Last week a team from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat and Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO) visited Saba to make preparations for the renovation of the airport runway. In a well-attended town hall meeting on Thursday, January 18th, the public was informed about the plans.
The overall response from the public to the proposed works was very positive. ‘People understand that action is needed to make sure we can continue safe air travel to our island,’ said Commissioner of Aviation, Bruce Zagers.
The runway will be repaved with concrete. ‘Using concrete has significant long-term advantages over asphalt such as the much longer lifespan of 30 years. Also, the materials, knowledge, and equipment for maintenance are available locally.’ Concrete runways are not unusual in the region. St Barth’s airport, for example, has had a concrete runway for many years already.
The renovation of the runway is scheduled in the lowest travel season, between September 10th and October 9th. This decision was taken to minimalize the economic impact to the Island. As this is also the peak of the hurricane season, precautions will be made to minimize the risk of hurricane damage and to ensure accessibility for helicopters at all times.
Strict requirements have been set for the execution of the project, to ensure a successful outcome. For example, all required equipment and materials need to be on the island before the works start. Mixing of concrete will take place at the airport. A test will be done to verify the quality of the materials and the process. This test case will be used to create a helicopter platform next to the airport apron. The helicopter platform is designed to fit the largest Medevac helicopter.
During the four weeks of airport closure, provisions will be made available for additional ferry connections as well as options with the medical helicopters to ensure free movement of persons to and from the island.