Monrovia — The Liberia Civil Aviation Authority, responsible for regulating Liberia's aviation sector says all precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure a safe distance from the James Spriggs Payne Airport and the Invincible Park being undertaken by the George Weah-led government.
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica Monday, Mr. Moses Kollie, Director General of the LCAA said the regulating body was contacted by the government and it offered its technical advice regarding the planned project.
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.
Last week, President George Manneh Weah broke grounds for the park which 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.
On Monday, Mr. Kollie assured the public that the Park is in compliance with Liberia's Civil Aviation regulations. "The design strictly follows the 70-meter safe distance from the runway guideline required by the Airport Authority. In addition, there will be no building erected on the site. The design also encompasses safety indicator lights that will notify park users when airplanes are arriving or departing."
Said Mr. Kollie: "We will not allow any structure to be built over there but the standards will be maintained and we are putting all safety measures in place.
Since President Weah broke grounds for the park last week, sentiments have been divided over the government' decision to build a park so close to the airport, a move critics say is in breach of the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO), the global body which creates regulations for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity and environmental protection. The organization also regulates operating practices and procedures covering the technical field of aviation.
The space has for years s been reserved for airport use. Over the years, previous governments had been randomly clearing the area and asking residents encroaching on or around the space because it is reserved for aborting planes taking off and landing.
During the ceremony last Tuesday, President Weah said as a public park, the facility will be freely accessible and available to anyone and everyone who seeks to use it. "Today has brought me yet another opportunity to share my dreams and aspirations for the happiness and well-being of our citizens, by providing modern recreational facilities that will contribute to their good health, wellbeing, and fitness," the President said.
Speaking to FPA Monday, DG Kollie acknowledged the safety concerns from the public but says no structure will be constructed closed to the airport, only an open area. "We understand the public concern but this facility will not be built to interfere with the flying or landing space of Spriggs. It's just a field that will be developed but not structure. We are aware that that space is a takeoff and clearway space. So, nobody can put structure there."
Mr. Kollie said during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf similar concerns were expressed during the construction of the headquarters of the Emergency Response Unit(ERU). "The design had to be lowered because of these concerns. So, we are aware."
The LCAA DG also noted that for years, the space in question had been used as a sporting ground without any major incidents.
During the previous government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the space was cleared as the government put a stop to all sports activities in the area and cordoned off the area with fence wires to keep people off the area.
Shortly after the Weah administration took over, the fence was taken down and residents resumed using the space for football and other activities.
There have been atleast five air crash incidents closed to the airport since 1951.
Section 3.5.1 of the Annex 14 to the ICAO 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."
Located five kilometers from downtown Monrovia, the James Spriggs Payne Airport is the primary aviation facility for the capital Monrovia and the entire country, as 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.