Wednesday, 1 June 2016

St. Helena Airport: Category C Awaits.

St. Helena Airport

The picture of the runway on Prosperous Bay Plain, towering some 1000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, does not particularly inspire me with a wish to fly to St. Helena.

There seems to me to be little margin for error, and the nearest alternative landing place is a mere 700 miles away.

Funchal Madeira - a Category C Airport

Clearly any pilot flying in will need to be well prepared to deal with the potential challenges. The regulations require that the pilot in command of any route must have adequate training for the route and take off and landing at the airports on the route, including alternatives that would be used in emergency. This includes knowledge of terrain, minimum safe altitudes, meteorological conditions and communication facilities.

Funchal: 2000 extension partly over the sea to lengthen runway

Airports are classified into categories A, B and C. Those in category B have issues regarding approach, weather, unusual characteristics and performance limitations. Category C airports pose additional problems in approach/take off/ landing. It is clear to me that the best St. Helena can hope for is a category C. Among those in that category in Europe are Funchal, London City, Innsbruck and Gibraltar.

Clearly once the meteorological parameters are better understood, special procedures will have to be put in place and appropriate training given to those pilots who are allowed to fly in and out of the airport. It strikes me that it will take some time for all that to happen, so it is probably unnecessary to say goodbye to the R.M.S. St. Helena just yet.

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