By Lindsey Turnbull
The largest public infrastructure project currently on the go, the expansion of Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport’s runway, is currently scheduled to be completed in September, on deadline and on budget, according to the Cayman Islands Airports Authority. This is due in no small part to the restrictions on travel placed upon the islands since March.
Officials at the CIAA said the $30 million project’s schedule had experienced a major shift in priorities due to Covid-19 and the associated major reduction in air service.
“The project capitalised on the increased accessibility of the airfield and re-prioritised the airfield extension, the parallel taxiway and the runway strengthening, which specifically had a delayed start but was brought back on track due to the increased availability of the runway,” they advised.
The airfield works were originally scheduled to be performed during the night periods but have now been able to take place during the day. This resulted in a much more aggressive approach to this portion of the project, officials said, and the runway extension, the taxiway and the runway strengthening were now considered ahead of schedule.
“However, due to the travel restrictions in bringing in specialist labour to perform the works on the Apron Expansion, this portion of the project has been delayed and the scheduled completion remains to be September 2020,” the CIAA advised.
The closure of the airport helped with the speed of the project, opening up the airfield due to the much-reduced air service, thereby allowing the contractor to work during the day without incoming and outgoing flights working around, they said.
Improvements to the runway will shorten the wait time for the movement of aircraft. Currently aircraft movements occupy the main runway for long periods of time to allow for back-taxiing, take-offs and landings. It is also expected that aircraft will experience reduced waiting times for landing while in a holding pattern in the airspace, the CIAA stated. The introduction of the parallel taxiway and the turnaround will reduce these main runway occupancy times and therefore increase safety and efficiency.
The removal of the ponds has significantly reduced wildlife on the airfield which enhances safety as well. The apron expansion will add four additional parking stands for aircraft which will greatly add to efficiencies for passenger throughputs on peak days, and also facilitate more adequate parking space for two larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 777.
The closure of the airport has also allowed for other projects to be undertaken, with no passengers around, allowing the CIAA to conduct general maintenance and painting in the terminal and airside during the daytime, which would normally have to be scheduled out of hours.
The project is scheduled to be complete by early September 2020, with at present around 65 per cent of the project complete.