Published On: Sun, Aug 5th, 2018

Saba to temporarily close airport but will gain 3 ferry services, 1 helipad and 1 new extra airline company

Saba Airport constrution preparation

Saba to temporarily close airport but will gain 3 ferry services, 1 helipad and 1 new extra airline company. How do you like them numbers? Read our special report about the planned Saba airport closure for runway renovations, the new ferry services with special fares, the ferry schedules and the welcomed addition of a new airline charter service to Saba.

In January 2018, GIS Saba reported that a team from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat and Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO) visited Saba to make preparations for the renovation of the airport runway. In a well-attended town hall meeting on Thursday, January 18th, the public was informed about the plans.

Saba townhall meeting about airport runway renovation - 20180118

The overall response from the public to the proposed works was very positive. “People understand that action is needed to make sure we can continue safe air travel to our island,” said Commissioner of Aviation, Bruce Zagers.

Saba Airport ramp

The runway will be repaved with concrete. “Using concrete has significant long-term advantages over asphalt such as the much longer lifespan of 30 years. Also, the materials, knowledge, and equipment for maintenance are available locally.” Concrete runways are not unusual in the region. St Barth’s airport, for example, has had a concrete runway for many years already.

The renovation of the runway is scheduled in the lowest travel season, between September 10th and October 9th. This decision was taken to minimize the economic impact to the island. As this is also the peak of the hurricane season, precautions will be made to minimize the risk of hurricane damage and to ensure accessibility for helicopters at all times.

Strict requirements have been set for the execution of the project, to ensure a successful outcome. For example, all required equipment and materials need to be on the island before the works start. Mixing of concrete will take place at the airport. A test will be done to verify the quality of the materials and the process.

One helipad

This test case will be used to create a helicopter platform next to the airport apron. The helicopter platform is designed to fit the largest Medevac helicopter.

During the four weeks of airport closure, provisions will be made available for additional ferry connections as well as options with the medical helicopters to ensure free movement of persons to and from the island.

Three ferry services

In July 2018 it was reported that the Saba government has arranged additional ferry services to and from St. Maarten during the four weeks that the Juan Yrausquin Airport will be closed in September and October. This additional ferry service will be offered at a special price.

Saba residents and visitors alike will be able to choose between three ferry services, Dawn II, Big B and Edge and pay US$20 for a one-way ticket during the period that the runway is closed. A round-trip ticket will cost US$40. Both prices are excluding the passenger departure fees. The ferries will travel to and from Saba twice daily.

The airport will be closed from Monday, September 10, until Tuesday, October 9, due to the extensive renovation of the runway. On September 10, the airport will close at 7:00pm to allow for the last flight of that day to depart, while on October 9, the airport will re-open at 6:00am to receive the first flight.

The Public Entity Saba sent a message to local businesses to apprise them of the cooperation established with the ferry companies regarding scheduling and pricing. This to ensure accessibility to Saba while the runway renovation takes place.

The departure locations on St. Maarten are: Dawn II at the Dock Maarten Marina in Great Bay, Edge at the dock at the Simpson Bay Police Station, and Big B at the dock at Bobby’s Marina, Philipsburg.

Dawn II
Dawn II

Edge 1

Big B
Big B

Tickets can be purchased for Dawn II via www.sabactransport.com, for Edge via www.seasaba.com or www.stmaarten-activities.com and Big B via www.sabactransport.com or www.greatbayferry.com.

Saba Ferry Schedule

In the mornings, from Monday through Sunday, Dawn II will leave Saba for St. Maarten at 8:30am. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings Edge will leave St. Maarten for Saba at 9:00am. On Thursday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, Big B will depart St. Maarten for Saba at 7:45am.

In the afternoons, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Edge will depart Saba for St. Maarten at 3:30. On Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, this crossing will be carried out by Big B at 4:00. Dawn II will carry out the afternoon service from St. Maarten to Saba route daily, departing at 4:30.

SXM Airways BN Islander aircraft parked at Saba Airport with pilot pax - front view

Preparations started

The complete runway renovation is a major operation. Contractor Windward Roads during the four-week closure will replace the current asphalt layer with concrete. New markings will also be placed. Between August 6 and 22, a test surface will be laid, which will include a helicopter platform behind the current platform.

Saba Airport parking lot 2Car parking options at the airport have been limited due to the construction activities and from August 6, no parking will be allowed. A kiss-and-ride location will remain available. The government is working on creating additional parking spaces across from the current parking, parallel to the second solar park of the Saba Electric Company (SEC).

One new airline company

Presently, the existing commercial airline companies licensed to land at the Saba airport are Windward Islands International Airways (Winair) and Windward Express Airways. These airline companies will not be allowed to fly to Saba during the renovation. As mentioned above, only a helicopter landing pad at the airport would be used in case of medical emergencies.

However, when the Saba airport opens back up in October, they will be joined by the new kid on (the brand new runway) block: SXM Airways. The new airline company was founded in 2011 and received its air operator’s certificate (AOC) in December 2017, a process that took the company’s highly experienced management team 27 months to complete.

The airplane that SXM Airways operates is a 9-seater Britten Norman Islander twin-engine STOL aircraft, which is perfect for landings and take-offs at short runways like Saba’s 1300ft airport runway, which is one of the shortest runways in the Caribbean and the shortest commercial airport runway in the world. SXM Airways obtained this first BN Islander aircraft in October 2017 and had it certified under their AOC two months later. PJ-SXM is the aircraft’s tailnumber.

SXM Airways representing SXMstrong in SabaSXM Airways management consist of Elvis Queeley as CEO and Managing Director; Jeff Oliver as Chief Pilot; Michel Carter as Director of Safety, Corporate Quality and Security; and Gilbert Benjamin as Director of Maintenance supported by subcontracted maintenance from Sunline Technical Maintenance (STM). The company has a total of six employees including three pilots.

According to CEO Elvis Queeley, the process to get certified to fly to Saba was a matter of applying for authorization from the ILT division in The Netherlands in collaboration with the local SMCAA, St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority. The application process took about 3 months and at this point in time SXM Airways has one pilot certified with the Saba check-out. That is Chief Pilot Jeff Oliver.

Until the airport closure in September and after the opening in October, SXM Airways will operate charter flights in and out of Saba with an average of seven passengers plus luggage per flight. The amount of baggage passengers will be able to carry may vary depending on conditions at the Saba Airport, weather and wind being the most important factors to take into consideration.

SXM Airways BN Islander aircraft parked at Saba Airport with pilot pax

To book a charter flight with SXM Airways, customers can submit a reservation request online at www.airsxm.com.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Saba or would like to visit for the first time, the opportunity and the fare has never been better. We’re ready and waiting for your visit. More information about our fairytale island can be found on our website at www.sabatourism.com.‘ – Glenn Holm, Director Saba Tourist Bureau