Fri 3rd Feb 2017

Argyle Airport - EC$1.4 billion fool’s paradise

According to retired British Royal Air Force Safety Engineer, Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal BSc (Hons) MSc, MBA, Argyle airport is a EC$1.4 billion fool’s paradise.

Policy makers say that the Argyle airport will be opened on 14 February 2017. This will not be a historic occasion. According to the Argyle airport Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the original idea for Argyle airport was to cater for B747-400 jumbo jets. However, it will simply be a transferring of the workload from E.T. Joshua airport to Argyle airport. There will be no boost to the SVG economy.

To date, we do not know the official orientation of the runway and we have not seen the five year continuous wind study. We do not know if the runway has passed any tests to cater for B747-400 jumbo jets.

If the 14 February 2017 is to be an historic occasion, policy makers should land and take-off a fully loaded B747-400 jumbo jet.

We are not aware that Argyle Airport has a 95% usability factor, so Vincentians should prepare themselves to catch a boat to Bequia or Canouan, when gusty winds prevent landings and take-offs from the white elephant known as Argyle airport.

We are very deeply concerned that the width of the runway is only half the required width for an instruments runway, which is needed for landings in bad weather.

We are deeply concerned that, having landings and take-offs at the Southern Stubbs Bay end, will have a fatal impact on the birds at Milligan Cay. These birds are legally protected migratory and resident species under the Wildlife Protection Act CAP 72. Milligan Cay lies in the direct approach corridor of aircrafts.

According to the EIA, the St. Vincent Coastal Zone Management Report (CZMR 2006) indicates that beach erosion rates appear to have accelerated over the last 8 to 10 years. Between 1997 and 2000, the mean erosion rate along the windward coast of St. Vincent is estimated to have been around 1.6 metres per year. How long will the Argyle airport last?

We are concerned that the runway is already exposed to flood water and exposed to very strong and gusty crosswinds. With climate change and rising sea levels, it is only a matter of time when the sea water will submerge the runway, leaving the people of St. Vincent stranded without an airport.

Argyle airport has been a substantial opportunity cost of EC$1.4 billion to the SVG economy. It is a big economic mistake and is choking our economy.

The money could have been put to good use to build factories to produce new agro-products for export, create new jobs, build a science and technology university, build a fish factory for fish processing and canning, set up a fresh water export industry for exporting drinking water in tanker loads, build a secondary school in Canouan or build new hospitals in St. Vincent and Union Island.

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