Airports in the Cayman Islands do not have access to radar, but such facilities exist on Grand Cayman.
A radar facility is located at the eastern edge of the Owen Roberts International Airport property, owned and operated by the Central American Corporation for Air Navigation Services (COCESNA), an international organization formed by a consortium of Central American countries: Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Belize.
COCESNA has a lease agreement with the Cayman Islands Airports Authority to use the property for its radar, which provides air traffic controllers and other aviation bodies around the region with data about the airspace above a large northwestern portion of the Caribbean Sea – an area Cayman Islands Airports Authority CEO Albert Anderson said was previously a “blank spot.”
COCESNA pays the Cayman Islands Airports Authority $4,500 per month to use the property, according to the agreement.
The lease agreement gives the CIAA the contractual right to use the radar, but the authority has not exercised that right – even though consultants have recommended that it do so.
“The existing COCESNA secondary radar facility could be used to provide radar signals for [air traffic control] at CIAA and potentially for [Charles Kirkconnell International Airport],” states the 2014 airport redevelopment “master plan” by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the WSP Group. “Under the current lease agreement COCESNA has agreed to the provision to provide CIAA the option for interconnection to the radar feed from this facility. It is recommended that this option be exercised immediately.”
Mr. Anderson told the Compass the radar has not been integrated with the Cayman airports yet because it will require additional equipment and staff retraining.
“We found out that it’s not as straightforward as connecting it and putting a monitor up there. There’s a lot more to it,” he said. “This year, we’re going to really spend some time investigating to understand what it’s going to take.”
CIAA Airport Operations Manager Robert Harris added that due to the $55 million Owen Roberts International Airport redevelopment project, “some other items have been pushed down the line.”
He said the CIAA has money budgeted this year to investigate what it will take to connect to the COCESNA radar, and find out what it will cost. After that, hopefully, Cayman can integrate its airports with the radar some time next year, he said.
Mr. Harris said teaching the air traffic controllers how to use the radar equipment will entail roughly three-and-a-half months of training.
Meanwhile, “it’s still perfectly safe for us to continue to operate under manual system,” he said.