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Four planes land at Argyle International Airport

Four planes land at Argyle International Airport


Twenty-seven Vincentians from all walks of life have gone down in history as being among the first set of persons to land at the Argyle International Airport (AIA).

The historic flights saw four planes that originated from the E.T. Joshua airport at Arnos Vale landing one after the other,{{more}} between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. at the AIA, which still has additional work to be done before it is operational.

The first plane to land was a test flight from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA). On board that plane was prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, his wife Eloise and regulators from ECCAA Mike Bolig and Carole Thompson.

Among the persons on other flights were CEO of the International Airport Development Company (IADC) Dr Rudy Mathias; CEO of VINLEC Thornley Myers; the commissioner of police Michael Charles, ULP candidate for South Windward Frederick Stephenson; and members of the media including Lyf Compton of SEARCHLIGHT.

Jonathan Palmer, Everett Best and Ray deFreitas were among the local pilots who brought the planes down smoothly at the AIA.

Palmer, who said he has been flying into the Arnos Vale airport since 1973 said at a welcome ceremony at the AIA that it was an honour to have landed at the new airport.

“It was just great to bring the passengers in.”

He described the landing as “very routine,” which is what he expected.

Best, who has been flying for over 30 years said he never had any doubts about the AIA.

“The prime minister has always been saying about a cross wind runway, and I sent a message to him to desist from using that term, because it will not be necessary,” Best declared to cheers from the audience.

Both pilots said they “cannot wait” to begin using the new airport on a full time basis.

According to Lyf Compton, who was on the second flight, passengers showed no signs of nervousness, but rather excitement and happiness.

His flight from the E.T. Joshua airport to the AIA took four minutes 10 seconds and on arrival at the AIA, passengers were greeted by a sea of persons clad in red, the colour of the governing Unity Labour Party.

The persons in the welcoming party, who took up a huge area of the tarmac, cheered and clapped as the passengers disembarked the planes.

SEARCHLIGHT spoke to some of the passengers at the E.T. Joshua airport before they took to the skies.

Gideon Huggins, a resident of South Rivers expressed his happiness at being on one of the first flights. He said he was particularly pleased to be included because he provided trucking services during the construction of the airport.

“I am convinced that the work is good and it’s a good opportunity for me to travel to Argyle. I think the airport development is a good idea. I’m living next to the airport and I travel a lot and I have confidence in it.”

Nioka Balcombe, a farmer from Langley Park, Georgetown said she was very excited to be a part of history and knowing that the airport was a reality.

“Alot of people said that this airport would have been a phantom project and would not have been completed…. But today the test is on and the government of St Vincent is proving to the nation that the Argyle International Airport is up and ready and would be operational very soon.”

Wife of the prime minister Eloise Gonsalves said what was happening was one of the most exciting events ever in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I still remember clearly the visual of those trucks winding down the mountains with the mounds off earth. With faith and hope it all came together and here we are today with a runway and about to land. I’m not nervous at all I am excited about it and full of anticipation.”

Eratso Robertson, a park ranger and farmer from Rose Hall said he was honoured to part of the test landings.

“We have been talking about an international airport for over 50 years and I was there at the ground breaking ceremony and it was an exciting ceremony and I looked forward to the finish and now we are closed to the finish I am very excited. It is a great moment and I am looking forward to it and never in my wildest dream I thought that I would be among the first persons landing. It’s historic and I really appreciate having been chosen to be a part of the team.”

At yesterday’s welcoming ceremony, remarks were also given by several officials including prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, minister of tourism Cecil McKie, minister of agriculture Saboto Caesar, minister of foreign affairs Camillo Gonsalves, minister of social development Frederick Stephenson, CEO of the IADC Dr Rudy Matthias and Donald McPhial from the ECCAA.