Airport renovation project on Saba progressing as planned

The Daily Herald writes: The renovations of Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport on Saba are going as planned, said project manager of the renovation of the airports of the Caribbean Netherlands Ton Franssen.

The experienced engineer, working for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, and his team of experts have been on Saba for three days overseeing the many different tasks construction company Van Boekel has taken upon itself.

Among these tasks is the renewal of the lighting system. “When the new floodlights are installed, a helicopter can land day and night without any problems,” Franssen said.

The hill situated on the side of the runway is topped off, because it’s an obstacle. From now on, a straight approach towards the runway will be possible. Previously, aircraft had to come in from an angle.

“Pilots will have to get used to the new situation, but it definitely will have a positive effect on aviation safety,” Franssen explained.

Saba’s Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport.
Saba’s Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport.

Sabans requested that some of the big rocks that are removed from the hillside are placed at Cove Bay to ensure conservation of the beach.

The fences surrounding the airport are also being renewed, so that wildlife can no longer cause any problem. A 6,600-gallon grey-water cistern is currently being built next to the helicopter platform.

Franssen also mentioned another top priority of the renovation project; the renewal of the top coating of the 400-meter long runway itself. “It’s the only asphalt found on the entire island of Saba and it was in need of repair for some time. Safetywise this will be a huge improvement,” the Dutch project manager stated.

Apart from the airport’s exterior, with the shortest commercial runway in the world, the interior underwent some upgrades as well. Communication systems between Saba and Princess Juliana International Airport SXM on St. Maarten have recently been upgraded and Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute KNMI has installed advanced weather sensors, all for improving the flight safety of passengers and crew.

Franssen and his team visited St. Eustatius before coming to Saba. The renovation project there runs parallel to that on Saba and according to Franssen, the works on both islands are proceeding as planned. Bonaire recently underwent similar renovations, although more work is still planned.

According to Franssen, the new air traffic control tower will be ready at the end of 2015 and will be tested for six months. Completion of the airport renovations on Saba and Statia are scheduled for December. The next phase of airport renovations for Saba is already being discussed, but is related to the scheduling of the recently announced new airport fire station.

These plans include an increase in security measures, such as a separation wall between incoming and outgoing passengers. Also the roof of the Customs Office will be extended so that incoming passengers waiting in line will stay dry on a rainy day. An enclosed departure hall will be created with bathroom facilities to help the airport take a much-needed step in aviation safety and regulation compliance.

“These renovations are still in the planning phase, but we will be sure to leave the airport building intact. After the renovations are complete, Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport will in most parts adhere to the minimal international safety requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The current renovations will be in no way harmful to flight schedules,” Franssen concluded.

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