SINCE PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH broke grounds for a recreational park near the James Spriggs Payne Airport last week, reviews have been mixed about the administration’s plan to turn the open space near the airport into a multi-sport facility.
WHEN COMPLETED the facility will include three football fields, two basketball courts, a tennis and volleyball court and four mini-children playground. Adjacent the Park, the President plans to build a sustainable structure for the Peace Women that usually gather for prayers.
WHILE MANY LIBERIANS have embraced the idea of a sports facility, a lot of others are concerned about the location, so closed to only the second paved airport in the country.
THE AIRPORT Located five kilometers from downtown Monrovia, is the primary aviation facility for the capital Monrovia and the entire country, as the the only other paved runway in Liberia and only other international commercial flights into and out of Liberia. The airport is named after James Spriggs Payne, who was president of Liberia in 1868–70 and again in 1876–78.
WHILE THE SPACE has served as a stepping ground for some of the country’s gifted footballers, including the current President Weah, over the years, the safety concerns have always been there.
IN FACT, previous governments have on numerous occasions carried out random clearing of the area, asking residents encroaching on or around the space to move in a bid to maintain the space for what it is actually reserved for, aborting planes taking off and landing.
THE SAFETY CONCERNS ARE valid. In fact, the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO) are clear.
THE CONVENTION insists that airport runway end safety areas be provided at each end of a runway strip. The standards state hat a runway end safety area shall extend from the end of a runway strip to a distance of at least 90 meters. “If an arresting system is installed, the above length may be reduced, based on the design specification of the system, subject to acceptance by the State.”
THE STANDARDS INSISTS that the runway end safety area be as far as practicable and extend from the end of a runway strip to a distance of at least: 240 meters or a reduced length when an arresting system is installed.
THE ICAO FURTHER recommends that the width of a runway end safety area should, wherever practicable, be equal to that of the graded portion of the associated runway strip, which is why the space now being used as a sports park poses serious risks to safety of air travelers.
REGARDING OBJECTS on runway end safety areas, the ICAO regulations says object situated on a runway end safety area which may endanger aeroplanes should be regarded as an obstacle and should, as far as practicable, be removed.
THE ICAO STANDARDS are clear that a runway end safety area should provide a cleared and graded area for aeroplanes which the runway is intended to serve in the event of an aeroplane undershooting or overrunning the runway. “The surface of the ground in the runway end safety area does not need to be prepared to the same quality as the runway strip.”
THE STANDARDS set by the ICAO is also clear that the slopes of a runway end safety area should be such that no part of the runway end safety area penetrates the approach or take-off climb surface.
WHEN CONTACTED MONDAY, Mr. Moses Kollie, head of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority(LCAA) assured the public that the sector responsible for regulating the aviation sector is putting in place all the technicalities to ensure the safety standards of the ICAO are followed.
SAID MR. KOLLIE: “We will not allow a structure to be built over there and the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization will be followed. The Liberia Civil Aviation Authority was consulted by the government and we offer our input prior to the decision. The Invincible Park is in compliance with Liberia’s Civil Aviation regulations and we can assure the public that the design strictly follows the 70-meter safe distance from the runway guideline required by the Airport Authority.
THE WEAH ADMINISTRATION must take into consideration the hard truth that there have been several air crash incidents since 1951 near the Spriggs Airport.
WHILE WE WELCOME the assurances from the LCAA, we urge the government to also seek outside technical consultancy before proceeding with the park.
THIS IS NECESSARY TO ENSURE that the safety of travelers and ordinary Liberians are prioritize over any recreational facility.
MAKE NO MISTAKE, any facility dedicated to the favorite pastime of Liberians is welcoming. The concerns over the location are valid and must be revisited or at least given a closer look. What is not welcoming, is when we fail to ignore the red flags along the way that could lead to some unforeseen tragedy all because we failed to heed the writings on the wall.