Thursday, 2 June 2016

St Helena Airport: A Serious embarrassment for the Government?

Lord Ashcroft has apparently had to abandon his plans to fly to St Helena in his private jet because his pilot thinks it would be too risky to do so. He has written an extensive article for Conservative Home which makes for far from happy reading. In it he reveals that he has had access to the reports of the pilots who have so far landed on the island, and clearly they make him wonder whether the airport will ever be serviceable.

Although aviation experts are working hard to try to find a solution to the windshear problems, there is a real danger that the airport could become a hugely expensive “white elephant” and a terrible embarrassment to the British Government.

If his fears are correct, this will be absolutely devastating for the island, and even if it is not and an eventual solution is found, it will in the meantime cause very serious hardship for many on the island, particularly those who invested heavily in the expectation of a massive increase in tourism.

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.