Stakeholders and Airport staff at the presentation of the Airspace and Aerodrome Capacity Study.
SIMPSON BAY--The runway capacity at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) is reaching its limitations during the busier winter season and adding more capacity means that the scheduling of new flights must be spread around peak hours of 11:00am- 3:00pm, where “ample” capacity is available.
This is part of the results of the findings of an airspace and aerodrome capacity study on aircraft movement in the Terminal Control Area (TMA) and aerodrome at PJIA conducted by the Netherlands Aerospace Center NLR.
NLR representative Jan-Hein Dronkelaar presented the findings of the study during a stakeholder information session held at Simpson Bay Resort’s Conference Room on Thursday, August 1.
The presentation gave insight into the current state of the island’s airlift capacity and how best to safely maximize airlift, whilst improving capacity due to traffic surges. The Airport was able to identify its capacity for PJIA and the airspace that the ATC unit controls. “The findings also considered the complexity of the current operations, as it analysed the controller workload,” it was stated in a press release.
NLR worked jointly with the Air Traffic Services (ATS) to evaluate the possibility of airspace layout design changes. In addition to airspace redesign, infrastructure improvements will have to be made in the future which should take operational requirements into consideration, as development progresses in a logical and results oriented approach, the release said.
"Statistical information that is used to decipher the airport's capacity is integral to its redevelopment as the number one gateway in the region. Understanding how to maximize the use of our airspace plays a crucial role in how fast we in St. Maarten can increase our airlift. The Airspace and Aerodrome Capacity Study is a valuable tool that would shape our future decisions,” Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Stuart Johnson said.
“The presentation on the study further highlights the need for collective solutions, which meets the current and future demand. All stakeholders should be included to harmonize the airport's future infrastructure and operational advancements. NRL was selected to conduct this study due to their vast experience in this field of expertise,” added Manager of Air Traffic Services Gregory Hassell.
“It is imperative that everyone in the tourism industry is aware of the capabilities of our ports of entry, with SXM Airport being a key driver. Driving our tourism product is one thing but making sure that our visitors arrive and depart from our airport and airspace safely, should be everyone’s concern. Tourism demands are getting back to pre-Irma levels and we need to be vigilant in our approach when planning to increase airlift to the island. Therefore, it was important for the tourist offices from both sides of the island to attend the info-session in the company of the airline representatives/handlers, so they can realize what challenges our airport and Air Traffic Control units are faced with and be part of the discussions going forward,” Manager of ATS’ Training and Development Duncan van Heyningen noted.
In addition to Johnson, also present at the session were representative of the Dutch and French tourist offices; management of the Edeis Aeroport Saint-Martin Grand Case; St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA); the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies; St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority; airline representatives; hoteliers; Menzies (ground handling company) and airlines and handlers at PJIAE.
NLR has been in existence for 100 years and aims to make the world of transport safer, more sustainable, more efficient and more effective. The study was concluded in 2017, and the first presentations were completed prior to Hurricane Irma, but the efforts were halted due to the damages sustained.