By Latonya Linton
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Minister of transport and mining, Robert Montague, says the $13-billion (US$89-million) airport development programme is set to continue.
This includes the Sangster International Airport runway expansion, shoreline protection works and expansion of the arrivals terminal.
“At the Norman Manley International Airport, shoreline protection works are also underway. A new police station at Ian Fleming International Airport will soon be handed over,” Montague said, during his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 26.
The minister indicated that aerodromes are also being upgraded, with the Lionel Densham project currently before the Public Investment Management Secretariat (PIMSEC), while works have been completed at the Negril, Port Antonio and Tinson Pen facilities.
In addition, “we are working on going to market to get a free base of operations for Ian Fleming. We need a partner who will drive business there. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, they see an average of 30 to 40 private planes landing per day, while we see 20-30 landing per month at Ian Fleming. We are moving to change that,” he said.
Meanwhile, the minister informed that work is in progress to increase training opportunities for Jamaicans to become pilots. He said there are upwards of 3,000 Jamaicans enrolled in colleges in Florida alone, who are training as pilots.
“We are now working to stop that flow and train them here. We are working with the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) to remove some humbugs in the system, but safety concerns will not be compromised,” he told the House.
Turning to airport safety, minister Montague said that the JCAA has the highest safety record in aviation in this region, and Jamaica is the standard by which aviation safety is measured.
“We see an average of over 11,000 flights within our Flight Information Region (FIR) per month with an additional 2,500 landing at our airports. With the pandemic, we have seen cuts, but the numbers are coming up,” he noted.
The minister said that the safety system has been overhauled and “we will take charge of a Doppler Very High-Frequency Omni range antenna later this year at a cost of approximately $600 million”.
In addition, he said that discussions have started for the acquisition of a satellite-based air navigation system, which will allow for an increase in the amount of traffic through Jamaica’s airspace.
“We currently have to keep planes 40 miles apart. With the new system, we can keep them five miles apart, thus allowing more planes to pass through, resulting in increased earnings,” he noted. “Furthermore, because we have responsibility for aviation safety within the Northern Caribbean, this will help us keep track of all planes in this area,” he pointed out.
Minister Montague noted, further, that as part of measures to encourage general aviation in Jamaica, the 12-year engine maintenance rule has been revamped and amended.
In addition, the maximum age for commercial pilots in Jamaica has been increased from 60 to 65 years.
“We are also working out a system to provide titles for local planes. In this regard, as soon as we are done with the proposal, we will invite the ministry of finance [and the Public Service] to take the matter forward. This is vital, as banks are hesitant to provide loans for aircraft as, unlike a car, there is no title for the bank to hold on to,” Montague said.