BY ALFRED SASAKO
WESTERN Province’s Munda Airport, destined to become the nation’s second international Airport, may have failed the prescribed operational requirements under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules, it was revealed earlier this week.
Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela this week highlighted the importance of Munda Airport, which he said was critical to the growth of the tourism industry and the nation’s economy as a whole.
But sources told Island Sun the Airport has many issues in terms of compliance with international requirements.
“The aerodrome, built with New Zealand funding, does not even have an emergency plan, nor does it have an Air Traffic Control Tower,” sources told Island Sun earlier this week.
“Among other things the emergency plan must have appropriate level of fire fighting service, the number of hospital emergency standby beds and an effective Air Traffic Control Management regime,” one source said.
“Air Traffic Control Management is the body that would coordinate these different functions to ensure safe operations of aircraft in and out of the Airport. Unfortunately, this body does not even exist today,” the source said.
The source said Munda Airport runway is 1,950metres long – the same in terms of length of Nausori Airport in Suva, Fiji. To comply with international requirements, Munda Airport should have two fire-fighting units.
“The number of fire fighting units to be stationed at Munda Airport is determined by the type of aircraft and the fuselage of such aircraft that would be using the Airport.
“For example, if a Boeing 737-800 is the type of aircraft that would be using the Airfield, there must be two fire fighting units. The nearby hospital too must always have an x-number of standby beds for emergency,” the sources said.
The source said this is part of a safety management system, which is critical to the issue of safety.
The source said the absence of an Air Traffic Control Management body has increased the vulnerability of the Airport.
“It must be addressed immediately before Munda is qualified as a designated international Airport,” the source said.
Asked whether it was government to blame for this, the source said the government was not responsible.
“The problem lies with the fact that non-technical people are put in charge of Ministries responsible for coordinating safety compliance measures required by ICAO. As a result, the government is ill-advised about safety compliance requirements,” the source said.