Planned closure of Tinson Pen is concerning
I have noted again a plan to decommission the Tinson Pen aerodrome and use the land for container port storage. As an engineer a few facts come to mind:
1) The Palisadoes road connecting the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) has portions underlain by sand which will likely liquefy in a major earthquake and render the airport stranded for a while until the damaged sections can be rebuilt to carry earthquake relief supplies.
2) The western main access to Kingston passes over the area between Ferry and Kingston which has the Mandela Highway built on it. This area is underlain by decayed vegetation which will behave in a similar way to Mexico City which is built on a lake bed. Mexico City suffered massive damage as earthquake waves travelled to and fro between the old lake shores. Thus, similar damage to the highway is likely to occur.
3) The only other airfield in Kingston is the Jamaica Defence Force’s short field (now classed as a heliport by Google) at Up Park Camp, which I remember was only able (from a Gleaner photo years ago) to accept a short take-off and landing (STOL) De Havilland Buffalo military cargo aircraft [1,200ft (370m) required for take-off].
The Tinson Pen aerodrome’s landing strip is longer at 4,300 ft and able to take heavier military cargo aircraft, such as the USA’s C130 and C17.
I would not advise the decommissioning of the Tinson Pen aerodrome for these reasons, as we must consider rapid response to a major earthquake. Ships can come a little later.
We have had a forceful reminder — a minor 5.6-magnitude — that we must consider earthquakes in our planning. Experts have been warning, in no uncertain terms, that we are due for an earthquake in the region of a magnitude 7 — 25 times the energy of the 5.6.
If we do not have a plan, we are planning to fail.
Member of Jamaica Institution of Engineers