News / Africa

Liberia Pledges to Upgrade International Airport

President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf makes a point during an interview with Reuters in Washington, May 17, 2013. ( file photo)
President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf makes a point during an interview with Reuters in Washington, May 17, 2013. ( file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Anne Look
— Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the country needs to upgrade its international airport to meet international standards.  Liberia's aviation chief has warned that the airport could lose flights due to the poor state of its runway and its inadequately trained staff.

Johnson Sirleaf answered questions on state radio Tuesday about what she said is the deplorable condition of Roberts International Airport in the capital, Monrovia, which has not had any major upgrades since 1970.

"The runway needs some serious work and we recognize that," she admitted. "We are making arrangements to start that work right after the rainy season…. I will do it as long as I am clear that the national interest is protected and that we have complied with our laws and regulations."

Aviation authorities say the runway is in particularly bad shape.  The asphalt has deteriorated, leading to dangerous cracks and potholes.

A U.S. aviation expert told VOA that this type of runway deterioration can affect a plane's ability to stop and lead to chunks of debris flying up into a plane's engine, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

President Sirleaf also said the airport workers are not properly trained.  She said Air France has requested higher training standards after several incidents, including an employee hitting a plane with a vehicle, which the president said caused half a million dollars in damage.

"All of them went there just to get a job.  Nobody put them through any training, and that is a highly technical facility," she said.

Liberian travelers, like businessman Morrison Bryant, say they are disappointed.

"The government needs to do something.  Our airport does not compare to other airports.  It is very terrible.  Something needs to be done.  The runway is bad.  When we collect our bags, it is very hot.  I am not impressed at all," he said.

Other travelers, like Peter Samuels, said check-in and security procedures are time-consuming and disorganized.

"This is an embarrassment. The airport needs serious help.  I think there is a need that a system be put in place.  There is no system at all," he said.

The airport was damaged during more than a decade of civil war that ended in 2003.

An airport employee, who asked not to give his name because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said Liberia has had other priorities since then.

"All is not lost.  This country is just from a war.  We needed to put resources in other areas.  I think the government will do something about the airport.  All hope is not lost," he said.

Major international carriers, like Brussels Airlines and British Airways, operate direct flights between Monrovia and Europe.  Delta Airlines operates a flight to and from New York that connects through Accra.  Several intra-African carriers also use the airport.

Chris Goater, Africa spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 world airlines, says infrastructure is a key challenge for airlines flying on the continent.

"That's everything from obviously the airport and the runway to things like how the fuel is developed and delivered to the source and all kinds of issues like that.  Taking fuel, that's 20 percent more expensive in Africa on average than it is in the rest of the world," he said.

He said taxes and surcharges, as well as the risk of ground damage to aircraft, are also concerns for carriers operating on the continent.

Liberia's President Sirleaf said her government is currently reviewing several proposals from international firms to upgrade the Roberts airport.

The president's office says it has drafted a $326-million, 25-year plan to improve and maintain the facilities.

Prince Collins contributed to this report from Monrovia.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid