it was announced that ECK Group of Companies (ECK) was to enter into a partnership with the Kedah State government to develop the Kulim international airport (KXP) project. In a statement ECK said it would be directly involved as a strategic partner in the project, from construction to commissioning. Besides the dual-runway airport the partnership will also involve development of Kedah Aerotropolis and Airport City. ECK said a company would be established as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) responsible for development and financial aspects of the airport city sited on 4,046 hectares.