Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
As the Ian Fleming International Airport (IFIA) celebrated its second anniversary last week, the management has expressed delight at the growth experienced over the period. However, they concede that there is much room for improvement.
The airport that is situated in Boscobel, St Mary, can accommodate at least six international aircraft with a maximum wingspan of 55 feet and a maximum length of 65 feet, as well as three small aircraft all at the same time.
Alfred McDonald, senior director of commercial development and planning at the Airports Authority of Jamaica, has stated that traffic performance fell below the levels recorded in the previous year; however, a major initiative that they project will enable a significant up-tick in the use of IFIA by general aviation aircraft is near completion.
The number of aircraft arrivals at the IFIA has decreased in 2012 as the total number of arrivals was 1,515 compared to 1,569 in 2011.
"The work currently being done is to complete and commission a fuel-farm facility to ensure the supply of jet A1 fuel (which is currently available from a fuel bowser) and Avgas (which is not now readily available). The AAJ has continued it marketing efforts to attract additional traffic to the airport and increased promotion will be done on completion of the fuel farm," Mcdonald told The Gleaner.
"The supply of the required types of aviation fuel is a critical factor for the operators of small aircraft that would wish to fly into IFIA. It is anticipated that the fuel farm will be completed and commissioned by the relevant fuel company by mid-February 2013.
He also noted that the facility puts Jamaica in a position to begin to compete with countries such as The Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Cayman for the high-end owners and operators of private aircraft.
"It should be noted that IFIA is located in the centre of a large tourism catchment area with access to high-end tourism properties and, therefore, we expect that the potential for future growth and development for the operations of the airport is significant. Additional consultation will be done with stakeholders such as the hotel and attractions industry," Mcdonald added.
The size of the runway is approximately 4800ft and can accommodate small to mid-size jets such as Gulf Stream 5, Gulf Stream 4, Bombardier Challenger, Falcon 900 and a wide range of Turbo prop aircraft, to name a few.
He also stated that there have been expressions of interest to increase the size of the runway as it would facilitate larger aircraft, thereby facilitating the commencement of commercial operations with larger passenger load than that currently obtained.
"There are no immediate plans to extend the runway. However, if such a thing is to take place, then it would require significant funding and that would have to be a collaborative approach" Mcdonald said.