A year after touching down at the highest point on the island of Saipan, a tiny Pacific nation with just 75,000 inhabitants, to consult on landing configurations, BAE Systems and local officials have released their preliminary landing plans for the future runway. It’s a major milestone for the multimillion-dollar project, which is set to be a vital section of military air security for the U.S.’ Pacific Command, and so far, all involved parties have been pleasantly surprised by the results.
It will certainly be a sight for sore eyes: Flight 4984 conducted the world’s first completed landing atop a 777, landing just before the aircraft’s standard touchdown time, right on schedule. The new runway can accommodate planes that are between four and six meters above ground level (which means 777s will be the largest airplanes made on the island). It will feature a green electronic runway that will guide aircraft to their destination, turning the runway into an iconic piece of Saipan’s monument. Many have speculated that without a permanent runway, the entire island would probably have been submerged by rising sea levels.
The finished runway is still in the very early stages of construction, and there’s still some unknowns looming: such as exactly how much the airport expansion will cost and exactly how much of the island’s new extra-deep water to harvest from. But for now, Saipan looks like a country ready to take to the skies.