|L'aeroporto della capitale San Josè è intitolato a Juan Santamaria eroe nazionale, posizionato nella valle centrale ad un'altitudine di circa 1.000 metri sul livello del mare, a soli 17 km dal centro è il principale del paese con i suoi due milioni e mezzo di passeggeri all'anno, inoltre garantisce l'utilizzo del trasporto aereo al 37% della popolazione totale residente nella città e nei suoi sobborghi.
Concepito per sostituire il vecchio aeroporto di La Sabana, nel 1952 iniziarono i lavori di costruzione del nuovo scalo che vede la sua inaugurazione nel tardo 1955 con l'arrivo dei primi voli internazionali effettuati da Pan American, KLM e Taca, utilizzando velivoli Convair 340, ma solo nel 1958 il Presidente Josè Figueras inaugura la struttura adibita a terminal che sostituisce un edificio provvisorio concludendo così i lavori. Nel 1962 si inaugura l'era dei jet con l'atterraggio di un Dc 8 della Pan American, da qui si prospetta la necessità di ampliare la lunghezza della pista agli attuali 3.012 metri per una larghezza di 46 metri, ed installare sistemi di avvicinamento VOR e ILS che integrano uno già esistente del tipo luminoso VISTA.
L'odierna struttura aeroportuale governata dalla direzione generale dell'aviazione civile, dipendente direttamente dal Ministero delle Opere Pubbliche e dei Trasporti, è cosi composta: il corpo centrale dell'aeroporto è occupato dall'aerostazione disposta su tre livelli, al piano terra check in, banca, ufficio informazioni, zona doganale e ritiro bagagli. Al 1°piano zona imbarco, ristorazione, negozi e uffici delle compagnie, il 2° piano è ad uso esclusivo degli uffici amministrativi. L'imbarco e lo sbarco dei passeggeri avviene esclusivamente con l'utilizzo di sei finger, è prevista a breve termine la costruzione di altri quattro nuovi pontili nell'attuale zona cargo ad est dell'aerostazione.
Le compagnie commerciali più rappresentative che effettuano voli regolari sul Juan Santamaria sono: KLM, LTU, United, American, Continental, Copa, Aviateca, SAM Colombia, Cubana, Mexicana, Aeronica, Taca, Iberia, ed ovviamente le uniche due compagnie costaricensi Lacsa e Aero Costa Rica.
Come ho menzionato precedentemente la zona ad est è occupata dal cargo center con delle costruzioni abbastanza fatiscenti ma che presto dovranno far posto all'ampliamento dell'aerostazione passeggeri; il traffico merci a San Josè è intenso con una media di 4\5 voli al giorno principalmente provenienti dagli Stati Uniti operati da American, Arrow Air, Kalitta Air, Fine Air, Trans Continental, Emery Worldwide, DHL, Challenge, quasi tutte le compagnie utilizzano i quadrimotori Dc 8, oppure provenienti dalla Colombia, quindi Aerosucre, Lineas Aereas Suramericanas, che invece utilizzano i vecchi Caravelle trasformati in cargo; l'unica compagnia europea che trasporta merci con voli all cargo sullo scalo è la Martinair Holland che utilizza un nuovissimo MD 11F.
Nonostante l'ottima funzionalità dell'attuale aerostazione, non molto distante è stato costruito, e terminato recentemente, un terminal usato esclusivamente durante l'alta stagione in coincidenza con l'arrivo di voli charter, mentre per il restante periodo dell'anno rimane inutilizzato.
Continuando verso ovest troviamo la stazione dei Bomberos (Vigili del Fuoco) e adiacente la zona tecnica e base operativa della compagnia di bandiera Lacsa e della sussidiaria Sansa; lo spazio riservato è molto limitato e non avendo hangar a disposizione tutti i lavori vengono svolti all'aperto, mentre una situazione decisamente diversa si ha per la zona successiva, sede della COOPESA "Cooperativa de Servicios Aero Industriales", realtà industriale nel campo aeronautico del paese, nonchè stazione di riparazione certificata dalla FAA, che come sottolineato dal Work Manager Luis Villalobos ne contraddistingue l'alta qualità tecnico-professionale. L'area occupata dalla COOPESA include un ampio piazzale e due hangar di notevoli dimensioni più un fabbricato di recente costruzione adibito per la lavorazione di materiali compositi. Le principali attività che coinvolgono i circa 700 lavoratori sono la manutenzione ordinaria, le modifiche di sistemi in cabina, la verniciatura, la conversione di velivoli passeggeri in cargo e per ultimo l'installazione di motori Stage III su aeromobili B 727, con una media di 5\6 velivoli lavorati mensilmente, per lo più di compagnie provenienti dal continente americano, pur conseguendo un risultato notevole questo non soddisfa la dirigenza che prevede un'ulteriore espansione con la costruzione di nuovi hangar.
La serie di infrastrutture si completa con la zona ad uso della locale Guardia Civil di cui tratteremo specificatamente in un altro report.
English translation by Dario Cocco
Costa Rica is defined by many as the "Switzerland" of Central America. This tropical nation is bordered by Nicaragua to the North to the Southeast with Panama; its coasts overlook to the Northeast the Caribbean Sea, to the West the Pacific Ocean.
The country from the morphological point of view is extremely diverse despite its small size, the extension of a little over 51,000 square kilometers, just about Piedmont and Lombardy regions combined, which contain a great variety of natural habitats that give a wealth of flora and fauna unique, and this is a sort of magnet for nature lovers from all over the world, the last official figure of 1993 has encountered an influx of some 700,000 foreigners, twice than just five years earlier.
Getting to Costa Rica from Italy is not extremely easy as there are no direct flighs, but thanks to some U.S. and European airlines with one stopover in the chosen airline hub it is possible to reach this destination, in some circumstances, as we will see, even with more than one. In our case, having flown with the Spanish airline Iberia routing has been Milan Linate - Madrid - Miami - San Jose of Costa Rica, for a total of 14 hours of actual flight time to be added to the time spent on the ground at the airports, definitely heavy but very interesting.
As mentioned earlier, the arrival is in the country's intercontinental airport at San Jose if using scheduled flights, while some charter flights land in Liberia, the nation's second international airport.
The airport system also includes a number of facilities used exclusively by domestic airlines such as Sansa, Travelair and Aero Costa Sol, or by private aircraft, these airfields all have dirt runways, then usable only by specific aircraft suitable for this type of operations.
The airport of the capital San Jose, named after national hero Juan Santamaria, is located in the central valley at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level, just 17 km from the capital’s center and is the most important on the country, with its two and a half million passengers a year, also guarantees the use of air transport to 37% of the total population residing in the city and its suburbs.
Designed to replace the old airport of La Sabana, the construction of the new airport began in 1952, and saw its opening in late 1955 with the arrival of the first international flight operated by Pan American Airlines and Taca, using Convair 340 aircraft, but only in 1958, President José Figueres inaugurated the building used as a terminal to replace a temporary building thus concluding the work. In 1962 it entered the jet era with the landing of a Pan American DC 8, hence it raised the need to extend the length of the runway to the current 3,012 meters with a width of 46 meters, and install approach systems VOR ILS integrating an existing light system VISTA.
The modern airport facilities, governed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, directly dependent from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, is composed as follows: the central body of the airport of the air terminal is on three levels, ground floor check-in, bank, information office, customs and baggage claim area. On the 1st floor boarding area, restaurants, shops and offices of companies, while the 2nd floor is for the exclusive use of the administrative offices. The embarkation and disembarkation of passengers takes place exclusively with the use of six fingers, will soon be completed with the construction of four new piers in the current cargo area to the East of the airport.
The most representative commercial airlines that make regular flights to Juan Santamaria are: KLM, LTU, United, American, Continental, Copa, Aviateca, SAM Colombia, Cubana, Mexicana, Aeronica, Taca, Iberia, and of course the only two Costa Rican companies, Lacsa and Aero Costa Rica.
As I mentioned earlier the area to the East is occupied by the cargo center with buildings quite dilapidated but that will soon make way for the expansion of the passenger terminal; cargo traffic in San Jose is intense with an average of 4/5 flights each day mainly from the United States operated by American, Arrow Air, Kalitta Air, Fine Air, Trans Continental, Emery Worldwide, DHL, Challenge, almost all companies use Dc 8s, while from Colombia Aerosucre and Lineas Aereas Suramericanas still use the Caravelles converted into freighters. The only European carrier that transports goods with all-cargo flights at the airport is Martinair Holland, which uses a brand new MD 11F.
Despite the excellent features of the airport, not far away it has been built, and recently completed, a terminal used only during the peak high season to cater the arrival of charter flights, which, for the remaining period of the year, remains unused .
Continuing to the West we find the Bomberos (Fire) station and adjacent the technical area and base of operations of the airline Lacsa and its subsidiary Sansa, the reserved space is very limited and not having hangars available all the jobs are done in the open, while a very different situation occurs for the next zone, home of COOPESA "Cooperativa de Servicios Industriales Aero", an industrial town in the field of aeronautics, as well as FAA certified repair station, and as pointed out by the Work Manager Luis Villalobos is distinguished by the high-quality technical training. The area occupied by COOPESA includes a large apron and two hangars of considerable size plus a building of more recent construction used for the machining of composite materials. The main activities involving about 700 workers are line maintenance, changes in cabin systems, painting, converting passenger aircraft into freighters and finally the modification of engines on B727 aircraft to cope with Stage III rules, with an average of 5/6 aircraft delivered each month, mostly from American companies; while this is a remarkable achievement it does not yet meet the leadership planning that envisages further expansion with the construction of new hangars.
The number of facilities is completed with the area used by the local Civil Guard which is dealt specifically in another report.
Tobias Bolanos Palma Airport located in Pavas, only 4 km from the capital San Jose, is the second airfield of the city and hosts of the local flying club in addition of being the base of operations of Travelair, a company that makes regular flights with Islander and Trislander aircraft to the major resorts of the country. Also find their place here a multitude of smaller private companies and other which perform agricultural duites with the ubiquitous Dromader.
Driven by an association of Costa Rican pilots (UPAC) to bring citizens closer to the world of aviation, and to conduct social activities in this field, after four years of work the airport was inaugurated in 1975, including all infrastructures, terminal, control tower, hangars, meteorological station, a 1,000 meters long and 18 meters wide runway oriented 09/27, plus a range of services such as customs and immigration office, in case there was a need to receive from aircraft from abroad would be completely autonomous.
Daniel Oduber Quiros Airport, the second and last of the country, named after a former president of the republic, is located Northwest of the country on the Pacific coast where most of the hotel infrastructure are situated, not very far from the border with Nicaragua. It is located 27 km from the beautiful city of Liberia from which takes its name, as well as the regional capital of Guanacaste. It's also called by many the airport of the future as opposed to that of San Jose now strangled by urbanization preventing any possibility of expansion; this is located in an area completely free and especially enjoys excellent climatic conditions having regard to the distance from the mountains, which at these latitudes are the cause of almost daily thunderstorms mainly in the rainy season.
The inauguration of the airport dates back to November 1995 and its structure is composed of the terminal divided into two sections, the classical one where all the routine activities of the airport are carried out and home to various administrative offices, plus a very impressive building made of wood and covered with palm leaves used as a waiting room. The runway is 2,750 meters long and 45 wide, oriented 05/25 and connected to an apron that can accommodate three medium-sized aircraft; the service area not far from the terminal (fire station, control tower, fuel storage) completes the airport system. The only short-term project is the expansion of the apron by taking advantage of the area still used as a fuel depot, which in turn will be moved about a mile from the current position.
Despite the large potential for development of the airport, the modern traffic that frequents the airport is very scarce, to make the idea a few figures for last year saw an average of 1,500 passengers per month for a total of 35 flights per month including private flights. Domestic flights to San Jose are operated by Lacsa while Travelair and Sansa connect with the touristic resorts. Other routes are flown exclusively from abroad: Air Comet from Madrid makes a stopover in Liberia before proceeding to the Dominican Republic, this service is only available from June to October, from United States American Trans Air flies from November to March, Aviacsa from Mexico during the months of June and July, then from Canada Canada 3000 in April, and from November to February, with a weekly service.
Certainly the optimism of the directors about the increase of traffic is forecast by moving some flights from San Jose.
The opportunity to visit the airports in Costa Rica gave us a pleasant surprise, we found that the local population shows a great interest for aviation, we marveled at seeing a large number of people who literally cling to the fences to follow the airport activities whatever the weather! Whole families and people belonging to every social class stop, every day and especially on weekends, at the end of the runways to see delighted aircraft taking-off and landing, amazed by the gracefulness of these rulers of the sky. Even in Western countries these situations occur, although air travel is now an integral part of daily life, or perhaps because of the excessive familiarity loses sight of the actual grandeur of the aviation and the magnitude of human intelligence.