LONDONDERRY airport is one of the only facilities in Europe without radar due to the shielding effect of the surrounding terrain.
Separately, the airport authorities propose bomb-proofing the front of the airport terminal next year to prevent terrorists driving cars full of explosives up to the front door.
Longer-term plans may also see radar surveillance at City of Derry Airport (CoDA) but there are concerns the proliferation of wind farms within a 30 kilometre radius of the Lough Foyle facility could interfere with airspace surveillance.
Other plans for Eglinton include the establishment of a safe zone in front of the airport terminal to prevent terrorists car-bombing the facility.
It is likely that this measure will be introduced at CoDA in 2013/14.
Considerable other changes will be necessary to accommodate a significant increase in passengers using the airport over the next twenty years.
At present “the current terminal building will not have sufficient capacity to facilitate the passenger growth forecast.”
All of the above issues have been raised in a new airport masterplan that is out for public consultation until February.
Radar is a unique problem for CoDA in European terms.
The plan explains: “Positive radar cover for CoDA traffic cannot be provided at all the levels necessary by any of the existing radar facilities in UK or Ireland due to the shielding effect of the terrain surrounding the airport.
“It is anticipated that primary and secondary radar will be provided to serve CoDA during the Master Plan period. The actual implementation date will depend on emerging regulations, demand and airline operating procedure and it will be necessary to safeguard potential radar sites, the surrounding area and radar coverage areas from development that will interfere with radar installation and to ensure that effective radar coverage can be provided in the future.”
Part of this safeguarding will involve a watchful contemplation of proposed new wind farms in the area. There is already a proliferation of turbines in the airport’s immediate area and the report says wind farms can affect surveillance systems.
The plan reveals: “It is essential that wind turbine developments do not occur on sites that may degrade the performance of the future radar surveillance systems at CoDA.
“CoDA will work closely with the planning authorities to ensure that the future growth, and ability of the airport to contribute to economic growth in the region, is protected.”
Another requirement is the bomb-proofing of the front of the airport terminal to stop terrorists driving explosives-laden vehicles right up to the front door.
This is deemed essential after “the Committee for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) advised airports that a protected zone should be established at the front of UK airport terminal buildings with adequate protective measures to inhibit a vehicle carrying an explosive device from reaching the building.”
Work on this element of the masterplan is likely to commence next year despite the fact it will restrict car parking spaces.
“It is likely that this measure will be introduced at CoDA in 2013/14 and the effect would be to provide physical protection at the front of the terminal.
“This will require a realignment of the forecourt and road system as well as the removal of a number of car parking spaces.”
The Draft Master Plan document is now open for Public Consultation until Friday, February 15, 2013 with the hope of generating ideas and stimulating debate.
Damien Tierney, Managing Director of CoDA Operations Ltd, said: “the Draft Master Plan sets out our vision for the development of the Airport as a transport gateway for the North West of the island of Ireland.
“It presents a range of future improvements and enhancements to the existing facilities that we wish to develop to meet this vision.”
The Mayor, Kevin Campbell said the Draft Master Plan was an important part of the Airport’s long term ambitions and objectives. “The City of Derry Airport continues to be an important asset for the city and region, and I would encourage the public to avail of this opportunity to contribute to the draft masterplan so that it accurately reflects our ambitions for this vital piece of transport infrastructure. Once the masterplan is complete it is intended that it will be incorporated as an advisory document within the overall area plan for the City.”