Grand Case Airport: allow landings after sunset

The new manager of the Grand Case Airport unveiled his priority in the short term for the platform.

Daniel Lefebvre arrived in Saint-Martin ten days ago to take over the management of the Espérance airport in Grand Case, or in other words the Sesma, the company which manages and operates the platform on behalf of the Collectivité according to a public service delegation agreement signed in 2011.

He is succeeding Mongi Juba, the first managing director of the Sesma, who wished to go to Montreal to continue his professional career in another airport activity branch within SNC Lavalin.

Daniel Lefebvre came from Mayotte where he spent six years at the head of the airport which has also been managed since 2011 by a subsidiary of SNC Lavalin Airports. His challenge there was also to increase passenger traffic but in different conditions. Particularly, there were major carriers from the mainland. "The issues and the problems were the same as here in Saint-Martin," he said.

In Grand Case, one of his priorities will be to allow aircraft to land just after sunset, which is not allowed today. Planes can take off at night but not land. "We have met all the conditions imposed by the regulations. We have put buoys in the Grand Case bay, made improvements to the lighting, etc.," explained Alain Russel, the President of the Sesma while indicating that the aim is not to develop night activity for aircraft. The Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) must soon issue a decision on this file.

For the new manager, it is critical that the DGCA validates this procedure. "Today, the last flight is at 6:15 pm and if the plane is delayed, it is diverted to Juliana which requires airlines to transfer passengers by bus. This generates extra costs for the companies which is unacceptable", explained Daniel Lefebvre. For example, three aircraft have been diverted for this reason in the last ten days.

If this procedure for landing after sunset is validated, the Sesma could begin to work with the companies. "We could schedule the last flight at around 8pm and the plane would spend the night in Saint-Martin and depart early in the morning in order to arrive therefore earlier in Guadeloupe, which is what many people want," said the managing director.

Furthermore, this procedure would allow the Sesma to use fifty extra meters on the runway. "Currently, pilots have to make maneuvers to position the plane at take-off and this prevents the companies from boarding three or four passengers per flight, as well as baggage sometimes. The suitcases remain here and are routed by the next flight which is highly inconvenient for travellers. In all, this means a lack of 20 passengers on average per day," explained Daniel Lefebvre.

Moreover, the managing director is following the file concerning the extension of the runway very closely. "During the inauguration of the terminal, the President of the Collectivité explained that the negotiations were underway and that the DGCA’s study had been launched", he said. "This extension is essential for economic development and business travel," he added.

Just for the record, the Sesma is currently a subsidiary of SNC Lavalin Airports, one of the two branches of SNC Lavalin in France. Last August, the Canadian group had expressed its intention to sell its businesses in France and was in negotiations with buyers. The deal should be concluded by the end of the year. This will not change anything for the Sesma.

Estelle Gasnet