May 27, 2023

The Editor speaks: Not going up – extending out

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Colin Wilson

Hot on the heels of the premise of going up into the skies with sky scrapers, because we are running out of land, plans are now at foot to extend outwards. Well, the airport runway.

The Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) have asked contractors to bid on extending the runway of the Owen Roberts International Airport. The extension will be for an additional 900 feet that will make the runway just under 8,000 feet in total length.

The extension is west, not east, so it will go towards Crewe Road and will mean the ponds at the west end of the airport will have to be filled in and the equipment there will have to be moved.

What will happen to the cricket ground? No word on that. If it is still going to be used for cricket perhaps you will get twelve runs added to your score if you hit one of the planes trying to land?

Although the additional length would mean direct flights to London could be achieved and provide opportunities for other long haul flights, British Airways have intimated that 9,200 feet is the desirable length.

That would mean extending into the North Sound.

Oh dear.

Environmental concerns immediately springs to mind at that one so I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

According to the CIAA, a pre-bid meeting and site inspection will take place on March 18. and a contractor, hopefully, chosen by June.

The paved area of the runway will also have to be strengthened to allow for the heavier aircraft and loads, plus the east apron would have to be expanded and drainage improvements.

I nearly forgot about the ‘jet blast deflector wall’. Without that our cars going by cold also take an unplanned flight.

The estimated cost of all this, a cool $21M less or plus $500. The official estimate is $500 less. Any bets it is the other way?

Going back to the sky scraper idea, one reason being touted by a developer in favour of it, is the land is becoming scarce and the costs landowners are asking is too much and doesn’t make building cost effective. In that case someone wanting to sell their land would have no buyers, therefore they would have to come down in price. Sorry, sir, that argument makes no sense at all.

Has anyone ever thought of vertical runways for aeroplanes? Something like the way rockets take off? Now that would solve the land problems and that might help get the skyscraper proposals through. Everyone of them could have a vertical runway on one of the sides…….

Am I the only one to think of that?

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  1. John Evans says

    This proposal was in the planning stage when I was working at Net News in 2007. The plan was to cut right through Crewe Road and move the airport boundary almost to Huldah Avenue. At one stage a senior civil servant even told me that land had been allocated for a new cricket ground. In the end nothing came of it.

    12 years along you seem to have gone full circle but in that period there have been a lot of changes in this region that might raise questions about the viability of a longer runway. The logic seems to be that a longer runway will attract flights from the UK and Europe but there are problems with that. The first is the Cayman Islands has not invested in the kind of all-inclusive (AI) accommodation that is key to tourism in the UK and Europe. According to a source in the UK travel industry DOT have never accepted that’s where the business is from this side of the Atlantic.

    I’ve had AI vacations from the UK to places like Cuba and Egypt. You pay between £800 and £1500 for everything up front (flights, transfers, full board and drinks) then head off for a week or two weeks in the sun knowing your expenses during the trip will be minimal. The way it works is the tour company fills the aircraft with 250+ passengers who stay in several resorts or hotels. You can’t do that on Grand Cayman simply because the accommodation they need isn’t there and in any case local room rates don’t remotely match the tour operators pricing structures.

    Even scheduled airline services don’t make sense. So what if BA can fly their 777-200s direct into ORIA (I remember when the DC-10s made a direct flight over from Gatwick) they’ve still got to stage through Nassau to make the passenger loads viable so only a fraction of the load will get off at ORIA. As a former pilot I’m not going argue that a longer runway isn’t a good idea (BA pilots call it a ‘carrier landing’) but to expect it to magically generate long-haul business is not exactly realistic.


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