Troubled St Helena needs ‘open chequebook’

130aThe troubled St Helena airport built with £285m of UK taxpayer’s cash could require an open chequebook if it is to ever to enter into commercial service.

The new airport on the remote island in the South Atlantic was judged to be such a high risk project that its future is now in doubt.

The airport is now built, and was due to start operating in May 2016.  However, in April, the St Helena Government announced that further safety and operational work was required to address the impact of difficult wind conditions on landing aircraft safely.

Civil servants from the Department for International Development (DfID) at a select committee hearing on Wednesday were unable to tell the public accounts committee why they had not tested for wind shear before the airport was built.

They reported that one extreme option of blowing the top off two neighbouring mountains has been rejected with a more likely solution being to allow smaller aircraft to fly to the island instead of the planned Boeing 737s.

Mark Lowcock, DfID’s permanent secretary, refused to say who might be to blame for failing to discover the strong winds at the airport due to an ongoing internal review.

One airline, Atlantic Star, has urged the rapid introduction of a vital air service to St Helena and proposed using a specialist Avro RJ100 jet, from next spring.

Meg Hillier, the chair of the committee, said more public money would have to be spent if the airport was to ever function for the island’s 4,000 inhabitants.



Posted in Airports, Meteorology, News, Safety

Comments are closed.