Haiti airport to reopen for big carriers on Friday
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 14 (Reuters) – Haiti’s international airport, a keyeconomic lifeline for the poorest country in the Americas, will reopento major commercial airlines on Friday for the first time since amassive earthquake destroyed its control tower, a U.S. militaryofficial said. American Airlines will begin flying to Port-au-Prince on February 19,with Air Canada and Air France to follow shortly after, BrigadierGeneral Darryl Burke, vice commander of Air Forces Southern, said in aninterview over the weekend. The airport was turned over almost entirely to disaster relief andmilitary flights after the January 12 earthquake, which destroyedhundreds of buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed212,000 people. The quake caused serious damage to the airport’s terminal. Crews haverepaired airport lighting and the part of the terminal that theairlines will use, Burke said. “On the 19th American Airlines will resume operations in the westportion of the terminal,” Burke said. “Structural engineers havechecked out the terminal to make sure it’s safe and it is safe tooperate out of, and they’re ready to go.” Air traffic control responsibilities, which were assumed by the U.S.military following the quake, are slowly being turned over to Haitiancontrollers. They are currently directing flights from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.and will expand those hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on February 19,Burke said. Haiti’s feeble economy was brought to a standstill by the quake, whichleft 1 million people homeless and living in the streets. “This is a chance for them to generate revenue. This is how airportsmake money,” Burke said. At the peak of the disaster the airport had a capacity of 120 landingsof military and relief aircraft daily. Those flights have dwindled toan average of about 70 daily in recent days, Burke said. The airfield is being run out of a portable control tower brought toHaiti by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.