Sunday, 28 August 2016

St Helena Airport Update

The new airport on the remote island of St Helena was completed earlier in the year. I have been covering the development of the airport and the issues associated with it for some time, see the links below for essential background. Since then there have been a series of test takeoffs and landings to judge the aerial environment around the airport. This will provide vital information to pilots. Full commercial flight operations cannot begin until this study is complete. As I describe in the background links, there is a major problem at the airport with "wind shear". These are pockets of wind that change speed and direction very abruptly. For an aircraft approaching a runway or taking off from it, wind shear can be very dangerous. Because of this obstacle, the official opening of St Helena Airport has been put on hold indefinitely. The architects are now suggesting radical measures to solve the wind shear problem; they want to carry out further excavations at the Prosperous Bay Plain site. These will involve the removal of an entire hilltop, the King and Queen Rock, in an attempt to change the wind flow patterns around the airport. This might need diggers, drills and dynamite, depending on what the job will entail. The Daily Mail is now riling at the expanding cost of the project. It's been called the "worst foreign aid project in living memory"; however St Helena is not technically foreign, despite its geographical distance and isolation. It is a British Overseas Territory and therefore entitled to a share of national funds. What's more the airport is a good investment because it will hopefully give the island's economy such a boost that its need for state subsidies will be reduced or even eliminated. Another happy outcome of the airport delay is that the island's dedicated transport, the good ship RMS St Helena, will continue to operate. She was due for retirement this year after the airport opened and has even just completed what was supposed to be her final voyage. Now her retirement has been postponed until at least July of next year. Basically, the ship will necessary until the airport is fully up and running. Source: On the downside, the new dig will destroy more of St Helena's natural landscape; the airport has already transformed Prosperous Bay Plain forever. The area is one of significant natural diversity and the airport has adversely affected St Helena's wildlife. The Saints themselves are not unanimously in favour of the airport. I detail the pros and cons of St Helena Airport in the background links below. The English band Everafter have released a song called Last Boat to St Helena with lyrics that address the same concerns I have about the hazards posed by the airport, particularly to the island's people and culture, see:

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