photo: Tim van Dijk

THE BOTTOM – Saba’s inhabitants’ proverbial wings have been clipped for four weeks. This is also the case for tourists, students, and business travelers who wish to visit Saba by air. The Juancho Yrausquin Airport is getting a new runway, and it’s terminal is also being renovated.

On September 10th, WinAir carried out its -for the time being- last flight to Saba. That brought an end to exactly 55 years of perfect operations on the planet’s shortest commercial runway.

Story continues after the video

By Tim van Dijk (English and Dutch subtitles avaible)

The airport sees four scheduled flights daily from Sint Maarten operated by WinAir, and a few chartered flights carried out by Winward Express Airways, and Sint Maarten Airways.

Shortest runway
There are plenty of videos to be found on YouTube about the airport, not only because it has the shortest commercial runway – 400 meters – but also because it’s perched atop a boulder jutting out 20 meters above sea level.

Landing on this runway in a TwinOtter is for many a tourist a special experience. Heading straight for Mount Scenery, the pilot has to expertly make a sharp left at the last moment to land, a bit hardly, on the runway of Saba’s airport. After that the pilot has to slam on the breaks, and turn towards the Terminal, a distinguished small white building with a small control tower.

2.5 million euros
It’s serious business however, because the Netherlands has allocated 2.5 million euros to tackle some of the major issues at the airport. To stay in compliance with international accords, Saba Airport had to take immediate action. A serious backlog of issues had been built up over the years.

According to Airport Manager Maegan Hassel: “Both the arriving and departing passengers were able to walk amongst each other, and there wasn’t a security check to check what passengers could bring aboard.”

Picture: Tim van Dijk

Security not up to par
These are (security) aspects within the aviation industry which in their current state are unacceptable, and as such these will be some of the areas where changes will implemented. “We will however strive to maintain the intimate feeling that the airport has, so waiving to your loved ones will remain possible.”

The airport just happens to be closed during the hurricane season. “We considered all the possibilities and chose the period that would have the least impact on the economy of Saba. Additionally helicopters can always land on the apron next to the terminal”, according to Airport Manager Maegan Hassel.

Medical emergencies flights can however take-off to Sint Maarten’s Medical Center 24/7.