With news that the brand new £250 million airport and runway on St Helena may never see passengers is beginning to offer the last Royal Mail ship a stay of execution.
The brand new airport was due to open on 27th February however that date was pushed back in stages and the airport may not be able to operate at all with severe windshear problems being the cause that appears to have been undetected during the construction phase.
Where and to whom the blame is being pointed at is not being said?
However the facts and flying trials have established that aircraft landing on the island are being subjected to serious windshear and turbulence at heights of around 350 feet above the ground and the flight reports from a Comair pilot said, “Approaches onto RWY [runway] 20 with any wind above 20 knots are not suitable for Comair operations. No gust should be tolerated.” Another pilot called the approach “hair raising”.
AIRPORT WINDS TO SAVE ST HELENA SHIP ?
Speaking with a former Civil Aviation Authority inspector who said that there are a number of airports that do operate with known windshear problems. Although you cannot see this problem it can be detected in the plane but there have been instances when large planes have been flipped over in severe windshear situations.
But its looking more like the waves will rule over the wind in order to keep the Islanders or ‘Saints’ as they are known connected to the outside world.
This unique ship carries both cargo and passengers. It has been the lifeline for the island and up until a few years ago operated from my hometown of Portland in Dorset UK. In recent years the ship has been based in South Africa sailing from Cape Town with passengers flying down to join the ship there as its made its way around the remote Atlantic islands of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan Da Cunha.
Carrying goods that the various islanders need from the huge, like, fire engines, cars to food, animals and all types of everyday items.
Currently the ship is in the UK and with Princess Anne visiting her in London next week. However it does seem almost certain that the Government will have to announce that the ship or perhaps another one will be needed to replace her.
Speaking with several islanders who now say that although the RMS St Helena was to retire from service they see no other option than for it to keep operating past 15th July which was when it was to finish its last trip in Cape Town on that date.
One person close to the operation said, “There has to be a higher probability that the RMS operational period will have to be extended.”
AW Shipping who operate the RMS St Helena have not been told of any changes yet to its operations and their website still shows that the ship will finish that contract on 15th July.
There is still no date yet for the airport to be opened Prince Edward was due to open it last month on May 21st on the Island’s saints day.
The risk to people flying into and out of the islands appears too great and both airlines Comair and Atlantic Star Airlines that were looking to operate passenger and cargo flights have put their plans on hold until more is known of how this problem can be tackled. However Atlantic Star Airlines CEO Richard Brown said “We are disappointed not to be able to announce operating dates until such time as the Windshear phenomenon is better understood. Data gathering is taking place at the present time to facilitate this. We are working closely with TUIfly, SHG, Comair and DFID to deliver a solution that meets the needs of both Saints and visitors to the amazing island of St.Helena”.
One investor on St Helena spent millions of pounds in order to have a new tourist hotel up and ready for the new flights. Hazel Wilmot spent over £2 million buying and renovating an 18th century hotel, as well as a large farm to provide meat, eggs and other food for her tourist guests.
Unless some quick solution can be found then it looks like the islanders can wave bye-bye to that brand new airport which would be a real blow to the island’s expansion and business development.