MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Director General of Jamaica's Civil Aviation Authority Lt Col Oscar Derby has said that the long-standing dream by Mandeville residents for an international airport in this south central town is impractical.
Derby said that the much-touted Vernamfield on the plains of neighbouring Clarendon would be far better suited.
Derby, who was speaking recently at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce's annual awards and banquet at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, said that expert assessment has shown that Mandeville was not suitable to house an airport of international status.
"In order to build an international airport or an airport of the status that Mandeville has been asking for, it requires 10 years of wind study alone just to determine how to align your runway or runways into the prevailing wind. One also has to do serious studies of the environment, the source of the water, the source of energy. I am sad to say that when we did the evaluation of this it was not found that it was really feasible to build such an airport in Mandeville that could generate the revenues that could pay back for the airport in reasonable time," Derby said.
He claimed that such a development in Vernamfield would have spin-off benefits for Mandeville.
"While you might not be able to have an airport of international status up here in Mandeville, there is an area not very far from here, Vernamfield, which has been a major airport for some time and was in operation by the US Army back in World War Two. They used to ply patrol aircraft out of there. They used to escort the fleet going to Europe, from this area to as far north as they can go and they would return from there to Vernamfield. Vernamfield is already a proven site," he said.
Derby said that the aim to build an airport in Vernamfield is not just a matter of adding another international airport to the two that already exist. It would be a long-term development in infrastructure to enhance the country's ability to exploit new business opportunities in an increasingly growing industry, he said.
"The projection for growth in the global aviation industry by 2026 is that it will triple. In addition to the 17,000 airliners that operate in the global air transport industry today there's a projection by 2026 to have an additional 75,000 airliners."
The Civil Aviation Authority point man said that Mandeville stands at an advantage to reap the benefits of an airport "just a matter of minutes away" based on factors such as its human resources and geographic location.
"You have schools in this area that prepares some of the best students in IT (Information Technology). I don't want to tell you the significance of the IT component in the aviation industry. Let us not only win those competitions, let us make applications for the IT industry and develop that as a significant sector. With this wonderful climate that you enjoy here in Mandeville I am sure that the influx of professionals to Jamaica for a major development as a Vernamfield cargo hub would find Mandeville and the higher elevations in this area the ideal place to make their homes. That is just one of the many ways you can enjoy the benefits from the airport in Vernamfield," Derby said.