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Large sections of the runway have been removed. (iWN photo)
Large sections of the runway have been removed. (iWN photo)
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The work being done on the runway at brand new Argyle International Airport is to correct “weak areas”, Minister of Transportation and Works, Sen. Julian Francis said on Thursday, one day after iWitness News broke news about the development.  (Scroll for video)

The work is being done even as the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority gave approval two weeks ago for the airport to begin operating on Feb. 14.

Francis, speaking on radio on Thursday, said that “weak areas” were discovered as workers were grooving the runway to prevent hydroplaning.

Aquaplaning or hydroplaning by the tires of a road vehicle, aircraft or other wheeled vehicle occurs when a layer of water builds between the wheels of the vehicle and the road surface, leading to a loss of traction that prevents the vehicle from responding to control inputs, according to Wikipedia.

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The works minister said that not a lot of runways in the region are grooved but it is now becoming part of preparing a runway.

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“In the process of grooving, the guys reported that there were one or two weak areas in what is called the wearing coat, which is about two inches of asphalt from the top…”

He said a specialist was brought in from Trinidad to look at the areas “and he said we have some weak material in certain areas.

“We didn’t have to do it right away but it could have deteriorated and we would have had to do repairs on the runway sooner rather than later. So we decided that we would do it now before we open the runway,” Francis said.

He said the paved area of the runway is just under 204,000 square metres.

“And the area that we are repairing now or replacing is 7,800 square metres. So it is about 3 per cent, close to 4 per cent of the paved area of the runway.”

He said the taxiway, however, was not grooved and is not being repaired.

“They have sprayed on some asphalt, I think, on some areas. But those are not being repaired. So, the colouration doesn’t mean that they are being repaired… “Whether it was taxiway or runway, the total area being replaced is 7,800 square metres of 204,000 square metres of paved runway,” Francis reiterated.

“So that is what is happening,” he said, adding that the repairs should be completed by the weekend.

“The integrity of the runway is not in question. The sub-base and base is solid and it is just the top wearing coat.”

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In perspective: The section of the runway that is being repaired. (iWN photo)

He said work on the repairs was suspended around 7 p.m. Wednesday because of the heavy rains.

“We had about 40 tonnes of hot mix that we had to take back to the plant, which BRAGSA is using today (Thursday) to fill some potholes throughout the country, throughout the Windward Highway in particular and today, with the sunshine, we have beautiful sunshine these days, we are sticking to paving during the day. We are repairing, getting it prepared and paved while the sun is hot…”

He said the lab at the International Airport Development Company (AIDC), the state firm responsible for the construction of the airport, was able to identify the areas where that particular material was used.

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Scores of workers and numerous pieces of equipment were working on the repairs on Wednesday. (iWN photo)

The works minister said that during the course of preparing the runway, there was “some problem with dusting and so on”, adding that after they had reduced the crushing, the dusting volume had reduced as well.

“So we got some alternative dusting and each batch of hot mix that was laid on the runway is logged,” he said, adding that this makes it easy to identify the areas where that material was used.

“And it matched with what the specialist who came in from Trinidad and the guys who are also specialists in preparing runways who brought it to our attention.

“So, to show you the thing is above board, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the runway,” Francis said.

On Wednesday, spokesperson for the IADC, Jennifer Richardson, told iWitness News that she was aware that some work was being done on the runway, but she was not sure what was being done and why.

Richardson said she had been busy conducting tours of the terminal building — which came to an end last Friday — and would have inquired on Thursday about what was being done at the terminal building.

The EC$729 million airport will open on Feb. 14 — six years behind schedule.

8 replies on “‘Weak areas’ in Argyle runway being ‘replaced’ — Francis”

  1. Dr. Dexter Lewis says:

    I would bet anything that they would not have this level of quality issues with the terminal building. That is because the Taiwanese did not trust the ULP with he monies for the terminal. So the Taiwanese built themselves. So little opportunity for the crooks to get their fingers in the till.
    And it was finished on time too. That comparison should teach us all we need to know about the ULP. What a nightmare we have to deal with.

    1. Yes, and we have Julian acting as if it is just routine to have a runway falling apart even before a child can drive a tricycle across it. What other surprises await us?
      And then there are those that would tell you to shut-up, stop complaining and rejoice in our sub-standard, possibly life-threatening fiasco, after all we are SVG, we excel! We excel in failure! Soon we will be number one! The number one worst economy in the Caribbean!

  2. Patrick Ferrari says:

    That explanation sounds like this explanation without the “I put whatever professional life I have on that statement.” (It was when the government borrowed – again – another set of money – again – in 2013, which was guaranteed – again – to finish the airport – again.)

    “Mr Speaker, 208 million [dollars] came a little bit late but it is necessary to finish it,” Francis told Parliament on Friday during debate on a bill to permit the Government to borrow for the airport.

    “And I bring the argument again that I advanced last time and I advanced in 2006 that I am convinced, in my analysis, that the international airport and the project, that on completion of construction, the Arnos Vale crown jewel that we own, the Arnos Vale 62 acres [of land], will be valued more than whatever bridging and interim financing we have for the Argyle international airport,” Francis said.

    (Francis in 2006 said that because of the financing plan, the airport would be built
    “debt free”.)

    “I put whatever professional life I have on that statement, Mr. Speaker. Because I have looked at the figures, I have done the evaluation …” he said of the analysis he presented on Friday.

    He said that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said the EC$204 million that the Government will borrow is US$75 million of the US$80 million needed to complete the airport.

    “Don’t forget that. He said he knows where he will find the next 5 million,” Francis said of the Prime Minister.

    “This money will bring the airport to completion. But it is not going to be completed within this financial year. It will become operational into another budgetary process, because the 2014 Budget is coming in,” Francis further said.

    1. Glad you keep track of these statements. I am sure if you go back there is much more. Why is it that in North America and Europe they can build roads that last up to 15 years without ANY potholes? Roads that go through heavy rains. freezing temperatures, scalding Summer heat and far, far more traffic than SVG. The same firm paved the runway that pave our roads. Is it true that they are relatives of Mr. Francis? The runway needs to be far stronger than our roads, but falls apart without even a bicycle going across it. In any nation on earth heads would roll, not in SVG. I can imagine the perpetrators may even get a bonus and promotions for their masterpiece.
      Another poorly planned, poorly executed ULP project. I wonder what other faults exist that they are keeping hidden from us, as every government does? Let’s hope they do not cause anyone any harm.

    2. Patrick, what is your take on Francis’ comment that his “debt free” statement was misinterpreted because people (like you, I guess) were interpreting this to mean that the “coalition of the wiling” would pay for all of it when he actually meant that the sale of crown lands, including Arnos Vale, would pay for much of it: ( ).

      So, Patrick, to the best of your knowledge, roughly how much — to this very date today — has the airport project actually cost, itemized by category, and how much of this represents: (1) grants, itemized by donor (2) sale of crown lands, itemized by category, and (3) soft and hard loans, also itemized by category?

      If you don’t have this figure, who does, and why aren’t they telling us?

  3. I hope this shows that daily or weekly inspection of the runway is necessary to avoid a catastrophe. This should be part of the maintenance process.
    Was the problem there when the authorities gave the go-ahead to open the airport? This outfit should be thoroughly investigated and vetted.

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