Test flight pilot: Longtail Aviation boss Marty Amick carried out the  safety checks on the new runway layout at LF Wade. *Photo by Nicola Muirhea
Test flight pilot: Longtail Aviation boss Marty Amick carried out the safety checks on the new runway layout at LF Wade. *Photo by Nicola Muirhea

The airport’s new runway layout and improved lighting is already helping commercial pilots to land in severe weather.

In just the past few days two US flights were able to touch down in low visibility conditions of mist and torrential rain that would have prevented the aircraft from landing before the improvements were made.

But not only is the new runway proving a success, the project to implement the changes helped generate new opportunities for Bermudian firms as well as save money.

Traditionally, new runway or radar improvements require airport bosses to pay for a specialized test aircraft to be flown in from Oklahoma in the US to carry out safety checks,

But a pioneering partnership between LF Wade, Longtail Aviation and other firms involved in the $4.9m project, allowed Longtail’s boss Marty Amick to conduct the checks himself.

Mr Amick, who has more than 30 years experience as a pilot, ran a series of test flights using the new light systems and virtual approach path on October 28 and 29 in a Falcon 900 jet.

He told the Bermuda Sun: “To my knowledge this is the first time a local company has done the flight check in Bermuda.

“Over a two-day period we conducted three separate flights with multiple take-offs and landings.

“In all we were airborne for around four hours, where the flight time from Oklahoma City where the test aircraft usually comes from is around four-and-a-half hours each way.

“It proved to be a very successful operation.

‘A lot of fun’

“We were able to identify areas where data needed to be adjusted, and the flight checks also involved several low level arc approaches around the airport to ensure the new lighting was visible from all angles.

“You don’t often get to do this kind of thing so it was a lot of fun, too.”

Changes to the layout of the runway were prompted by new international guidelines that required a higher clearance between ground objects such as trees and houses and a descending aircraft. The regulations mean planes arriving at LF Wade over Ferry Reach have to descend at a steeper angle and therefore touch down further up the runway.

This in turn required markings and signage and navigational aids to be shifted further up the runway. Airport bosses decided to take advantage of the compulsory project to install new LED centre line lighting for the first time.

Mr Amick said: “You really notice the quality of the lights as a pilot. The new LED lights are much sharper and make a big difference, while the steeper descent really does not make much of a difference from a pilot’s perspective. 

“The night that you get into Bermuda on British Airways because of these lights you will never know it. And there will be nights when everyone gets where they are going because Aaron Adderley did this project, and they will not know it.

“This project generated a lot of goodwill between the key players and in the long term will prove beneficial to various groups in the aviation world.”