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Coordinates: 06°14′02″N 010°21′44″W / 6.23389°N 10.36222°W / 6.23389; -10.36222

Roberts International Airport
Roberts Field
Monrovia airport derelict plane.JPEG
IATA: ROBICAO: GLRB
Summary
Airport type Public
Serves Monrovia, Liberia
Elevation AMSL 31 ft / 9 m
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
04/22 11,000 3,353 Asphalt
Source: DAFIF[1][2]
Aerial view of the airport

Roberts International Airport (IATA: ROBICAO: GLRB) is an airport in the West African nation of Liberia. Located near the town of Harbel, the single runway airport is about 35 miles outside of the nation's capital of Monrovia, and as an origin and destination point is referred to as "Monrovia" in popular usage. The facility with its 11,000 feet (3,400 m) long runway is an emergency landing site for the United States' Space Shuttle program and the principal international airport in the country. The airport is named in honor of Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first President of Liberia, and is frequently called Robertsfield.

Contents

History

In 1942, Liberia signed a Defense Pact with the United States. This commenced a period of strategic road building and other construction related to US military interests in checking the expansion of the Axis, particularly in terms of the Italian occupation of North Africa. The Airport was originally built by the United States government as an Air Force base as part of these activities.Robertsfield Airport was built with runways long enough for B-47 Stratojet bombers to land for refueling, giving Liberia what was for many years the longest runway in Africa.[3] President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States had lunch with President Edwin J. Barclay of Liberia at Roberts International Airport, during FDR's visit to Liberia in January 1943.

The story of Robertsfield is consistently intertwined with the history of Pan American World Airways. In fact, from the end of World War II until 1985, the airport was administered and operated by Pan American under contract with the Republic of Liberia's Ministry of Transport. Monrovia was consistently a key link in Pan American's African network, usually an intermediate stop between Accra and Dakar, from which service continued onward to Europe and New York. In the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, the airport became Pan Am's principal African hub, with a non-stop service from New York JFK connecting at Robertsfield to such destinations as Dakar, Accra, Abidjan, Lagos, and Conakry, among others, and continuing on to Nairobi and even at times Johannesburg, so that for many years virtually every Pan Am passenger to Africa passed through Robertsfield. Pan Am's presence diminished during the 1980s, as Pan Am's African network was slowly pulled down. Pan Am ended its management of the airport in 1985[4] but as late as 1986 the airport was still a stop on the JFK-Dakar-Monrovia-Lagos-Nairobi route.[5]

At some point during the Liberian Civil War, the main terminal building suffered major damage, and remains vacant and unused. Currently, the terminal facilities consist of a small departure terminal, with another terminal primarily used by the United Nations, but also for departures by most commercial carriers. A VIP terminal is housed in a third airside building. It is currently an alternative landing site for NASA's Space Shuttle.[6]

The airport is clearly the nation's busiest most important aviation facility, with the only connection to Europe. However, Monrovia's secondary airport, Spriggs Payne, is much closer to the city center, possessing the nation's only other paved runway and featuring international connections served by Cameroon-based Elysian Airlines. Presently, daily commercial traffic consists of only one or two arrivals. The busiest and most frequent connection is to Accra, with five airlines providing at least one flight per day on the route.

Proposed Service by Delta Air Lines

It was announced in October 2008 that U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines, as part of a major expansion of its route network in Africa, would begin a once-weekly service between Atlanta, Georgia and Monrovia, via Sal, Cape Verde.[7] The proposed service would have commenced in June 2009, utilizing a B757 ETOPS in a two-class configuration. The news marked the return of an American carrier and direct flights to the United States for the first time since Pan Am's withdrawal, and was therefore seen as a major step in the recovery of not just the airport, but Liberia itself. The route was revised in May to originate from New York's JFK and connect via Dakar, beginning on 9 June, Monday, and returning every Tuesday.[8]

However, just one week prior to the inaugural flight, Delta announced that its planned launch would be suspended indefinitely. It was reported widely that the carrier had been denied permission by the Transportation Security Administration due to a lack of acceptable security standards at Robertsfield.[9] Neither Delta nor the TSA issued any further explanation. However, Cynthia B. Nash, a prominent Atlanta businesswoman, stated in an interview coinciding with her appointment as Liberia's Honorary Consul in August 2009 that she expects Roberts International to upgrade its security to meet TSA standards and for the Delta to launch the flight "within the year." [10] Coinciding with these comments, it was reported in the Liberian press that a division of Lockheed Martin was to take over management of Robertsfield.[11]

On October 20, 2009, Delta issued a press release in which it stated: "Delta intends to serve as many as 10 African destinations from the United States next summer [summer of 2010], including flights to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Monrovia, Liberia; Nairobi, Kenya; and Luanda, Angola, each of which are pending U.S. and foreign government approvals. Delta has aircraft ready to serve each of these markets as soon as it receives the necessary approvals."[12]

Airlines and destinations

Roberts is the principal international airport in Liberia, and one of only two with paved runways in the nation.[13]

References

External links

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