The expansion work at the Philip Goldson International Airport is not just the extension of the runway to accommodate larger jet aircraft, but has several components as well that will place it on par with other regional airports. It will not only be able to accommodate the long distance trans-oceanic flights from Europe and Asia, but will result in substantial improvement to its ability to handle the expected increase in the number of persons transiting the facility as well as its ability to provide products and services. And the upgrading also includes an upgrade in safety and emergency services, (personnel, equipment and training).
Although inclement weather has resulted in substantial delays to some components of the overall project, most are on schedule.
AIRSIDE IMPROVEMENTS: the 102,000 sq. ft. apron extension, major airfield drainage improvements, and taxiway repairs have been completed. General apron repairs are substantially completed, whilst the runway extension, the 4,400 ft. airport access road re-alignment, and the construction of the airside service road are undergoing weather related delays.
CRASH, FIRE & RESCUE SERVICES UPGRADE: The refurbishment of the 3 existing fire tenders and major training to an enhanced CFR crew has been completed. A new 3,000-gallon fire tender, a RIV (Rapid Intervention Vehicle), an 800-gallon per-minute mobile pump, 3,000 ft of new water hoses, breathing apparatus (6), and close proximity suits (17) have been purchased and delivered, whilst delivery of an assortment of other fire fighting tools and fire fighting foam should be completed by January 2007. The 1,040 sq. ft. expansion of the airport fire station is well underway and on schedule.
RADAR, APPROACH CONTROL ROOM, AND INSTRUMENT LANDING SYSTEM: The installation and implementation of a secondary radar system and a new Approach Control Room are substantially completed (ahead of schedule) whilst the Instrument Landing System is currently on schedule to be operational by the end of May 2007.
OTHER INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENTS: The 4,000 sq. ft. expansion to the arrival hall at the end of the airport terminal building is on schedule, and is ongoing concurrently with the construction of 800 sq. ft. of new space for the Global Spice Restaurant (second floor), along with the addition of 1,600 sq. ft of new warehouse space. 5 new x-ray machines have been purchased and are being installed, as well as a new standby electricity generator. All restrooms have been refurbished, Car Park B has been expanded by some 79,000 sq. ft., and the administrative office space has also been expanded. Upgrading of the water supply capacity (storage and flow), traffic signage, air-conditioning capacity, and terminal building lighting is completed, and the main terminal building has been re-roofed. A new heavy-duty baggage conveyor has be purchased and installed inside the airport terminal building for use by passengers arriving from local destinations.
Airports all over the world the past few decades particularly seem always to be in a state of constant upgrading as air travel continues to expand exponentially. Belize is no different. The conservative price tag on the improvements, (upgrading/expansion/expansion) to the Philip Goldson International Airport will quantum in excess of BZ$25,000,000 by the time all the components are substantially completed and operational around May 2007, and a couple of years before we may find ourselves doing much the same all over again.
History will record that this is the eighth major upgrade/expansion/improvement to Tillett’s Pond, the place where air operations were moved to (from Newtown Barracks) following the 1931 Hurricane. In 1943 a 5,000 feet asphalt runway, a taxiway and a small apron was constructed by Summers Construction Company, an American company, for some $4 million. In 1944 the same company built the first airport terminal building which was inaugurated on January 15, 1945 by Sir Oliver Stanley, Secretary of State for the colonies. As a result the airport was renamed “Stanley Field International Airport” in his honour.
In 1968 a major upgrade would create offices for the still fledgling Civil Aviation Department (established 1956) and following the 1973 expansion it was re-named the Belize International Airport. Boeing 707-720 jets for the inaugural flight of the new Belize Airways Limited (BAL) were able to land for the first time in Belize on October 1st, 1977, following the runway extension of 1976, and it was re-named yet again, this time the Philip Goldson International (on February 7, 1988) between the expansions/upgradings of 1982 and 1990. The last major work was done in 1998, with a frenetic effort to finish before the August General Elections.