Central Committee gets update on Saba’s airport improvements

Commissioner Chris Johnson gave an update to the planned improvements to Saba’s Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport during Thursday’s meeting of the Island Council’s Central Committee at the Government Administration Building.

Two major improvements currently planned at the airport are the removal of part of the hill affecting the crosswinds and resurfacing the runway.

“Every year there are aviation inspection reports done showing what the problems are and what can be solved. The airport project is really set up to solve those aviation-safety aspects. From what they say, this part of the project [hill removal and runway resurfacing – Ed.] should be completed by the end of this year. Whether that is feasible or not we will have to see,” Commissioner Johnson said.

“The terminal is also going to have to be re-done to strict specifications right down to the colour of the paint, as well as security and fire upgrades.”

Island Governor Jonathan Johnson added that when Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur was here in June he announced he would be making funding available to move the fire station to the corner of the parking lot where they do their training. The new location will be outside the current airport fence and will not affect parking.

“Once you have a new fire station and they move out it will free up space in the current buildings and that garage. Then you all of a sudden have room to work with. The plans are to put in a real departure hall. Saba does have to have at some point things like security screening. I know myself that it is nice that you can just walk out to the plane, but the day something happens we’re in some problems,” said Commissioner Johnson.

The open-air style of the airport, the lack of screening and of proper bathrooms has been an issue in the aviation inspection report. Moving the fire department from its current location would free up space to address these issues, as well as moving the bar to a more scenic location.

There is also a plan in place to put lights on the runway to facilitate emergency flights and possibly open the airport to small aircraft traffic during evening hours, which would increase accessibility to Saba and benefit the local economy.

“You see a school bus get in an accident with a bunch of school children and we need planes coming in here and suddenly people will think lights on the runway are not a bad idea,” Commissioner Johnson stated.

These projects are financed from the safety budget for the airports of Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire, which was approved years ago.

Source: The Daily Herald.

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