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Argyle Airport overcomes toughest challenge since opening

Argyle Airport overcomes  toughest  challenge  since opening

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The Argyle International Airport (AIA) on Tuesday breezed past a challenge that sometimes proved difficult for the former ET Joshua airport.

According to www.caribaviation.net, on February 21, the wind direction in the Eastern Caribbean shifted, forcing a change in direction of the take-offs and landings at airports around the region.

At VC Bird International in Antigua, this was via Runway 25; at Hewanorra International in St Lucia, it was via Runway 28; and at the Argyle International Airport, it resulted in operations via Runway 22.

The occurrence created much chatter on social media, with some persons in St Vincent suggesting that the change in landing and take-off operations meant that something had gone wrong at the newly opened AIA.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, manager of the Meteorological Office located at the AIA Billy Jeffers dismissed such rumours stating that landing and take-off operations were simply shifted because of the change in wind direction.

He explained that AIA runway is able to operate in both directions and so pilots used Runway 22 on Tuesday and Wednesday, which saw planes taking off in the opposite direction.

“The alignment of the runway is based on degrees. If you say the runway is 04, we actually mean 40 degrees, the alignment to true north. If you go the opposite direction it would be 22, we would use that in aviation, but really it’s 220 degrees,” he added.

“When you touching down by Stubbs, it would be 40 degrees and the other side at Peruvian Vale would be 220 degrees.”

Jeffers said the direction in which the planes land or take off depends on the prevailing winds.

“ET Joshua was a 07, which is 70 degrees by 250 degrees. In the case of Argyle, it’s slightly different.

Jeffers said on Tuesday and Wednesday, pilots decided to use Runway 22 because it was better for braking and also take-off “because you would get a headwind, so you would get a better lift.”

He further explained that in many cases, the ATR aircraft were grounded when the wind speed exceeded 15 knots. He, however, said Tuesday’s winds would not have been a problem at ET Joshua, as the planes would be taking off into a headwind.

SEARCHLIGHT also spoke with Shavar Maloney, the Corporate Communications manager of LIAT, St Vincent’s main carrier, who confirmed that the airline operated with their usual number of flights without issue.

“The issue with ET Joshua was you had to take off towards the sea and where there’s the tailwind component, we were not able to do that safely, so at times you would either have planes being diverted to other places or we would not be able to land, or if we landed, then the plane would be stuck on the ground for either a few hours or in the case, for an entire day.”

Caribbean Aviation also reported that high winds at ET Joshua frequently caused issues for aircraft chiefly because a Go-Around is a risky manoeuvre, given the location of the airport.

Further, because of the mountains clustered to the north, east and west of the airport, take-off in those directions was restricted to the Boeing 727-200F aircraft utilized by Amerijet International due to the power and manoeuvring requirements for that take-off. All other aircraft departed ET Joshua via Runway 25 out to sea into what was a predominant tailwind, albeit slight.

The tailwind situation at the E T Joshua airport had caused LIAT to frequently depart without some passengers’ luggage. The airline also had numerous delays and cancellations, most recently, one that occurred days before the opening of AIA. (AS)

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