Friday, January 20, 2012

Cayman Islands: Owen Roberts International Airport runway extension going inland. Cayman Airways routes to Dallas, Panama.

The long awaited extension of the Owen Roberts International Airport is planned to commence this year.

Speaking at the Fidelity Cayman Business Outlook conference at the Westin Casuarina Resort on Thursday, Premier McKeeva Bush said the plan would be to extend the runway inland instead of into the North Sound. Previous plans had called for an extension both ways, but he said the cost of extending the runway inland would be “$8 to $11 or $12 million, maybe a little more” while extending it into the North Sound would cost $35 million.

“What say ye?” he asked the estimated 350 people in attendance, adding the decision to go the least expensive route made sense.

Mr. Bush said extending the runway inland would necessitate “moving the road”, apparently in reference to the portion of Crewe Road in between the Dorcy Drive/Shedden Road roundabout and the Smith Road junction.

“Thank God there’s no ocean to see there,” he said, taking a jab at those who have protested the proposed closure of 2,500 feet of West Bay Road because it will take away their view of the ocean. “I suspect there will be a petition.”

The extension of the runway at Owen Roberts Airport has long been cited as a need in order to facilitate larger, long-haul jets, which are seen as necessary to attract more tourism from Europe and the US west coast. Cayman Enterprise City, the special economic zone that is expected to break ground in the first quarter of this year, has also cited the runway extension as important to the scope of its success.

Mr. Bush said he hoped all the “due diligence” required on the project before it could start would be completed by August of this year.

New Cayman Airways routes

Mr. Bush said government-owned Cayman Airways, which has long been a drain on the public purse, was doing much better, something evidenced by the fact that it was hardly discussed in the political area anymore.

“It’s no longer the political football it was,” he said.

He announced two new seasonal routes are planned to commence this year.

“Cayman Airways will start a Panama route in April, something like two times weekly,” he said, adding the scheduling would run through August. “It will be seasonal for now.”

He also said regular service to Dallas would start, possibly as soon as May.

“That, too, will be seasonal,” Mr. Bush said. 

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