Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (IATA: EIS, ICAO: TUPJ), previously known as Beef Island Airport, is the main airport serving the British Virgin Islands, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean. The airport serves as the gateway to just about all of the islands within the BVI. The airport is also a gateway for inter-Caribbean travelers headed to the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands. Many travellers fly into Beef Island, with the intention of taking a ferry to the other smaller British Virgin Islands. The airport is located on Beef Island, a small island off the main island of Tortola, to which it is connected by the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.
The Terrance B. Lettsome airport underwent a major $55 million renovation in 2004. After dredging was completed, the runway was expanded to allow larger planes to operate into the airfield. This renovation was the largest capital project ever undertaken in the territory at that time. However, the airport currently does not receive any scheduled airline passenger jet service. More recently, Seaborne Airlines began operating Saab 340 turboprop aircraft into the airport.
Some of the highlights of the renovation and expansion project include:
- A new 46,000 sq ft (4,300 m2) terminal building
- An enlarged flight apron
- A new control tower
- 3,700 ft (1,128 m) runway extension
- New airport road with expanded parking (150 parking stalls)
There is a $20 departure tax for anyone over the age of five years.
The airport houses the BVI Outstation of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.
In 2016 the Government announced an expansion of the airport to increase the runway size by 2,504 feet. This followed years of speculation and proposals; discussions about expansion and how to finance it were being undertaken in 2014. Although initial reports indicated that the United Kingdom had approved the necessary financial borrowing, later reports suggested that the UK’s consent had been withheld in connection with concerns about the financial viability of the project. Under agreed financial protocols, external borrowing by the BVI Government needs to be approved by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
On 27 December 2016 the Government announced that the tender to expand the airport had been won by China Communications Construction Company. The Premier, Orlando Smith, said “Negotiations will now get underway with the preferred bidder with a view to concluding a contractual agreement within three months, which delivers the right outcome for the people of this territory.” According to Government, the runway was proposed to be extended from 4,645 feet to approximately 7,100 feet, and would thereby allow mainline jetliner types such as Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A320 aircraft to fly directly to and from the continental United States and Latin America.
However, in June 2017 the Government appeared to confirm that the proposed runway expansion would not be going forward.