By Isanella Patoir
Guyana now has one of the longest runways in the region following the commissioning of the new 11,023 feet runway at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on Sunday at Timehri, East Bank Demerara.
The efficiency and capacity of the airport have been greatly boosted as the expansion allows the airport to accommodate large aircraft to land and take off at full capacity. The Boeing 737-800, Boeing 757, and 767 200 are known to land at CJIA, but now Boeing 777, 787, and Airbus 350, 321 can be accommodated as a result of the expansion.
During the official commissioning ceremony on Sunday, it was highlighted that the runway was built in compliance with hundreds of international civil aviation standards.
The runway project, which forms part of the wider US$150 million expansion project being executed by China Harbour Engineering Corporation, also includes an Instrument Landing System (ILS) which is expected to reduce flights diversion by 90 per cent; the cost of the ILS is $518M.
Pilots will be able to use their instruments to land with this system, which includes distance measurement and a Precision Approach Path Indicator. The indicator had to be installed so that the complete system is certified for use by aircraft.
Prior to the installation of the system, aircraft had to resort to circulating the airport or be redirected during bad weather, but now the ILS will help them to land safely.
Annually, 12 of 370 flights have to be diverted or redirected or sometimes circle for as long as they can as a result of poor weather.
The CJIA has undergone numerous transformations over the last decades but this expansion was described as one of the most significant milestones for Guyana.
“A longer runway within context provides a more prepared surface for aircraft in the eventuality of aborted take-off. It also makes the airport more attractive to modern fleets and other airlines, thus making it more marketable,” Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill said as he officially declared the runway open.
Minister Edghill explained that prior to the expansion, large aircraft had to operate with restrictions.
“Embracing aviation as one of the enabling sectors to support our national economic, social and cultural structures simply means we have to build and maintain an aviation system that is regionally and globally comparable,” the minister said.
As it relates to the ILS, Minister Edghill said it must be flight inspected every eighteen months in keeping with international standards.
Meanwhile, Director of Air Navigation Services, Rickford Samaroo said the ILS system was a challenge to design given the geography of the runway which could result in it sinking over the next couple of years.
“We had to think very carefully and very hard how we will design a system that will maintain its integrity even though the soil below it will sink and so with many hours of long negotiations…we were able to convince the installer that we will make this system work,” Samaroo explained.
He said the system was built fully calibrated and flight checked over the past few months. It officially started operation on September 9 and since then over 30 arrivals have utilized the system.
It is expected that with this expansion more airlines will be interested in operating out of Guyana.
Chairman of the Board of Directors at CJIA Sanjeev Datadin further stated that other projects at the airport include a new office building, an airline builder, commercial centre, duty free bond, and repainting of the runway.