Jackson Farrell, the long-standing president of the Brooklyn, New York-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ex-Teachers Association, has joined the vast number of Vincentians in the Diaspora and at home in welcoming the Feb. 14 opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA).
“The airport, whether we like it or not, is coming on stream,” said Farrell, a former La Croix, Marriaqua resident, in addressing, two Sundays ago, the gala, sell-out 34th Anniversary Luncheon of his group, at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn.
“When the Comrade [Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves] passes on, the airport will still be there,” added the recently retired public school teacher in Brooklyn. “So, let us stop the ‘dotishness’ [opposition to the international airport].”
In his remarks in the souvenir journal, Farrell, who taught elementary and secondary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines before migrating to New York, said the opening of the AIA “brings with it “blessings and challenges.”
He said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Teachers Association has been “an integral part” of the Brooklyn-based Friends of Argyle International Airport, the group that has been raising funds to assist construction of the airport.
“We have stated clearly that we recognize certain projects purely through the prism of national interest and not as any political partisan objective,” Farrell said.
Speaking at the ex-teachers’ celebratory event, Consul General Howie Prince said he has been receiving a number of inquiries about the AIA’s official opening and charter flights on the opening day.
He told Caribbean Life on Sunday that more concrete information may be forthcoming during the week.
Earlier, in a message to nationals in the Diaspora, Prince, the former director of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), said he was awaiting word from Glen Beache, the point person on charter flights for the opening day. Beache, a former tourism minister, is also the chief executive officer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority.
Nevertheless, Prince told patrons at the ex-teachers’ anniversary luncheon that he, like an overwhelming number of Vincentians in the Diaspora, “look forward to land in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“One stop! SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines] we coming!” he exclaimed. “One stop! SVG we coming!”
In late December, Gonsalves announced on local radio station, Star FM, an organ of the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP) that the AIA will be opened on Valentine’s Day.
“I called in just to announce formally that Argyle International Airport would be opened on Feb. 14, on Valentine’s Day, the day of love,” he said.
“All of us in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it’s a day which we’ve been looking forward to,” the prime minister added. “So, I thought that I should mention it to you.”
Last year, the International Airport Development Company (IADC) — a private limited liability company wholly owned by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, whose mandate is to spearhead and coordinate all matters relating to the financing and construction of the Argyle International Airport and arranging for the effective management of the airport on its completion – said that work on the AIA was “winding down.”
“Since construction started in August 2008, Vincentians have waited in anticipation of the completion of this project,” said IADC on its website, adding that, after several missed dates, “completion is on the horizon.”
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, the IADC “had previously forecast — and missed — annual completion dates of 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.”
“Government sources had originally stated that the airport project would cost around US$240 million or 700 million East Caribbean dollars and would replace the existing E.T. Joshua Airport,” Wikipedia said.
“Other sources cite a figure of one billion ($1,000,000,000) EC dollars as being nearer to the true cost of the project,” it added. “Some sources indicate that, when complete, the airport will have a passenger capacity nearly four times that of the current working facility, the E.T. Joshua Airport.”
Wikipedia said attempts by the previous government, led by Sir James F. Mitchell, premier and prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for 19 years, (premier 1972-1974, prime minister 1984-2001) to lengthen the E.T. Joshua Airport runway were “unsuccessful.”
It said engineers had advised that the runway could have been extended by 2000 feet into the sea, as requested by American Eagle.
At a projected cost of US $50 million, Wikipedia said this would have allowed regional jets, with service as far as Miami and South America, with up to 120 passengers, “to safely fly in and out of E.T. Joshua Airport.”
“According to Prime Minister Mitchell, his government invited tenders for the final design at Arnos Vale,” Wikipedia said. “He stated, ‘I turned over the contract documents for a successful tender by a Canadian company to my successor [Arnhim Ulric Eustace] to sign, but he decided to wait until the next election and cancelled the visit arranged for Kuwaiti officials.’”
In an historic address on Aug. 8, 2005, Gonsalves said: “Foreign investors often shy away from St. Vincent and the Grenadines when the limitations of air access arise due to the absence of an international airport.”
Caribbean Airlines will make an inaugural flight out of New York City, while Sunwing Airlines will be doing a chartered flight from Toronto, Canada, according to Wikipedia.
It said these two airlines are expected to touch down at AIA one hour apart for the grand opening.