Presidential Development Initiative Sparks National Debate
Upon breaking grounds for the construction of the proposed “Invincible Sports Park” on February 9, 2021, by the President of the Republic of Liberia, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, many have raised concerns about the feasibility of this project – especially so that it is situated at the end of the runway of the James Spriggs Payne Airport, facing the Tubman Boulevard and the Fish Market Community in Sinkor, Monrovia. A Facebook post by the Presidential Aide, Mr. Sekou Kalasco Damaro, described the project as a “Multi-purpose Sports Ground” that will contain “a Modern Soccer Pitch, Basketball Court, Tennis Court, and playground for kids”. Since its launch, there have been many conflicting views regarding the feasibility of the project in reference to its location, permeating debates across many media platforms.
Trending Arguments Regarding Feasibility of the Sports Park
Following arguments on social media, talk shows, and reactions to the two news articles released by FrontPage Africa, there have been three (3) public perspectives on the project.
- Pro-Government and Development Enthusiasts: These group of people are extremely excited about anything called “development” and don’t seem to care about counter arguments against the project. They view the project as a monumental achievement, an instrument social progress, and an opportunity to enhance the urban landscape of Monrovia.
- Anti-Government Critics: People in this category, largely comprised of STAUNCH political opposition, would argue “anything” the Government does, whether positive or not. For example, if the Government builds a hospital, they would go searching Google images for hospitals built in other countries with the sole aim to discredit the Governments effort. They find every little opportunity to make every intended “public good” look bad.
- Genuinely Concerned Citizens: In this class, you would find, built environment professionals, technicians, quasi professionals, and just concerned citizens whom often with no political intention, genuinely care about development in the right way. They sense that there is something not right about constructing such a public facility at the end of a domestic airport. Their arguments are based on compliance to regulations and are concerned about the public safety.
But there is the Fourth Dimension – ‘The Objective Position’
People in this group are rare in all arguments, but it takes a certain level of expert knowledge and reasoning to belong here. Regardless of your opinion and persuasion, one thing is imminent. To every argument, there is an “objective position”. THE OBJECTIVE POSITION IS TRUE WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT – and this is what this analysis tries to provide. Just so you know, the only institution clothed with the regulatory authority to approve the project vis-à-vis its location is the ‘Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA)’ or the Liberian Domestic Airports Agency (LDAA). In an article released by FrontPage Africa on February 24, 2021, the LCAA made known its position.
“The design strictly follows the 70-meter safe distance from the runway guideline required by the Airport Authority. In addition, there will be no buildings erected on the site. The design also encompasses safety indicator lights that will notify park users when airplanes are arriving or departing.” ~ Mr. Moses Kollie, Director General (DG), Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (Front Page Africa, 2021)
This statement by the DG of the LCAA is grossly FLAWED and a MISREPRESENTATION of the compliance standards required by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aligned with RESA Standards And Recommended Practices (SARPs). The verbal knee-jerk regulatory approval of the project from the LCAA seems not to properly investigate the existing technical project parameters – as such leaving more room for counter-arguments.
The Existing Site Parameters in Reference to ICAO Regulations
In order to understand the project from a technical perspective, the following questions are relevant and addressing them will give an objective insight to the conclusions and recommendations.
- Why did the builder of the airport reserve that portion of land in the first place? In other words, is the vacant plot of land no use to the airport?
- What does the ICAO Standard require and how does the project design comply with the standard?
- What is the dimension between the end of the runway strip and the edge of the Tubman Boulevard? In short, how much space is available?
SO, IS THE VACANT PLOT OF LAND OF NO USE TO THE AIRPORT? The answer is NO! According to the ICAO Annex 14, 3.4, the vacant plots at both ends of the “Runway Strip” is what the Civil Aviation Regulation Framework refers to as the “Runway End Safety Area (RESA)”. As the name indicates, RESAs are reserved as an allowable safety measure to limit the impact of incidental overrun of the runway during both landing and take-off or incidental undershoot (SKYbrary, 2021). RESAs are meant to be constructed clear of all, but frangible objects and should have ‘Engineered Materials Arresting Systems’ or surfaces that will enhance the deceleration of aircraft in the case of accidents (Flightsafety.org, 2016). Figure 1 below shows the Runway Strip and RESA diagrams according to Code No. 3 & 4 PIR – ICAO Annex 14, 3.4. Note that the ‘Runway Strip’ extends 60 meters[see text in a red circle]beyond the end of the physical airstrip pavement or threshold, and there begins the Runway End Safety Area (RESA).
THEREFORE, WHAT DOES THE ICAO STANDARDS SAY AND HOW DOES IT IMPACT THE PROJECT? The ICAO standards for RESA (Runway End Safety Area) space at the end of the Runway Strips come in three legal conventions: “Required, As far as Practicable, and Recommended” compliance standards. According to ICAO Annex 14, 3.4, The “Required Standard” of 90 meters from the End of the ‘Runway Strip’ is mandatory as the minimum acceptable standards for RESA. The “As far as Practicable Standard” goes beyond the ‘Required’ to add as much land space available to the airport between 90 to 240 meters from the Runway Strip, and the “Recommended Standard” of 240 meters from the end of the ‘Runway Strip’ is the most favorable option, but not mandated for RESA (Parsons, 2017).
HOW MUCH LAND SPACE IS AVAILABLE? Using Google Satellite Terrain Map Analysis, as shown in Figure 2, the current available RESA (Runway End Safety Area) land space is 7.90 acres (32,001 square meters or 344,459 square feet). It spans 147 meters from the edge of the Runway Strip to the defined setback of the Tubman Boulevard and also runs 230 meters’ parallel to the Tubman Boulevard. The ICAO ‘Required and Recommended’ standards boundary lines in reference to the site are presented by the dotted-cyan colored reference lines. (See Figure 2 below)
For easy reference as shown in Figures 2 and 3, GPS Coordinates have been provided labeled Points A – D. Point A (Lat. 6°16’57.46″N, Long. 10°45’50.97″W) shows the end of airstrip pavement line, Point B (Lat. 6°16’55.36″N, Long. 10°45’51.48″W) 60 meters from A, aligns the boundaries of the ‘Runway Strip’, Point C (Lat. 6°16’54.19″N, Long. 10°45’54.56″W) defines the RESA limits for meeting ICAO’s Required minimum standards and Point D (Lat. 6°16’49.46″N, Long. 10°45’56.58″W) defines what is recommended, but not mandated by the ICAO.
Based on indicative evidence drawn from the spatial Google Map Analysis of the project site, the approval provided by the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority based on a “70 meter safety distance” through its Director General is MISLEADING – as it is not stated anywhere within the ICAO’s Standards. The existing RESA [Refer to figure 2, land space in yellow boundary] of the James Spriggs Payne Airport (without any development or interferences) does not even meet the “Recommended ICAO standards” – this would mean relocating the Tubman Boulevard about 80 meters into the Fish Market Community to have a clear distance of 240 meters from the end of the ‘Runway Strip’ or 300 meters from the end of the airstrip pavement.
However, the existing RESA of the James Spriggs Payne Airport in Monrovia surpasses the “Required” ICAO 90m Standards from the Runway Strip and can be considered complying within the “As far Practicable” regulations of the ICAO.
In the wisdom and reasoning behind these regulations, the current Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of the James Spriggs Payne Airport is more desired better left untouched and uninterrupted but still needs proper surface grading and ‘Engineered Materials Arresting Systems’ to enhance existing air safety measures.
Nonetheless, the ‘Invincible Sports Park’ can only be properly implemented under the condition that the design is readjusted, redefined or de-scaled to meet the ICAO minimum “Required” Standards – this would mean redeveloping the proposed ‘Site Development Master Plan’ to re-establish new limits of the project. The design team must avoid using the entire RESA space as shown on one of the trending project pictures on social media highlighting the proposed project parameters through a black dotted line covering the entire RESA of the Airport.
Finally, if the project must be implemented, for compliance to the ICAO’s Required or Mandated minimum standards, the only available space for the project will be the plot space shown in GREEN WITH YELLOW DOTTED BOUNDARIES, as shown below in Figure 3. Hopefully, this write up may serve as the basis for decision making on the project.
Parsons, D., 2017. Making Decisions is Hard: How Long Must a RESA Be?, s.l.: The Runway Centerline.
Sieh, R., 2021. Liberia Civil Aviation Authority Assures Public that Pres. Weah’s Invisible Park Construction Conforms to Safety Measures, Monrovia: Front Page Africa.
SKYbrary, 2021. SKYbrary Fight Safety, Runway End Safety Area. [Online]
Available at: https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Runway_End_Safety_Area
About the Author:
“There’s nothing I believe in more strongly than getting people interested in doing the right thing, leading by example, and setting the pace for the sustainable development of infrastructure in Liberia” – B. Garmondyu Zogar
B. Garmondyu Zogar is a built-environment expert and infrastructure development planner who has worked with the World Bank, United Nations, European Union, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Liberian Government, and many multinational institutions in senior technical positions delivering over 250 projects over the past 15 years. He holds a Master of Science (MERIT) in Safety, Health, and Environmental Management from the University of South Wales in the United Kingdom, a Master of Engineering (Honors) degree in Architecture & Urban Design from the Chongqing University in China, and a BSc (Magna-cum Laude) in Building Construction Technology from the Stella Maris Polytechnic University in Liberia. He can be contacted at GarmondyuZ19@outlook.com or via his Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/b-garmondyu-zogar-msc-hons-m-eng-hons-bsc-hons-ipm-lia-78495369/ .