Update: 11am, 11 Feb: Flights into Owen Roberts International Airport appear to be landing and taking off on schedule this morning, following yesterday’s temporary closure of the runway.
A Cayman Islands Airports Authority’s spokesperson said the authority would issue a statement later today.
Update, 7:35pm, 10 Feb: The runway at Owen Roberts International Airport was reopened on Monday evening, with a “redeclared distance”, allowing for limited flight operations, according to a statement from the Cayman Islands Airports Authority.
The run was temporarily closed earlier in the day as a result of damage to new pavement that was put in place overnight as part of the runway rehabilitation project.
The CIAA stated that it expected full flight operations to resume Tuesday.
Earlier story: Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport was closed Monday afternoon amid reports of damage to the runway and is not expected to reopen until Tuesday.
A Cayman Islands Airports Authority spokesperson confirmed that the runway was closed down because of damage that occurred during scheduled work the previous night.
“The runway has been temporarily closed as a result of damage to new pavement that was placed last night as part of the runway rehabilitation project,” said a statement from the authority at 5:30pm Monday.
“The CIAA is working to rectify the situation to resume limited flight operations as soon as possible. Full flight operations are expected to resume Tuesday, 11 February.”
Work has been taking place overnight, between 10pm and 7am, as part of what the CIAA refers to as the “runway rehabilitation programme”. No aircraft movements are allowed during that time, aside from emergency medical evacuations and police helicopter sorties.
Engineering staff were assessing the damage from the work Monday.
Cayman Airways issued a statement Monday afternoon that the runway was not expected to reopen until 6:45pm Monday, at the earliest.
Several planes were delayed or diverted. A Cayman Airways flight from La Ceiba in Honduras was diverted to Cayman Brac, while an incoming flight from Tampa was diverted to Miami.
Meanwhile outgoing flights, that were due to take off as the runway was closed, were held on the tarmac Monday evening.
Iryna Gross, a passenger on board an American Airlines flight to Miami which was delayed, told the Cayman Compass that the pilot had announced that there was “a hole in the runway” and the aircraft could not take off until it got clearance from the airport.
The flight had been scheduled to leave at 3:28pm. It eventually took off at 6:34pm.
Another passenger, who messaged the Cayman Compass from the Miami-bound AA flight, Ruth Kellow, said passengers had been told the airline was “going to work out the load and decide whether they can take off on a shortened runway”.
A representative of Island Air, which handles private aircraft, confirmed to the Compass that no flights could land because of what was described as “paving on the runway”.
Speaking to the Compass around 4:40pm, he said the runway had been closed for around an hour at that point.
He said one private plane had been held back in Grand Cayman and other customers scheduled to use the facility later Monday had been informed of the situation.
The British Airways flight from London was held in Nassau, Bahamas.
In a statement around 5:30pm, Cayman Airways said its evening flights to Miami were “delayed until further notice”.
A Cayman Airways Express flight from Little Cayman was diverted to Cayman Brac, and the Grand Cayman to Little Cayman flight was cancelled.
Work to strengthen the runway began earlier this month and is scheduled to continue through June.
In a notification to airlines about the planned works, the CIAA explained, “The existing runway asphalt pavement is starting to show signs of distress and reaching the end of its design life. Larger, heavier aircraft, such as the Boeing 777, are also using the runway more frequently, which requires the asphalt pavement to be strengthened for these larger loads.”
The notification indicated that the work would include the runway being milled to a depth of 25mm and 180mm of hot mix asphalt added.