Tuesday, 19 July 2016

St Helena Airport: The First Tourists Arrive!

Three Belgian philatelists arrive by private jet - only 9997 more to go

The St Helena Government has announced the resumption of the R.M.S. St Helena until July 2017, over a year after the airport was meant to be up and running. Clearly no solution is in sight for the windshear problems which have caused the cancellation of commercial flights.

I have for some time had my worries about the St. Helena airport project, and my recurring nightmare is that the real future of the island will be as a haven for wealthy people who can afford private jets.

I have recently come across extracts from the 2005 report by Atkins Management Consultants which noted that

The nature of the weather (recording of local variations – wind direction and strength, visibility, temperature and cloudbase – only started in mid-2004) on Prosperous Bay Plain has not been assessed in detail for long time enough. Currently weather readings are being gathered but at least one year’s and preferably three years’ recordings will be needed.

The report later went on to express its concerns about the local weather conditions, and to recommend a series of flights over Prosperous Bay Plain to assess the design before the project commenced.

There are doubts concerning local weather conditions, in particular, there are doubts about the amount of turbulence that could be expected on the approaches (due to the elevated location of the surroundings bluffs). Il is therefore recommended that, regardless of which aerodrome option is chosen and before the runway designed is finalized, a charter aircraft should fly test the approaches to and departures from the intended runway. This would ensure confidence in the final design and may be regarded as part of the design process applicable to St Helena’s circumstances. The most suitable aircraft for this would be the four-engines L 100 Hercules: this could route via Ascension Island for refueling and crew rest stops.

I wonder if these test flights ever took place. I have a strong suspicion that they didn't, but will be happy to be proved wrong.

The future of the island has been predicated on self funding though the expansion of tourism, which it has been hoped would build up to around 10,000 a year by 2020. This is now looking like a very sick joke, with no alternative plan in sight.

Were it not for other more pressing matters engulfing the UK's political class at the moment I think this would have been treated as a major political scandal. Not only has it been a waste of taxpayer's money, but more importantly it is a very real tragedy for the residents of St. Helena, and particularly for those who have invested in tourist related projects.

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