Vanuatu daily news digest – airport disasters

Alan Churchill is drawing attention to an article in The Independent today. He writes:

The current edition of The Independent dated July 5 – 11 2014 carries a headline of

“No air disaster plan”.

What an utterly false, misleading, scare-mongering report. Who is your so-called “aviation expert?”

When I was employed by Airports Vanuatu Limited as Manager Safety Compliance I re-vamped , in 2011, out-of-date Airport Emergency Plans (AEP) for Port Vila / Bauerfield, Santo / Pekoa and Tanna / Whitegrass airports.

These plans were approved by the Civil Aviation Authority Vanuatu (CAAV) as part of the manual suite required by Civil Aviation Rules.

Contingencies covered are:

Accident ON the airport

Accident OFF the airport

Full Emergency / Local Standby

Structural Fires

Sabotage including Bomb Threat

Unlawful seizure of aircraft (Hijack)

Suspicious article

Natural disaster (cyclone / earthquake)

Each of the AVL airports is equipped with break-out crash gates around the perimeter to facilitate fire / rescue services to attend off-airport accidents / incidents.

In the case of Capt. Matt Erceg’s recent off-airport experience there are 2 crash gates that could have been used

  • immediately behind the control tower; and
  • adjacent to the Airport Fire Station

– either of which would have facilitated a rapid response to Matt’s aircraft.

It is reasonable to expect the airport emergency services to respond to a near-airport accident / incident as occurred last week.

All copies of the AEP (including those for the control tower and emergency services staff) contain Crash Maps for the relevant airport and surrounding areas despite what the Director CAAV, through the Government PRO, has informed you.

The problem of accidents / incidents occurring well away from the airport (over land or sea) is well-known and is the responsibility of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).

For your information and, in the lack of any known NDMO -response capability at the time of publication of the AEP, I, through the kind assistance of the then-manager of the Waterfront Restaurant, arranged for him to be the first point of contact regarding accident / incidents off-shore. He would then contact all the available boat skippers to proceed to the accident / incident site / area to effect any rescue capability.

AVL have done all they can to cover these eventualities but maybe a higher authority needs to address the issue in a timely, efficient manner.

Regarding the issue of “squatters” around the airport perimeter this is a problem to be addressed by the CAAV and Government.

If your so-called “aviation expert” is so smart and knows it all maybe he (or she) can come up with a better strategy!!

In future I suggest you speak about “alleged airport operations” to those people who are more familiar with them.

Facts before fiction.

Alan Churchill

The Independent has also recently criticized attacks on a new 747 airport at Rentabau (coming to be known as Scamfield Airport) which no sector of the community has yet demanded. Part of this project involves repair of Bauerfield, which project is at its eleventh hour. Prime Minister Natuman in a press conference this week told the ad hoc committee dealing with the new airport it only has days to report on its work in this regard or ICAO will likely shut Bauerfield. One would expect this would put paid to Scamfield, too.


2 Comments on “Vanuatu daily news digest – airport disasters”

  1. Bob Wyllie. says:

    Ref the Bauerfield Airport emergency plan….I agree with what was printed in the Indy and at the same time agree with Alan Churchill’s comments about the plans approved and placed in manuals back in 2011. Therein lies the problem. The AEP may be 3 years old and in appropriate manuals, but have they been kept up to date??? Do the rescue vehicles including the ProMed ambulances, Vila fire trucks, police, VMF or airport fire trucks and AvSec have up to date info??? It was fortunate that there were no injuries in last weekends incident as the town rescue vehicles were unclear as to which area to access – Bladinere, Melektree or Blacksands or where? I have a vested interest in all this as I am a recreational flier in a single engine plane and it would be reassuring to know that an efficient rescue service is available should there be a requirement. In the next few days I will find out exactly what information the various services have access to. Should this info be lacking I will be talking to the appropriate authorities. Bauerfield has very good modern fire trucks and crews along with ProMed and the other services, however, they all need up to date info, so maybe this is a good time to get all concerned together and up date the AEP ( Airport Emergency Plan) as required. Perhaps regular off airfield practices would be good as well. We need a positive out come.


  2. Desmond Ross says:

    Bob, just to get the facts right, ICAO has no authority to close an airport in Vanuatu or anywhere else in the World. Only the sovereign authority of the country in question, in this case the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu (CAAV), can close an airport. ICAO sets Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to be followed by Member States but only the State itself can enforce them via its Civil Aviation Rules and Regulations..
    Des Ross
    Ex-CEO of AVL, 1999 till 2005.