An extension of the runway at Owen Roberts International Airport has been approved by the Central Planning Authority.
The project would add an additional 870 feet to the west end of the existing runway and would increase the distance for planes taking off. Perhaps more importantly, construction of an apron north of that end of the runway would enlarge the turn-around area for aircraft and allow for one plane to be waiting while another is taking off or landing.
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The extension is part of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority’s plan to improve the handling of larger planes such as the Boeing B777.
Albert Anderson, the authority’s CEO, said the configuration will make operations more efficient, enabling the reduction of the minimum time between commercial jets taking off from four minutes to two minutes.
“The average time between landing and take-off can be improved by 50% or more,” Anderson said in an email. “We expect 50% improvement, or two minutes, to be the worst-case timing. This is a very significant improvement on a busy day.”
The $30 million upgrade of the airfield will necessitate filling the ponds on the west end of the runway. While the mosquito fish, crested goby and tarpon living in the ponds are not endangered species, the Department of Environment recommended draining or filling in the ponds slowly so that the fish could be contained to a small area, trapped and relocated.
An additional apron area will also be built east of the terminal building to allow for extra space to park aircraft.
Paulette Anglin-Lewis, who works in a business on Huldah Avenue, told the Central Planning Authority she was concerned about increased noise levels and the impact they might have on the health of those living and working in the airport area. She believes excessive noise levels have contributed to some of her health issues and referred to studies correlating repeated exposure to loud sounds with certain vascular problems.
She suggested the Airports Authority do more to mitigate the noise produced by airplanes or provide soundproofing for buildings in the area that don’t have it.
“I want to ensure that whatever the airport is doing that they take into account the people living around the airport,” Anglin-Lewis said.
Anderson said monitoring noise levels was part of the master plan approved four years ago but has not yet been implemented.
He said he did not think the added runway space would significantly increase noise levels.
A blast wall that will run along the airport side of the road, from the area of the Mango Tree Restaurant to halfway between the new roundabout by Printer Way and the one on Crewe Road, will help deflect some of the noise from planes taking off, he said.