September 18, 2015 // Facility Spotlight: Aguadilla Tower (BQN)
Aguadilla Airport (BQN) is part of the Federal Contract Tower Program (FCT). While some contract towers primarily work small general aviation aircraft, this isn’t the case for BQN, which has the longest runway in the Caribbean, measuring in at 11,700 feet.
BQN serves as a diver field for Global Hawk operations in the Northern hemisphere. During natural disasters in the Caribbean and Latin America, BQN serves as a staging airport for natural disaster relief and is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) “Federal Support Plan for Incident Support.”
Weather constantly affects operations at BQN. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and tropical storms create a dynamic and fast-paced working environment.
“We are a weather divert airport for San Juan international,” explains BQN NATCA FacRep Ramon J. De Jesus. “During the Haiti earthquake in 2010, U2 aircraft were staged at Aguadilla as part of the search and rescue effort. During this emergency crisis, Aguadilla made history when, for the first time, Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aircraft were successfully operated from a civilian airport as part of Haiti’s search and rescue effort.”
He continues, “Special procedures were developed with San Juan’s comprehensive electronic data analysis (CEDAR) and the U.S. Air Force for UAV operations, including the arrival and departure corridors and a temporary flight restriction (TFR). Predator flights were conducted for approximately 30 days with no degradation of ATC services and without incident.”
The U.S. Air Force also utilizes Aguadilla as part of their air refueling staging plan during high-level U.S. government travel abroad.
There are two U.S. government agencies based out of Aguadilla: Customs and Border Protection (Homeland Security) aircraft and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Currently, eight air carrier operators conduct business on a daily basis from BQN. Three of the eight are European operators. They are Atlas Air, FedEx, Jet Blue, Spirit, United Airlines Cargo Lux, Lufthansa, and Martin Air. More than 200,000 passengers traveled to and from Aguadilla in 2014.
A new Lufthansa Technics Hangar was commissioned in July of this year, establishing the first MOR on the Island, generating over 400 new jobs.
“Our air carrier traffic has increased since the commissioning of this MOR and is expected to continue increasing as more hanger space becomes available,” explains Jesus. “The Boeing 787 was tested at BQN as part of their development program.”