The civil works which recently began at Saba’s airport, the Juancho Yrausquin International Airport, are being executed so that the aviation facility can be upgraded to conform to the minimum safety requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Since the constitutional transition the responsibility for safety on the airports of the islands in the Caribbean Netherlands falls directly under the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment. It is the policy of the ministry to follow all international regulations to which The Kingdom of the Netherlands is signatory. Some safety regulations are overdue, but were never implemented when the responsibility and the oversight of the airports fell under the government of the Netherlands Antilles.
This includes removing the hill that is south of the runway 12. ICAO regulations require that there be no obstacles within a certain distance of an aircraft in flight. This hill is an obstacle to aircraft on final because of its proximity to the wing of the aircraft on approach. Removal of the hill will also make it easier for the tower personnel to track the aircraft on final approach. In the current situation, aircraft are not always visible to the personnel in the tower, which is also not in line with international aviation regulations of a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) airport such as Juancho Yrausquin .
The removal of the hill will affect the wind pattern at the airport; however, this will not disturb the operations of aircraft at the airport. Pilots are trained to cope with different wind conditions and will adjust accordingly. The management and the Director of Operations of Winair , the only scheduled airline with flights into Saba, was consulted about the proposed changes at the airport while the plans were being developed and also gave their input, all of which were taken into account by the design team.
Installing runway lights will also provide added benefits for the operations of the medevac helicopter. These lights will provide more visual cues to flight crews thereby improving flight safety. For normal fixed wing operations this is beneficial as well. During the last half of the year, sunset is earlier, which can result in cancellations of flights due to low visibility. When the lights are switched on pilots can take still take off during the period of twilight.
Also during the renovation the runway will be resurfaced with an asphalt slurry seal surface treatment which will extend its lifespan. Other upgrades so far include, security fencing, runway and taxiway marking, mandatory instruction signs, wind cones, additional training for tower personnel and new radio and meteorological equipment. In a later stage the terminal building will be renovated to comply with the security and customs standards. In order to make this possible, it is first necessary to build a new Rescue and Firefighting station on the airport for the relocation of the crash tender and firefighting personnel. The free space which will then become available will be used to develop a secure area after check in.
Press release GIS Saba