CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Tuesday May 10, 2011
Galapagos airport to be re-built
The government of Ecuador has recently authorized the construction of a US$23 million airport on Baltra island, the main airport serving Galapagos bound travelers.
This airport has been in the planning stages for a few years. It will replace the existing infrastructure, which is currently too small to handle the increasing numbers of travelers. Though CNH Tours recognizes the need to upgrade the existing airport - we will be sorry to see it go. The current airport is a testament to simple building design, making ample use of natural air flow to keep people cool, rugged in appearance - fitting well with its natural surroundings.
The new version has been dubbed an "environmental airport" by the authorities. CNH Tours has been hard pressed to find actual technical details justifying this monker. The best we could find came from an April 15th press release from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Transport and Public Works, which said:
The environmental aspect of the airport relates to its infrastructure and operating procedures - these will be subject to environmental standards. The track will be constructed of concrete, the passenger terminal will have natural lighting and ventilation…. The airport is expected to operate during the hours, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Renewable energy systems will be incorporated into the design. These will include photovoltaic panels, to provide 25% of building energy demand and 12% of the total demand of the airport.
Though a new airport will undoubtedly better serve the travelling public, and we are glad to see that it should be using the same principles as the existing building, CNH Tours finds it a bit far-fetched to call it an "environmental" airport without further justification. We have also learned through ourcontacts at the Galapagos National Park Service that the landing strip will be outfitted with a "mini-fence" to keep out land iguanas, which have made increasing use of the hot pavement as a sunning area - resulting in occasional tragedy for the iguanas!
Construction, when it begins (apparently fairly soon) is expected to last up to 18 months. During this time, it is likely that more use of the other airport in Galapagos, at San Cristobal island, will occur. Ship owners and operators in Galapagos are used to these kinds of things and will no doubt be well prepared to handle any logistical changes necessary.
Baltra was first used as an airport during World War Two, when the US military, under an agreement with the government of Ecuador, established a base there from which to defend approaches to the Panama Canal from possible Japanese attack.