After a 14-month closure, the Salt Cay airport was reopened on October 30 in a ceremony to mark the occasion. The Turks and Caicos government officially unveiled the brand-new runway and terminal building giving easy access to the island by visitors and residents.
As part of the reopening ceremony, the inaugural Caicos Express Airways flight was welcomed with a rousing water cannon salute.
Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, senior government officials and acting CEO of the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority, Floyd Ingham, unveiled a plaque displaying the facility’s new name “Leon Wilson Airport.”
Henry Leon Wilson, a Salt Cay native, is a well-known airline industry professional and the youngest person ever elected to parliament in Turks and Caicos Islands.
The extensive airport rehabilitation project brings it up to par with international civil aviation standards that are enforced by the local Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The scope of work included the rehabilitation of the runway and taxiway and expansion of the aircraft parking area. Storm water drainage improvements, airfield electrical improvements, and airfield perimeter fence relocation and installation were also part of the upgrades carried out.
Speaking at the reopening ceremony, Ingham expressed elation that the project had come to fruition in spite of the challenges.
“The operation was quite challenging at times,” Ingham said, “and I had to make frequent visits here which often resulted in me being accosted and rightfully so. It was always regarding the Airports Authority’s responsibility to provide them with a proper airport.”
Ingham explained that a few years ago the airport operating certificate became jeopardised due to the deterioration of the runway, taxiway and apron.
“It became impractical for the CAA to issue an operating licence and this of course placed a hardship on the community of Salt Cay.
“It also squarely placed the responsibility in the laps of the Airports Authority, which we had to deliver on, so a series of external and internal risk assessments, much negotiation and stringent litigation the airport authority and the civil aviation authority were able to balance safety priorities and the Salt Cay community’s transport needs.
“We finally arrived at a position permitting minimal and restrictive flight operations which continued until major works got under way in 2019.”
Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson who brought remarks during the ceremony explained that the airport was in dire need of repairs. She said, “We had times where the Salt Cay runway had to be closed and we know what that meant for the people of Salt Cay.”
“We got the emails and we really appreciated the difficulty especially when we have high seas and knowing as well still that we have a largely elderly population,” the Premier continued.
She stressed that the airport enhancement project, which was of great importance to the Salt Cay community, required major attention.
Cartwright-Robinson said, “The decision has always been for quick fix, let’s patch it…but the time had come for real change for Salt Cay and the decision was taken by the Airports Authority board.”
“I was very pleased as the Minister of Finance to support it and the Cabinet overwhelmingly supported this project not just once but twice when we needed to come back.”
She added, “I want to say thank you to Cabinet colleagues because everyone appreciated that this work was important and we can no longer continue to patch works here on the airport and continue with the inconvenience for the community.”
The premier expressed her gratitude to everyone who contributed to the project’s completion.
HT: Turks & Caicos Weekly News