-Min. Edghill says issues with CHEC have been resolved
MODERNISATION works on the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) are moving nicely apace, according to Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill. He told the Sunday Chronicle that the installation of the $200 million Instrument Landing System (ILS) along the airport’s runway has been completed and tested; it is currently awaiting international certification.
The ILS is a precision-approach aid for pilots; it employs two radio signals that provide flyers with vertical and horizontal guidance during the landing phase of an aircraft. The localiser (LOC) provides ‘azimuth guidance’, while the glideslope (GS) defines the correct vertical descent profile.
To put it simply, the system will enable pilots to execute safer landings and take-offs, even during unfavourable weather conditions.
“The landing system is to modernise our capability where we can have instrument directing landing and not a manual; it has been a significant expenditure in that regard,” Minister Edghill related.
He explained that in cases of unfavourable weather conditions, the ILS guides airplanes down to the runway as low as 200 feet above the runway, at which point the pilot will be better able to make a visual descend to continue his/her landing.
“The ultimate thing is for us to have a state-of-the-art, technologically advanced and modernised landing system that any pilot coming in from any part of the world, must be able to find compatibility with his training and [the] technology they are using, so they can come safely and take-off safely,” Minister Edghill posited.
More importantly, the ILS installation brings the government into compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO’s) Global Air Navigation Plan for Runways and Vertical Guidance.
“We have to move from being third world, and that is what we are doing,” the Public Works Minister added.
The ILS installation, coupled with the CJIA modernisation efforts, also brings the government much closer to realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number nine, which seeks to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation. Other expected outcomes and impact of the new Instrument Landing System include reductions in operation costs and increases to airport capacity and access.
The system was initially scheduled to be installed by February 2020, but due to several delays and a number of modifications that the CJIA expansion has suffered, this deadline could not have been met.
Nonetheless, despite years of delays, works on the overall CJIA expansion are progressing, with the project remaining on-track to meet its latest December 31, 2021 deadline.
“The designs and all the preparatory work for the expansion is already completed, so now it is just to go into full construction, and setting up the super structure, and putting in the corridors and the rest of it,” Edghill informed.
He added, “The only delay we have had was with shipping; we’ve got a global crisis where shipping is concerned, and delays as a result of COVID-19.”
Edghill noted too that the persistent rainfall being experienced throughout the country has also lent to some minor delays.
“When there is excessive rain, you can’t get a lot of work done, but the rain is always factored into our programmes, so we have to make up for those delays by doing [more work] on the days when you have good weather,” the minister indicated.
He said that so far, the contractors have given every commitment to working extra hours as a means of “making up” for the slight delays.
As it relates to the extended runway from 2,270 metres to 3,360 metres, Edghill said that the physical work has already been completed.
“We had the company come in and they did the testing, and we are awaiting the report; and then we should be able to get clearance for opening up,” the minister related.
He said that even though the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government and the contracted firm, China Harbours Engineering Consultants (CHEC) have had clashes over the specifications of the project, those issues have since been resolved.
“There has been a total change of attitude where China Harbours is concerned; they are more cooperative; there is more accountability, and there is a greater level of partnership between the local team and China Harbour, so we are getting lots of things done,” Minister Edghill said.
While the airport project was conceptualised and initiated by the PPP/C administration in 2011, works were halted when the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) assumed office in 2015. The then government also made some drastic modifications to the project, deviating from the contractual agreement between the PPP/C government and the contractor.
Five years later, when the PPP/C returned to power in August 2020, it made every effort to revert the project to its original specification, and after months of being at loggerheads with the contractor, the government managed to strike a compromise to have the expansion restarted as originally intended.
“When there is conflict, you can’t get things done; we’ve resolved most of the conflicts, and with greater co-operation, we are getting things done…the model that we need for development is co-operation, not conflict,” Edghill asserted.
He acknowledged that even though the important airport expansion has been “a long time coming,” the government intends to do all that it can to “get it right.”