Saba’s Juancho Irausquin Airport celebrated its 60th anniversary on Friday with the unveiling of a new green and yellow International Air Transport Association (IATA) logo.
In her address, Airport Manager Maegan Hassell, who is the granddaughter of Saba’s first airport manager George Leo Hassell, pointed out that the airport began operations on July 24, 1963, and officially opened its doors on September 18, 1963.
She also corrected a long-running error of spelling the official name as “Yrausquin” instead of “Irausquin”.
Maegan also highlighted the pioneers who contributed to Saba’s airport becoming a reality, such as Remy de Haenen, who became the first pilot to land on Saba on February 9, 1959.
Others recognised were then-Commissioners Matthew Levenstone and Arthur Anslyn, who championed for Saba to have its own airport, and former Netherlands Antilles Finance Minister Juancho Enrique Irausquin, who secured financing from the Dutch government for the airport’s construction and after whom the airport is named.
Windward Islands Airways International Winair co-founder George Greaux Sr. showed great determination in those earlier years to provide connectivity between the islands, said Maegan. She also acknowledged the Johnson family, who are the local Winair agents, for “their dedication that is parallel to that of the late Freddie Johnson.”
Special guests from the neighbouring islands joined Saba’s celebrations, including Dutch St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport operating company PJIAE chief executive officer (CEO) Brian Mingo and new Winair CEO Hans van de Velde; Mackencia Lavaud of French St. Martin’s Grand Case Airport; Fabrice Danet of St. Barths’ Gustav III Airport; and Joost Meijs of Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport.
Saba’s airport has seen many changes since it opened its doors 60 years ago, including the construction of a new terminal facility following the destruction Hurricane Georges caused the island in 1998.
Maegan said the airport will also be undergoing a two-phase renovation process, which will be finalised in the coming months.
The master plan for Saba’s airport was drafted in 2013. Several actions in this plan have been completed, said Maegan. These include the partial removal of the hillside to better accommodate landings, replacing perimeter fences, resurfacing the runway, installing a runway lighting system to ensure safe nighttime medical evacuation flights, purchasing new meteorological equipment, trainings for staff, and the construction of a generator and storage room.
“Today’s celebration is a reflection on history, recognition of the faces of today, and a bit of what the future might hold,” Maegan said. “The key to the continued services at the airport is the commitment and collaboration of staff of the various departments. You all deserve to feel valued and appreciated. Together we can look back with satisfaction on the past 60 years, and at the same time this anniversary should give us strength and confidence for the time ahead.”
A new fire station was recently built at the airport and will be opened later this year. Before the start of Friday’s official ceremony, those interested in the new fire station could have had a look inside the facility, which is an upgrade from the one-room office formerly occupied by the firefighting team.
“With the new fire station fully operational, it means a lot for the team and me,” said Saba Fire Chief Julio Every in an invited comment. “This has been a mission for me since 2014, and today we can all be proud of this accomplishment.”
The Daily Herald.