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Argyle International Airport (AIA)

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My Final Chapter (one year after)

Editor: In this post-celebration of the first anniversary of operations at our new Argyle International Airport (AIA), and in conclusion, following the five-page review which was published by me in 2012, I submit, as my final chapter on airport development for our multi-island state, this piece of history, along with an overview, which is meant to finally put to rest all the negative utterances that were placed in the public domain, both in print form, as well as spoken word.

The opening of the Argyle International Airport was truly a dream come true for many persons, including nationals and non-nationals alike, residing both here and abroad. Suffice it to say, what a vast improvement over what we had in existence during the past 40-50 years in St Vincent! – hence, permit me to offer some comparisons between then and now.

One must remember that stifling heat that we all had to endure within the check in area at the old ET Joshua Airport, with limited and very uncomfortable seating; also, when it rained, even indoors one needed to open an umbrella at times! The check-in area had very limited shopping, experiences (shops) one wishes never to be reminded of, as for the greater part, there was not much in the offering beyond a newspaper, postcard or tee shirt. Remember that very small and cramped space in the departure lounge, when filled – by just one LIAT flight and a Grenadines flight – the discomfort we had to endure with utmost displeasure? On the arrival side, with often only two, and at best three, Immigration officers, to deal with the several arriving passengers at once; not to mention the Customs area, what a state that was, though no fault of their own, but to think of the peak periods at Carnival and Christmas, oh what chaos that was!

We must also not forget those times with flight delays (both outgoing and incoming), due to wind and weather conditions, not to forget the left luggage situations that many a passenger had to put up with; oh what very frustrating moments those were for the travelling public! Although ET Joshua Airport accepted international, regional and domestic air traffic over its years of operation, its capabilities were very limited, to say the least, due to in part the short runway length, the tailwind take-off component, and the very complex landing and take-off abort procedures with such highly restricted levels, which often made it a very unsafe aerodrome for many a pilot to handle. Special consideration must always be given to all the air crews who once operated in and out of ET Joshua in the past, as safety was always their hallmark.

With the advancement in air traffic/travel though out the world, it can be said that without Argyle St Vincent and the Grenadines could never make the strides that are expected of a developing nation, not now nor ever, and we would have always remained at the bottom of the totem pole. That being established, let us take a look at just what Argyle has to offer, with great thanks to the current administration!

A terminal building that has the capacity to handle five times as many passengers as the old ET Joshua Airport; the check-in and departure terminal areas, with their comfortable seating, spacious surroundings and an open ambiance, which has all the good possibility for any type of expansion if the need arises. At the arrivals terminal, one is greeted with an air of pleasantries, that welcoming feeling you would always expect on arrival, both for the local and visitor alike, from our newly placed Immigration and Customs officers, to whom we say, do keep up the good work!

We can now boast of having our own domestic terminal, which is something the decommissioned ET Joshua Airport could never have accommodated, due to space constraints, and is something of a welcomed feature at Argyle, which naturally, all domestic airline operators are very happy to have. On the landside of the terminal building, the offered parking facilities for all travellers and visitors alike, along with the afforded green spaces make our new airport stand out against many others in the region. Additionally, is the separated cargo facility, which makes for ease of both incoming and outgoing cargo. Also to note, is the greater volumes that all air cargo services are now able to expedite.

The airside being the apron, taxiways and runway, offer a much greater flexibility in the movement and parking of aircraft, which manifested itself over the Christmas season, offering space at times for parking to over 20 visiting aircraft, something unheard of at the old Arnos Vale site. The runway at AIA is 9,000 feet in length, nearly twice as long as the runway at ET Joshua, and boasts a capability of handling the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 series, and even the new Amerijet service aircraft, the Boeing 767 cargo, which visits us every week bringing cargo direct from the USA.

Notably, the AIA has been granted a category #1 status, which all other aerodromes within the region do not pose (with the exception of Jamaica). Even our larger neighbour, the Grantley Adams International Airport Barbados, boasts only a category #2 status, though it has a much higher level of air traffic on a daily basis; note, however, that such a status does not relate to the length of your runway only, but a vast combination of other things, like fire-fighting capabilities, safety and security, ground handling equipment, air navigation and communication aids etc, which are just some of the many items vetted from a checklist during an airport audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

For the first 12 months of operations, AIA has seen an increase in aircraft movements with about 2,000 more flight movements to date than the last 12 months of ET Joshua’s operations; this certainly speaks for itself, and will

only increase as more airlines sign on to make AIA a destination or transit airport.

In conclusion, it must be said that those several persons who spoke negatively about AIA’s operational capabilities, never once took the time to seek information from the experts, or ask any pilot, or air operator their opinion on the proposed airport at Argyle; as they would have been simply told to “shut up,” as they know not of what they speak. At AIA, you have an abundance of options, making it one of the safer airports within the Eastern Caribbean! Planes are taking off and landing in both directions, sometimes only using 50 per cent of the runway’s length; there is little or no apron or taxiway congestion; all aircraft are able to leave with full passenger, baggage and fuel loads etc – Arnos Vale (ET Joshua) certainly was never able to offer this!

As stated at the beginning of the project, the AIA is truly “A Dream Come True”; a vision by our Prime Minister, and a promise to the people of SVG. With the support of his entire cabinet and the greater percentage of the Vincentian population, the AIA is now here to stay, and we say a big “thank you”. Also not forgetting to mention certain persons who played a very pivotal role throughout the design and construction of the AIA, being those many qualified Spanish speaking Vincentian engineers, who graduated and returned to lend their services at IADC/AIA, considering their role in the entire development process, and even now several have been retained in the management of key systems at the AIA. On a final note, we do implore all persons alike to treat this gift with respect and pride, as it is meant not only for us, but for many generations to come!!

A proud Vincentian!

Douglas McGregor

Brisbane

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