Amid continued appeal from Grand Bahama residents for the government to hasten repairs to the island’s lone operable airport, newly appointed Chairman of the Freeport Airport Development (FAD) Company, Terah Rahming, said work is being carried out to improve conditions at the facility.
Rahming was responding to questions from Grand Bahama News regarding the state of Grand Bahama International Airport’s (GBIA) tarmac and runway, after frequent travelers raised concerns about their “bumpy, pothole” ride while taxiing into and out of Grand Bahama.
“A contract to resurface a portion of the runway was signed prior to this new board’s appointment,” she said.
Rahming added, “I know that the project has been approved, so within the next few days, it should be completed.”
She estimated a 10-day time frame, however, with Hurricane Fiona impacting weather conditions last week, the completed resurfacing project could be extended.
While she was unable to detail what portion of the 11,000-foot runway will be resurfaced, Rahming assured that work has begun.
Meanwhile, Rahming said that FAD members have met twice since being appointed in August, and have begun carrying out their mandate, which is the restoration of the domestic terminal, set by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper.
She noted that the installation of modular offices for airport employees, including customs and immigration officers, should be completed this week.
“Those, of course, are only temporary fixes that will make the travel experiences a little more pleasant, and positively impact the revenue flow also as the government concludes its PPP (private-public partnership) for the redevelopment of the airport,” Rahming said.
Despite continued cries from residents for urgent restorations to be made at the airport, she said the new board is on the job.
Speaking with the media prior to a Cabinet meeting last week, Cooper said there are two potential “credible and funded” bidders for the development of GBIA.
“They are looking at the possibility of entering into a PPP to design, build, finance and manage Grand Bahama International Airport,” he said.
“This is going to be a world-class airport. This process takes time to be done properly and we want to ensure that we select the bidder who has the vision, resources, who understands resiliency and can execute quickly.
“So, we expect over the course of the next few weeks that the board will make the final selection, then we will be able to make an announcement to the public.”
In the meantime, Cooper added, preliminary repairs and cleanup will continue at GBIA.
In 2019, Hurricane Dorian’s storm surge of up to 17 feet not only left Freeport’s domestic and international terminals in a state of disrepair, but also left the tarmac pitted with gaping potholes and severely cracked asphalt.
Last week, environmental activist Joseph Darville said that taxiing in a plane onto the airport tarmac is like riding in an old truck over a bumpy, dirt track.
“Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper, minister of tourism, please do whatever is in your power to restore some of the dignity to this part of the Commonwealth, by making arrivals and departures from this island once again an experience to cherish,” he implored.
“Fortunately, the runway is acceptable, but for we Bahamians and international travelers, coming and leaving the ‘so-called’ Grand Bahama International Airport is just short of maximum disgrace.”
Darville added, “It does not take a seer to divine the reason for this ongoing state of miasma. Not just Bahamians miss our pre-clearance facility, but our visitors miss it even more.”
In February, the United States government initiated the process to cease pre-clearance operations at GBIA, citing the slow state of the airport’s reconstruction.
Darville believes the airport’s present state is the primary reason for the stagnant redevelopment of the island.
Pelican Bay Hotel General Manager Magnus Alnebeck said the airport’s runway and tarmac are in a horrible state.
“It needs to be fixed before it becomes a real serious safety problem,” he added.
“I feel sorry for the government having taken over an asset that has been neglected for many years by previous owners. Makes you wonder where the insurance proceeds have gone for the three to four times the runway has been under water.”
Last month, private pilot Ricky Munnings complained about the condition of the tarmac and runway.
“There are still potholes on the runway and taxiway,” Munnings said.
He believes that if the island is going to rebound, conditions at the major port of entry need to be addressed with a greater sense of urgency.