CARIBAVIA is an event like no other. This time we had the opportunity not only to discuss latest news of Saint-Barthélemy-Rémy-de-Haenen Airport with the Director Fabrice Danet, but to visit it and see the operation and the changes after the pandemic. Here are the most important points of our discussion:
Q. Can you tell us how did the airport lived the pandemic period?
A. I must tell you that despite this unprecedented situation, the airport has always remained open. We live on an island and the island must be supplied. So, the volume of airfreight has increased. The management and the entire airport team have spent this pandemic time to support our customers and partners in all matters related to travel, restrictions, forms, documents etc.
The period between March 2020 and June 2020 we actually took the opportunity to carry out works on the commercial aviation apron and the runway. So, during quiet times, we have done everything possible to improve the airport infrastructure and support our customers and partners.
Q. The recovery breaks all the records of 2019, can you share the statistics of the movements?
A. The management of the airport has noted a strong increase in attendance since the beginning of the year. After the positive first quarter, the second confirms the trend. I would say passengers are compensating for the last years without travel. The trend has greatly exceeded the figures for 2019. The increase is more than 119%. The first 5 months of the year 2022, the airport has already recorded a significant volume of 59.8% of the total traffic of year 2019. This represents nearly 75% of the level recorded in 2021. In April as in May, it is through St Juliana and Sint-Maartin that the greatest number of travelers from St-Barts passed through. Guadeloupe is in second place. San Juan in Porto Ricco completes the podium. Total commercial passengers 2021: 147,292 (+23.7%) including 104,947 International and 42,345 National, 71,557 arrivals (+23.8%) and 75,735 departures (+23.7%).
Results of the main companies:
Winair : 56 404 pax (+49,9%)
St Barth Commuter : 35 906 pax (+44,4%)
Air Antilles Express : 22 723 pax (-17%)
Tradewind Aviation : 20 730 pax (+6,3%)
SXM Airways : 3328 pax (+29,9%)
St Barth Executive : 2794 pax (+25,5%)
Windward Express : 2670 pax (+4,8%)
West Indies Hélicopters : 1694 pax (+109,1%)
Anguilla Air Services : 466 pax (-34,7%)
Trans Anguilla Airways : 268 pax (-37,4%)
Total mouvements 2021 : 33 363 (+23,8%) including 30,126 commercial (+25,1%).
Recorded traffic peak:
20/11/2021 : 222 mvts
27/11/2021 : 217 mvts
28/11/2021 : 251 mvts
18/12/2021 : 204 mvts
19/12/2021 : 182 mvts
26/12/2021 : 222 mvts
27/12/2021 : 193 mvts
02/01/2022 : 283 mvts (record recorded on the platform, 68% of the air traffic recorded at SXM on the same day).
As for the movements, on January 2nd 2022 we recorded a total of 416 movements at Juliana airport of which 222 where commercial, 194 general aviation. In comparison on the same date in 2021 there were 300 movements at Juliana airport of which 180 were commercial and 120 general aviation flights.
03/01/2022 : 225 mvts
04/01/2022 : 195 mvts
Q. The collaboration with SXM airport on the air traffic control plan, can you say more on modernization of technical means at Saint-Barthélemy airport?
The restricted accessibility of the runway infrastructure, which is justified by the topography of the area and the nature of the approach, limits access to certain types of aircraft. This increases the number of rotations and subjects the pilots to several constraints (saturations for certain time slots, technical approach difficulties, closing of the runway after sunset). The airport's traffic thus reaches 35,000 annual movements, peaks at 200 daily movements and more than 40 movements at peak times in high season.
Air traffic management has become particularly delicate in recent years due to:
- the lack of visibility on the traffic due to the configuration of the surrounding relief.
- limited coverage of air/ground radio communication means.
- imperfect coordination with airports.
- anticipating incoming traffic and managing difficult situations.
- the restricted volume of the airspace delegated to Saint-Barthélémy (very short flight times in the presence of a lot of traffic).
In August 2019, the management of Saint-Barthélémy Airport launched a tender for the installation of an integrated air operations management system offering flight plan processing optimization capabilities, voice communications, surveillance and visualization of traffic with coupling to flight plans.
A favorable response was received from Thales LAS France. This group of companies proposed the delivery of complex and modern systems to meet all expectations.
The proposal was based on an integrated system using the latest technology, including:
• an air traffic management system (to organize flight schedules and forecast air traffic)
• an ADS-B surveillance system to operate alongside radar information
• an efficient voice communication system (air to ground and ground to ground)
• refurbishment of the lookout tower
This updating of functional systems was communicated to the French Civil Aviation Authority, in accordance with technical regulations; and it was divided into 3 phases: impact and safety studies, interoperability, and training for staff to become qualified users. It became operating on 26th October 2021.
Airport team assigned to this project faced a major challenge - to ensure that all the modifications and the installation of these new systems would not in any way affect the normal functioning of the airport or interfere with the flow of air traffic.
Q. The airport operates at near maximum capacity. Your plans for the near future 1-2 years?
A. It is important to note that the current infrastructure environment will not allow a significant improvement of capacity of the runway system. The runway, in its current configuration, has a flow always above 15 mvts/h. It reaches 40 mvts/h in the evening rush hour. To maintain the horizon of 35,000 annual movements while properly handling traffic, the design of the air arrivals/departures system should probably be redesigned and improved. This would require prior discussions and agreement with the various authorities in charge of air traffic because the procedures requires an impact on airspace very close to each other.
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