Night landings are no longer taking place at the J.F. Mitchell airport in Bequia due to safety concerns says Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

Prime Minister Gonsalves says these concerns stem from the precarious nature of the approach into the airport and problems caused by the deterioration of the facility’s electrical system.

“Night landing no longer takes place at J.F. Mitchell Airport due to the safety concerns about the precarious nature of the approach into that airport and problems created by deterioration and subsequent removal of the electrical systems.

He provided more specifics on the concerns pertaining to the electrical system.

“There were constant problems being experienced with the lighting system. The transformers which are an integral part of the aerodrome lighting system would blow out very frequently and time and again we would send teams to dig up the area and place new ones, only to have them blown out a few months later,” Dr. Gonsalves said. 

The Prime Minister said that the Department of Civil Aviation held meetings with the technical staff where they were informed that the root of the recurring problem stems from how the wiring was done when the airport was first built.

“The root of the problem lies in how the wiring was done when the airport was built, it was not done with ducts, D-U-C-T-S, along the sides and across the runway and the construction of pits at intervals as we have at the Argyle International and Canouan Airports; but was done with armoured cables which do not provide adequate protection at the points where the cable connect to the transformers. The exposed transformers were therefore more susceptible to environmental degradation,” he said.

Speaking about the safety concerns pertaining to the approach of the airport Prime Minister Gonsalves highlighted an issue with the Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI).

“There was a Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) in use at this airport; it provides guidance to an aircraft landing while it is on final approach so that the aircraft does not fly too high or too low to make a safe touchdown. In 2012, based on the results from a flight check, the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority ordered that the PAPI be turned off as it was placing as it was placing the aircraft on a dangerous path. It is believed that the glideslope was too high and to set it lower would place the aircraft in danger of collision with the rocks,” the Prime Minister said.  

The Prime Minister said it was then decided that its use in the circumstance would increase risk rather than reduce it.

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