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Roberts International Airport

Roberts International Airport (RIA) is located 35 miles (approximately one hour by car) outside Monrovia. The runway at Roberts International Airport is two miles long.

During World War II, the US built Roberts International Airport and Monrovia Free Port as logistics bases. 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. President Roosevelt arrived in Liberia after attending the Casablanca Conference. Pan American Airlines (PANAM) once operated Liberia's Roberts International Airport, where US military aircraft have landing rights.

During World War II, Ossie Davis was assigned to the all-black 25th Station Hospital stationed in Liberia at Robertsfield. Davis later wrote "The Americo-Liberians, black though they were, tended to live like Europeans or Americans, and that surprised me. They had new cars; they regularly sent their children off to Europe or America to college, and they fraternized with their peers at Firestone. They seldom mixed with the natives, with whom I had already bonded, who were authentic Africans and much more fun. I was not only uneasy with the class conflict I felt was brewing in Liberia, I was disturbed by it. But most of the soldiers on the post were not. They, too, quite easily, took to treating all the natives, not as brothers and comrades, but like servants, in much the same way white folks treated black folks down in Georgia."

Joseph Jenkins Roberts (1809-1876), often called the Father of his country, was born of free parents in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 15, 1809. After the death of his father in 1829, his mother sailed for Liberia with her three sons. The second of the brothers, John Wright, entered the ministry of the Methodist Church, and later became Bishop of Liberia; the youngest son, Henry, studied medicine and practiced for many years in Liberia; and Joseph decided to engage in trade. In 1839 he was appointed Storekeeper under Governor Buchanan. When Liberia became a commonwealth, he was elected lieutenant-governor. After the death of Governor Buchanan in 1841, the Colonization Society appointed Roberts governor. In October 1847, Joseph Jenkins Roberts was elected first President of the Republic of Liberia. He achieved international recognition for the new country before leaving the presidency in 1856. After many years as president of Liberia College, Roberts again served as Liberian president from 1872-1876. Jane Waring Roberts, (b. 1818), the daughter of a Baptist minister who came to Liberia in 1824, became Roberts's second wife in 1836.

During the 1980s, the US used Liberia as a staging ground in efforts to counter socialist and Marxist regimes in Africa. The Voice of America had a major relay station near Monrovia, along with a large Omega navigation tower, and the main CIA station in Africa was said to be located at the US Embassy compound.

Roberts was used by United States Air Force C-130E Hercules aircraft from the 86th Air Wing out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany for Operation ASSURED LIFT in 1997. In December 1997 Roberts International Airport was re-opened for commercial flights, seven years after its closure at the outset of the country's civil war. Officials said over US $3.5 million would be required to get the airport fully operational again.

All international commercial air service to Monrovia now arrives at Roberts International Airport (RIA), located 35 miles (approximately one hour by car) outside Monrovia. Very limited daytime air service exists to Freetown, Sierra Leone; Conakry, Guinea; Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; and Accra, Ghana.

In March, 1993, the Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) entered and gained control over Roberts International Airport (RIA) located 25km east of Monrovia. As a result of this operation, both RIA and Spriggs-Payne (near downtown Monrovia) are under the jurisdiction of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU). ECOMOG provides basin security for the Monrovia metropolitan area, including Spriggs-Payne. ECOMOG provides basin security for the Monrovia metropolitan area, including Spriggs-Payne. ECOMOG presently controls the area around RIA. RIA has not been operational for normal air traffic since mid 1990 because of damage resulting from the civil war and remains nonoperational. The interim government, however, has initiated plans to make RIA operation. However, it remains unclear if and when the necessary repair and reconstruction work will be done and when international commercial and/or military flights to RIA will commence.

As of 2000 Roberts International Airport was gradually resuming activity. The airport had many burned out and tumbledown buildings, a consequence of the war. As in Conakry and Freetown, the activities of the control tower were limited to takeoffs and landings. However unlike Conakry and Freetown, there was no link between Robertsfield and the domestic airports of the hinterland, and there is no telephone.

As of May 2001 all international commercial air service to Monrovia arrived at Roberts International Airport (RIA). Very limited daytime air service exists to Freetown, Sierra Leone; Conakry, Guinea; Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire; and Accra, Ghana. Most airlines do not meet the standards of punctuality, security, or service found in the global north. Luggage and passengers undergo inspection prior to boarding. Departing flights from Liberia are typically overbooked. Local carriers do not always follow published routings or schedules. An armed para-military security force provided airport security at Roberts. Conditions at the airport upon arrival and departure were frequently crowded and chaotic. As public transportation to Monrovia is not always available, travellers attempted to make arrangements for an expediter and chauffeur through their hotel, employer, or business associates.

Following the successful completion of two earlier contracts for Navigational Aids Systems, in February 2002 Interface Limited was awarded a contract for the upgrading to ICAO standards of Control Tower Equipment for Roberts International Airport, Republic of Liberia. This was the third project awarded to Systems Interface in Liberia. All equipment and services are being donated by the Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Airspace is divided into lower and upper airspace and into Flight Information Regions (FIRs), which can, as required, encompass Terminal Control Areas (TMAs) or Upper Control Areas (UTAs). An FIR is an airspace with specific dimensions, in which an information service and an alert service are provided. The Roberts FIR TMA extends 40NM north of Conakry and 99NM south of Monrovia. The Roberts FIR is a dismemberment of the Dakar FIR. It was established in January 1975 by Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which decided to manage their airspace jointly. The FIR was named after Roberts International Airport (also known as Robertsfield), which hosted the headquarters at its creation. The headquarters was transferred to Freetown in June 1990 because of the war in Liberia. It has been based in Conakry since June 1997 as a result of the war in Sierra Leone.




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