Sun | Dec 3, 2023

Air traffic control gets US$1m upgrade

Published:Friday | December 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second right) cuts the ribbon along with Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague during the official reopening of the Kingston Air Traffic Control Centre on Wednesday, at the offices of the Jamaica Civil Avitation Authority (JCAA). Looking on are Frederique Miller, vice-president of sales at Thales las France, and Nari Williams-Singh, director general of the JCAA.

The Civil Aviation Authority received a boost on Wednesday with a US$17 million investment in the upgrading of the Kingston Air Traffic Control Centre (KATCC).

In September 2017, lightning damaged equipment at the centre, crippling operations for a few days and resulting in flight cancellations.

The upgraded centre was officially reopened at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority’s (JCAA) Winchester Road, Kingston, headquarters.

JCAA Director General Nari Williams-Singh said that the modernisation of the centre, through technology provided by Thales LAS France SAS, was a crucial achievement.

“The upgrades, which form part of a larger air navigation services modernisation project, are enhancing safety and increasing the operational efficiency of our airspace,” he said.

Williams-Singh explained that Jamaica has made significant and ongoing investment in air-traffic management infrastructure as well as human resources.

Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague explained that redundancy capability was improved when new control towers became operational at the island’s two major airports – Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

The towers are capable of controlling air traffic from either end of the island should one system fail.

Montague said that the upgraded centre at the headquarters would provide another layer of redundancy in that it “can control both airports from Winchester Avenue”.

Additionally, the technology can control landing and take off at airports in almost every country in the Caribbean.

Montague said that the ministry is working to increase the number of flights that overfly the island from the current 10,000 per month.

“We have another 7,000 [flights] that actually land, but we earn more from those that overfly,” he said, noting that the civil aviation’s revenue was approximately $6 billion with a surplus of $1 billion.

In his main address, Prime Minister Andrew Holness commended the JCAA for finding a solution to unpredictable occurrences such as lightning through the mutually beneficial partnership with Thales.

“As we navigate the bewildering complexities, mixed fortunes, and array of opportunities which have characterised the first two decades of the 21st century, the development of air transport is one of the priority issues for the Jamaican Government,” Holness said.

The prime minister added that with the management of consistent air traffic growth, Jamaica must continue to invest in technology and the workforce.

Montague said that there was a demand for Jamaican pilots and aviation professionals, noting that the civil aviation board has made a request for funds from the Ministry of Finance to establish an aviation institute that would see to the training of the gamut of professionals.

Recent investments in air traffic management:


- Construction of two new air traffic towers at Norman Manley and Sangster International Airports – $2 billion JMD


- Instrument landing system at Sangster International Airport – $80 million JMD


- Radar and automation system for the upgraded centre – $2.5 billion JMD


- Navigation aid for both international airports – $215 million JMD


- Aeronautical Information System – $360 million JMD


- Property development at JCAA headquarters – $110 million JMD