RIA To Be Upgraded Within Four Months —Airport Authority Assures Diplomatic Corps

Amid waves of concerns regarding the chain of technical challenges and involving circumstances facing Liberia’s lone International Airport, the Robert International Airport (RIA), the Airport Authority, with the full backing of the Central Government of Liberia, has assured the International community through its embassies near the Capital city of Monrovia that within four months the Robert International Airport(RIA) will be comprehensively upgraded to meet full international standards.

On Thursday 6 April 2022 the Authority of Airport haled a special session with eminent and potential members of the Diplomatic Community, which included the  Ambassadors of the United States of America, Germany, France, Lebanon, Nigeria, and others, to primarily discuss the attending problems and circumstances besetting and profoundly undermining smooth operations at the RIA— much to the dissatisfaction of both the Liberian public and the International community.

The Airport Authority substantially briefed the Diplomatic Corps on the challenges facing the Airport facilities for which smooth and standardized operations have been painstakingly challenged. The Airport Authority highlighted the issues of constant electricity or power outage which has made news headlines recently and the need to implant a new electric grid to effectively and reliably power the RIA, the antiquated and outmoded state of the Control Tower which must be decommissioned, and immediately replaced with modern equipment that conforms to international aviation standards and best practices, an inadequate and old fleet of fire trucks that have proven inefficient, and the need to improve the runway which is still in a fairly considerable condition.

The Airport Authority, however, assured the Ambassadors that the government has promptly moved in to address the many problems at the Airport and ensure that RIA is substantially upgraded to meet the international standard it ought to be. The RIA Management also promised the Ambassadors that within four months or thereabout an exhaustive and effective upgrading of the Airport facility to meet all international aviation requirements will be fully completed.

In response, the Diplomatic Corps expressed serious dissatisfaction with constant bad news regarding lack of electric power and other technical challenges at the airport, but with the assurance that the government has swiftly moved in to salvage the Airport from further problems, they expressed delight and wish the Airport Management well in its move to fix things and restore RIA to where it out to be as an international Airport. In a unanimous accord, all of the Ambassadors speaking with newsmen after the meeting expressed solidarity with the plight of the Airport and pledged to lobby their respective countries’ technical support toward upgrading RIA to international standards.

Acting Managing Director of RIA, J. Martin Hayes emphasized that the funds shortly expected to be released by the government of Liberia for the upgrading of RIA will be effectively and efficiently used for the intended purpose which is to fix every current and future problem impeding operations at the RIA. He added that at the end of the detailed upgrading project at the Airport, Liberians and the international community will be awakened to a new and improved Roberts International Airport that would compare to any International Airport Port in the subregion in terms of modern equipment and aviation services.

Following the indoor session held within the Conference room of the RIA Administrative Office, the RIA Management took the Ambassadors on an hour of a guided tour of the Airport facilities. Places toured included the Airport runway which is in a fairly considerable shape but requires a bit of upgrading and the installation of new sets of Aprons (the signs that direct the aircraft on the runway), the fire department which needs to be upgraded with modern equipment to include additional and modern fire trucks, the Electric Power House which will be hugely enhanced by a high power Solar Energy system that will be constructed at the RIA to be exclusively used by the Airport (Airport sources hinted), the Control Tower which houses the entire navigational system which requires a complete transformation to new and modern equipment, and the Robert Flight Information Hub which requires upgrading.

However, the point must be made amid fierce criticism fired at the current RIA Management that most of the existing conditions facing the Airports were inherited by the current Management of the RIA. For example, the control tower center that houses the entire navigational system is obsolete and belongs to the medieval age. Liberians across the divide are of the view that during the construction of the new terminal which cost was put at US$50 million, a new navigational system, a new electric power grid specifically to keep the airport reliably lighted, day and night, and new grand handling equipment for the Airport to include fire trucks and other accessories would have been factored in to bring the airport up to international standard. Unfortunately, however, that did not happen this lingering more questions than answers, as the current Management now faces the many problems of old and ineffective equipment which it has to make do with to keep the airport operational.

While government, they say,  is continuity, and without any attempt to play the usual ‘Blame Game’, it is, however, important to indicate this point to dismiss the sprawling criticisms that the current Airport Management is incompetent, derelict, and reckless to manage the Airport and thus the principal reasons for the several challenges facing the Airport. Critical thinkers are bewildered that US$50 million, the former government claim was spent to build a new terminal and there was no consideration for potential and reliable power alternative for the airport, no modern and standardized navigational system put in to replace the outmoded one among others. It is a given that an airport without a modern and effective navigational system and proper and reliable lighting system is not an airport. These are the two most important things at any international airport followed by effective ground services and others.

What should rather be said, in every sense of fairness, is that the current RIA Management under the leadership of Board Chairman Musa Shannon and Acting MD Martin Hills and the team, amid existing challenges, is doing so much to improve operations at the airport and relentlessly ensuring, by the day, that RIA meets international standards and regulations. The Airport, before now, is very tidy in and around the perimeter of the facility. It has one of the best Covid#19 testing centers in the region with effective organizational processes. The Administrative Head office is modern and elegant and represents an office complex befitting and reflective of an international airport.

With about $25 million the central government has reportedly pledged to invest into the upgrading of RIA, Liberians and the International community can only be assured that within the next four months or thereabout, as promised by the Airport Management, RIA is well on its way to where it ought to be as Liberia’s lone and premier international airport, aviation experts have stated.

 By: Clarence A. Cooper

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