Roberts International Airport

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For the airport in the Cayman Islands, see Owen Roberts International Airport.
Roberts International Airport
Roberts International Airport.JPG
Airport type Public
Serves Monrovia, Liberia
Elevation AMSL 31 ft / 9 m
Coordinates 06°14′02″N 010°21′44″W / 6.23389°N 10.36222°W / 6.23389; -10.36222Coordinates: 06°14′02″N 010°21′44″W / 6.23389°N 10.36222°W / 6.23389; -10.36222
ROB is located in Liberia
Location in Liberia
Direction Length Surface
ft m
04/22 11,000 3,353 Asphalt
Statistics (2009)
Passengers 133,656

Roberts International Airport (IATA: ROBICAO: GLRB), informally also known as Robertsfield, is an international airport in the West African nation of Liberia. Located near the town of Harbel, the single runway airport is about 35 miles (56 km) outside of the nation's capital of Monrovia, and as an origin and destination point is referred to as "Monrovia" and locally is often referred to simply as "RIA."

The facility with its 11,000 feet (3,400 m) long runway was an emergency landing site for the United States' Space Shuttle program and is the principal airport in the country and one of only two with paved runways in the nation.[4] The airport is named in honor of Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first President of Liberia.


Early years

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 powers. The airport was originally built by the United States government as an Air Force base as part of these activities. The runway was built long enough for B-47 Stratojet bombers to land for refueling, giving Liberia what was for many years the longest runway in Africa.[5] President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States had lunch with President Edwin J. Barclay at Robertsfield visit to Liberia in January 1943.

From 1943 to the end of WW2 in 1945, Roberts Field Airport, as it was then known, served as an alternative base for a contingent of 26 Squadron SAAF which flew Vickers Wellington Bombers on anti submarine (U-Boat)and convoy escort patrols over the Atlantic. Their main base was at Tokoradi, Ghana (or The Gold Coast as it was then known).

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.[6]

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[6] but as late as 1986 the airport was still a stop on the JFK-Dakar-Monrovia-Lagos-Nairobi route.[7]

At one point in the past, Roberts Airport was listed as an alternative landing site for NASA's Space Shuttle.[8]

Post-War Redevelopment

An aerial view of the airport.

During the Second Liberian Civil War, the main terminal building suffered major damage, and remains vacant and unenclosed. Currently, the terminal facilities consist of two passenger buildings, one for departures by most commercial carriers and all arrivals, and a second, Terminal B, opened in March 2012 exclusively for departures by Air France and Delta Air Lines.[9] Other airside buildings are primarily used by the United Nations, with a VIP facility adjacent to the original, unused terminal.

The airport is clearly the nation's busiest most important aviation facility, with the only connections to Europe and the United States. 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 ASKY Airlines.

Daily commercial traffic peaked in 2012-13 with only one or two arrivals. The busiest and most frequent connection has been to Accra, with four airlines providing at least one flight per day on the route, which for a time made it the third-busiest connection from Accra and one of the top 15 route pairs in West and Central Africa,[10] although service on the route has diminished in 2012 with the end of Air Mali's unsuccessful Bamako-Monrovia-Accra service[11] and the demise of Air Nigeria,[12] which for several years had flown from Lagos to Monrovia via Accra five times per week.

In October 2012, start-up airline Gambia Bird commenced twice-weekly non-stop services between Banjul and Robertsfield with an A319.[13] This service was later expanded to include multi-week flights to Accra and Freetown, and as of mid-2014 Gambia Bird offers the most destinations from Robertsfield of any airline, with same-plane service to Lagos, Douala and Dakar . Also in early 2014, Air Côte d'Ivoire added a service from Abidjan to Freetown via Roberts International.

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 and Monrovia, via Sal, Cape Verde.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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 expected Roberts International to upgrade its security to meet TSA standards and for the Delta to launch the flight "within the year."[17] Coinciding with these comments, it was reported in the Liberian press that a division of Lockheed Martin was to take over management of Robertsfield.[18]

On 5 September 2010, Delta launched once weekly flights between Atlanta and Monrovia; with a stop in Accra. In January 2011, Delta Air Lines increased flights to twice a week (Sundays and Wednesdays). By mid-2012, Delta operated a B767 thrice-weekly to and from New York-JFK, while maintaining the stop in Accra.[19] Delta Air Lines ceased service to Monrovia on 31 August 2014 due to weak passenger demand.[20]

In late June 2014 Air France withdrew its twice-weekly A330 service to and from Paris CDG, which the airline had operated since 2011, first as an extension of its services to Conakry and later paired with a stop in Freetown.[21] In August 2014, most scheduled flights, including those on British Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Côte d'Ivoire, Arik Air, and Gambia Bird, were suspended due to the Ebola outbreak. As of February 2015, the majority of those flights are still suspended.

Airlines and destinations


Note: Due to the Ebola virus epidemic in Liberia, certain airlines have suspended various and/or all services to Roberts International Airport.

Airlines Destinations
Air Côte d'Ivoire Abidjan, Freetown
Arik Air Accra, Lagos
British Airways London-Heathrow (suspended)[22]
Brussels Airlines Brussels, Freetown
Eagle Atlantic Airlines Abidjan, Accra, Freetown (all services suspended)[23]
Kenya Airways Accra, Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta
Royal Air Maroc Casablanca, Freetown

Accidents and incidents

  • On 3 February 1944 a 26 Squadron SAAF Vickers Wellington Bomber (HZ524) trying to land at Roberts Field in darkness & fog overshot the runway and hit a tree. The burned-out remains were found 4 kilometres from the airfield. All crew members perished. They were: DHG Lawrence, DE McNab, IV Rowe, P Cronin, WR Scott, RLB Fillis and DC Long, Air Mechanics ER Andrews & FB Sundstrom.[24]
  • On 5 March 1967, a Varig Douglas DC-8-33 registration PP-PEA operating flight 837 from Rome-Fiumicino to Monrovia caught fire after a mistaken approach to Monrovia, missing the threshold of the runway by 6,023 ft. Of the 90 passengers and crew aboard 51 died as well as 5 on the ground.[25][26]
  • On 19 April 1975, a Air Liberia Douglas C-47A registration EL-AAB was damaged beyond economic repair in a take-off accident. All 25 people on board survived.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Airport information for GLRB at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
  2. ^ Airport information for ROB at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective October 2006).
  3. ^ List of the busiest airports in Africa
  4. ^ Liberian Observer (5 June 2006). "Liberia; Over 200,000 Acquire GSM Phones". Africa News. 
  5. ^ "The Story of Africa – Between World Wars (1914–1945)". BBC World Service. 
  6. ^ a b title=Government of Liberia History of Roberts International Airport
  7. ^ "Airways News - Airline Industry News and More". 23 October 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  8. ^, Space Shuttle Emergency Landing Sites
  9. ^ "Delta, Air France Open Terminal at RIA". Daily Observer (Liberia). 28 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "LCC start-up Fastjet targets under-served markets in West Africa, starting with Ghana". Centre for Aviation. 1 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Air Mali Begins Flights to Liberia". Heritage Newspaper (Liberia). 7 November 2012. 
  12. ^ "The Demise of Air Nigeria". PM News Nigeria. 7 September 2012. 
  13. ^ "Gambia Bird - Your West African Airline - 404 - Document not found!". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  14. ^ Liberia: Delta Air Lines to Fly to Monrovia
  15. ^ "Delta Airline announces direct flight to Liberia starting June". THE STAR NEWSPAPER. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  16. ^ "Delta denied permission to fly to Nairobi, Monrovia". CNN. 3 June 2009. 
  17. ^ New Liberia Diplomat Focused On Flights, Trade
  18. ^ Lockheed Martin Global Services takes over Liberia's Roberts International Airport
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Liberia: Delta Airlines Suspends Flight". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  21. ^ "Air France arrête Monrovia, renforce l’offre Siège Plus". Air Journal. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  22. ^ "BA stops flights to Liberia, Sierra Leone until 2015 over Ebola". Yahoo News. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  23. ^ "WHO official urges airlines to lift flight restrictions amid Ebola outbreak". Fox News. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  24. ^ Bruce. "26 Squadron SAAF". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  25. ^ "Accident description PP-PEA". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  26. ^ Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Armadilha na aproximação". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 249–255. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2. 
  27. ^ "EL-AAB Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 

External links

Media related to Roberts International Airport at Wikimedia Commons