All things being equal, the Sunyani Airport will be reopened for aircrafts come May 2021, after its closure to freights since 2015 for renovations, Kweku Ofori Asiamah, Transport Minister, has announced.
The Minister made the disclosure after he led a delegation to inspect the progress of the renovation works at the airport, indicating that “the consultant and contractor have all affirmed that the airport will be ready for use, latest by May this. I’m told the progress of work is about 95 percent complete now.”
As a precautionary measure, the Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL) and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority resolved to shut down the Sunyani Airport due the bad state of infrastructure at the airport, including cracks and portholes on the runway as well as its narrowness.
Subsequently the Airport was awarded on a contract for renovation and expansion of some facilities there. The runway which was expected to be expanded from 1,280 metres to 1,520 metres, with a width of 45 meters is near completion. Construction of a 90 by 60 metre apron is also almost ready. Renovation works including the terminal building, a fire station post and other civil works like drainages are all done.
In an interview with the B&FT, the Managing Director of GACL, Yaw Kwakwa said the only major works left are the construction of the final layer on the runway and apron as well as preparation of the runway strip. He added the there are plans to further expand the runway to 1,900 metre in second phase of the project.
Interacting with journalists after inspection tour, the Transport Minister said it had become imperative to inspect such projects to acquaint himself with the progress made and make necessary modifications if any. The visit followed his reappointment and confirmation by Parliament. More importantly, the return of the then Aviation Ministry to its mother Ministry, Transport, makes it useful for the sector Minister to be abreast with developments in the aviation industry.
Mr. Asiamah observed that “I’m happy to note that the contractor is on course and on time. Initially I was afraid that because of the impact of COVID-19 we were going to have the issue of project overrun cost but the contractor has assured me that it can be completed within the stipulated contract period.”
Private developers have encroached on the Sunyani Airport land, particularly at both ends of the runway. The situation poses threat to air safety and future expansion of the runway to meet international standard. An international airport requires at least 2,000 to 2,500 meter runway. But residential developments within the parameters of the acquired land would make realization of this vision extremely difficult.
The situation, the Minister stressed was unacceptable and would be dealt without fear or favour. “I have instructed the GACL to go ahead to pull down buildings within the radius of the legally acquired Sunyani Airport land. It’s wrong to build on government lands and therefore we’ll not pay any compensation to anybody. We are not going to countenance this behaviour.”
He added that though some buildings are situated on the shoulders of the Airport land, their silver-coated and reflective roofing sheets could interfere with takeoffs and landing of aircrafts, saying “we will notify the owners to change all those roofing sheets.”
The Sunyani Airport was originally constructed in July 1942 as an Airstrip for the British Allied Forces in the colonial days. It was later upgraded into an Airport in 1969 and subsequently inaugurated in 1974. The Airport has since not seen a major renovation until its shut down in 2015.