Gov't undertaking repairs to island's aerodromesMonday, March 01, 2021
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
NEGRIL, Hanover – The Government is currently undertaking repairs to several aerodromes across the island as the aviation industry looks forward to a strong recovery from the present devastating blow caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The aviation industry is heavily dependent on the tourism industry.
“... As we look to the post-COVID recovery of our aviation and tourism industry we seize the opportunity to improve the facilities which will place us in the forefront of the market when the resurgence begins,” said Audley Deidrick, president of the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ).
“This, as usual, is a collaborative effort with our hotel and tourism partners and indeed the wider stakeholder partners to make all set and ready for this recovery. Let us, therefore, look forward and plan together with the expectation to emerge better and stronger post-COVID,” added Deidrick.
The tourism sector currently accounts for more than 80 per cent of the country's aviation traffic.
According to Airports Council International (ACI), an association that represents airports interests with governments and international organisations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), of the projected 9.3 billion passengers that were expected to travel in 2020, the pandemic has slash away approximately 64 per cent or six billion of those passengers.
“For Jamaica, the situation was quite similar with an overall decline of 65 per cent for the year 2020, a loss of 4.2 million passengers of our normal 6.3 million annual passengers. But, we all know that the precipitous fall of approximately 99 per cent of our traffic took place in March of 2020 when the Government had to close the borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Deidrick.
Deidrick said the industry's slow rebound from the devastating impact of the pandemic began in June of last year when the Government reopened the borders to inbound traffic.
The AAJ president, who expressed gratitude to staff in the industry for their resilience and commitment during the period, further stressed that the recovery process is expected to be slow and long with the forecast for recovery to what it was pre-COVID set for between four and five years. “So, it is a ride for those with resilience,” argued Deidrick.
He was addressing the opening ceremony of the new $17-million Negril Aerodrome Fire Station last week Thursday.
At the same time, 6,060 metres of the aeroplane runway was overlaid, with plans to rehabilitate another 151 metres of the runway which was built some time ago and was overtaken by morass.
The aerodrome was declassified in 2010 due to significant low traffic and high operations cost. However, the aerodrome began to see significant increased traffic flow and as such, it was reclassified in 2014.
The island currently has 14 aerodromes, a reduction from 50 over four decades ago, and with Negril Aerodrome having four times the traffic in comparison to the others, calls are being made for it to be upgraded.
“In the near future, I would like to see this aerodrome becomes a halfway international airport,” stated Bertel Moore, mayor of Savanna-la-Mar.
Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague, who encouraged more people to have their aircraft, noted that the price of small aircraft has plummeted to that of a Toyota Corolla motor car, pointed to the importance of having somewhere to land hence the Government's effort to improve aerodromes.
“It is not an expensive thing as some people believe... It may sound strange, but the cost of things in the world has brought down the cost of aviation almost to nothing,” said Montague.
“... We have put in a pilot lounge in Tinson Pen, at Ken Jones, and at Ian Fleming, and we are going to do one right here in Negril, and we have also improved the services at Tinson Pen. This week, we got a fire truck at Tinson Pen. We are going to be building a new fire station at Ian Fleming, and also we will be resurfacing the Lionel Dempsher airstrip,” stated Montague.
A new fire truck will also be purchased for Negril. “The one we have here is new to Negril, but not new to Jamaica. People remember my last time they gave me a bashing when I bought used cars (for the police). So, I don't want anymore used fire trucks,” the transport minister said.
The minister also announced that a perimeter fence is to be constructed around the aerodrome in Port Antonio which is currently being plagued by cows. Improvement work is also to be undertaken at the Ian Fleming Aerodrome in St Mary.
And in pointing to the importance of making airports safe, the minister disclosed that a police station is currently being constructed at Ian Fleming International Airport.
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