St Helena Airport

A reader (James C)asked for a short post with relevant information about the new airport at St Helena, due to open in 2016, built and operated by a South African company called Basil read and costing about £250m, as a start point for discussions about its strategic relevance (or not) to UK defence;

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.sainthelenaaccess.com/”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://sthelenaonline.org/tag/st-helena-airport/”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.airport-technology.com/features/featureatlantic-saint-helena-airport-uk-basil-read”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/91293/uk-resumes-st-helena-airport-project-to-access-malvinas”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.brshap.co.za/”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Helena_Airport”] [browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://en.mercopress.com/tags/st-helena-airport”]

Funnily enough, there are also some interesting ship to shore logistics challenges. Have a look at the image galleries in the links above and the video below

 

 

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HurstLlama
HurstLlama
September 1, 2013 4:45 pm

OK, so doesn’t the opening of this new runway just add another, albeit small, nail into the coffins the QE class. Can there be many places left on the surface of the planet where we are likely to want to fight that can’t be reached from a friendly airfield? Admittedly the Crabs can’t get their new tankers into this airfield, but that’s probably true of lots of places; the fact they wouldn’t to be able to reach places, let alone provide air cover over them hasn’t stopped them claiming they could.

mike
mike
September 1, 2013 5:02 pm

@ Hurst

What? The thing is being built as we speak… unless there is a real change in Foreign policy (which, worryingly, Mr Osbourne seems to think is the case), the plan continues.

It was interesting reading the long FAQ on the first link there. No UK or US military interest in the island?
Also, it mentions how an air-bridge to the Falklands would require “specialist long range” aircraft and the airfield is very limited freight wise… but the capability of expanding the runway has been designed into the current plans.

Either way, its a welcome development, one funded a fair way by the DfID… glad it funds and works with our territories rather than just independent nations, wouldn’t it be nice if they funded some more artificial reefs :D

WW
WW
September 1, 2013 5:35 pm

The strategic relevance to UK defence is limited.
SH is still more than a 1000 Nm from the African coast (Angola, Namibia). Except for these two countries plus South-Africa, there is not going to be much difference between Ascension and Saint-Helena in terms of distances involved when looking to Africa. As SH is not only more south, but also more east compared to Ascension, the the reduction in the distance to the Falklands is hardly a game changer (200-300 Nm). And last but not least, the airport and its runways are not designed to take heavy and/or large military aircraft. Short and medium-ranged Boeing 737/Airbus 320 or smaller and that’s it. I’m not sure there is room to extend the runway to 2500m or longer. Strategically (military) SH airport is in the middle of nowhere, I’m afraid. I don’t think the military is interested.
For the Saints however, it could give their economy a boost through increased tourism. It would also change their lifeline to the rest of the world in making SH less remote and more accessible.
Interesting project though and logistically challenging.

John Hartley
John Hartley
September 1, 2013 5:57 pm

An 1850m runway is long enough for a medium load in a C-17, but for a take-off at maximum weight it needs 2360m. Still a good start. Now for runways on Tristan da Cunha, Pitcairn & South Georgia. That would give Britain, near global reach.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 1, 2013 7:06 pm

Runway length is not the only consideration for which aircraft can use an airfield, John.

Strength of runways and taxiways is an issue. So is wingtip clearance.

I couldn’t say whether a C-17 could use this airfield or not, but it is a huge plane. The wingspan of a C-17 is substantially bigger than an A320, for example, which can use this airfield.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
September 1, 2013 7:20 pm

All good points chaps. Though, Mr. Hartley, I don’t think our eco-nutters would ever allow a runway on South Georgia – there may not be any trees to hug but I am sure there are seals whose lives would be destroyed aeroplanes. I strongly suspect that the only reason there was not an outcry over developing St Helena is none of the soap dodgers realised we owned the place.

Anyway, I must know confess that my original post was written in response to TD’s plea on another thread – I.e. Could we please stop talking about Syria and how about someone posting something original like how the QE class was a waste of money. So when I saw the
St Helena label I thought that it offered a hence to oblige our host and have a dig at the Crabs (the latter being the duty of all right-thinking Englishmen). Unfortunately using a phone for this stuff is hard and I managed to post before put the smiley face thing in. Sorry.

Jedibeeftrix
Jedibeeftrix
September 1, 2013 7:27 pm

“OK, so doesn’t the opening of this new runway just add another, albeit small, nail into the coffins the QE class.”

Only if youbelieve hmg’s foriegn policy begins and ends with the islands that shall remain unnamed.

Rocket Banana
September 1, 2013 7:33 pm

What is the balanced field distance for Sentry and Voyager?

mike
mike
September 1, 2013 7:52 pm

@ Hurst

The use and especially the economic case for a (proper tarmac) S. Georgia airfield is so small other than for use for BAS aircraft, and the occasional supply flight, that it’ll never happen. Let alone the very strong environmental case, unless we want a string of airfields and ports around the globe for ‘global puddle pirate & crab reach’ ;)
It took long enough and enough dithering to get St Helena one.

Besides, we don’t want it any easier for any wayward scrap merchants to get any ideas!

In the FAQ there are questions regarding RMS St Helena, and the future of sea freight; the government acknowledges how important this link will still be after the airport (after-all, there wont be a regular air-bridge to the FI and a link to Ascension all depends on the USAF – who have allocated 2 slots a week for any civil link), though the DfID will withdraw its funding for her keep (shes due to be decommissioned as soon as the airfield is operational), one of the potential options is for the the Saint gov to purchase/lease a freighter and use it under an management contract… perhaps ‘NP Glory 4’ could have a future with the island… even better, wear the same green and white scheme of the PFI RORO ‘points.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 1, 2013 7:53 pm

@simon.

About 3000M so this airfield which is only 170 miles close to the Falklands than Ascension Island makes absolutely zero difference to the UK military at the moment. You could however fly fully loaded A400M in and out of more of Africa than from Ascension.
The biggest plus will be a world link even if it is only a fortnightly A320 or 757 to SA.

Rocket Banana
September 1, 2013 8:01 pm

APATS,

Agreed.

It’s a shame we are not considering V-22 for logistics between Ascension and St Helena, AEW/Crowsnest and for F35B in-flight refuel.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 2, 2013 12:01 am

If you’re talking strategic air bases then this might be of interest:

http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/www/external/publications/randreview/issues/rr-08-01/Images/cp22.801.p15.map.jpg

Am I right in thinking the bases in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are Ascension and Diego Garcia? If so then shift the European “circle” over the Uk and add a base in the Middle East/East Africa and we could have a network of bases which could cover most foreseeable future operations… (I’m excluding Pacific as I can’t see us having much of a stake in that bun fight; if so, RN will have to gobit alone).

Map from this RAND report:
http://www.rand.org/pubs/periodicals/rand-review/issues/rr-08-01/shipshape.html

dave Haine
dave Haine
September 2, 2013 5:52 am

Has any one been to St Helens? lovely place, f**k-all there.

To be honest, I hope there’s good surfing, because I can’t see them filling an A320 once a week let alone daily. Still nice little mixed cargo/pax contract for, say a civvie herc operator.

Maybe a cruise ship stop-off, no wait harbour isn’t big enough- I think they should have spent the money on a chuffing big port, then it would at least give the grey funnel line another place to bitch about.

dave Haine
dave Haine
September 2, 2013 5:58 am

Read a bit more, did some sums- found it’s reason d’être…diversion for ETOPs flight plans. There just in case….

Make the runway longer…whole different ball game.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 2, 2013 9:33 am

Swimming Trunks…
” Am I right in thinking the bases in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are Ascension and Diego Garcia? If so then shift the European “circle” over the Uk and add a base in the Middle East/East Africa and we could have a network of bases which could cover most foreseeable future operations…”

A Middle East base, like Cyprus?
Not a ‘could have’, but a ‘do have’.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 2, 2013 11:09 am

The French Air For has a permanent presence in W/ M Africa. The base in Djibouti may not be massive but the Americans built their own. Add Cyprus as per BB… What’s missing.

Now,if we bin other than helicopter-ranged terrain scanning, then a lot. But that is a different discussion…

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
September 2, 2013 4:54 pm

If we ever need to operate in the Pacific, Aus and NZ could work as support for vessels and aircraft in the southern Pacific, don’t know how far north you could get though. Nothing is really ever said of our allies over that side. Personally I think a must have would be a presence at Diego Garcia ie a forward maintenance and resupply base from which we could permanently deploy a T23/26 or similar & a sub, handy for East of Suez. Also I read a couple of years back the US was thinking of pulling out and moving North East, we could allow AUS and India to use it if they wanted to.

Dave Haine
Dave Haine
September 2, 2013 6:43 pm

Has anyone else noticed the inconsistencies in runway length etc? The initial r/way length was stated as 1550m now they are saying 1850m to accommodate bigger aircraft. The governor was talking about B757 from the UK.

From experience, a B757 needs 2500m TODA(take-off distance available) at 126t mtow under ETOPS, so it might get there, but it’s not getting back. You could op it as a three sector flight (UK-St Helena-somewhere in Africa, maybe Banjul-UK, but not with one crew. That makes the economics a bit wobbly airline wise.

And as we know it’s not only the length of the Tarmac that matters, but the terrain at the either end of the runway. As far as I can see St Helena is a bit bumpy, and jets need to clear any obstacle by at least 35ft. Obviously, that would shorten the distance available for the take-off, and therefore the weight the aeroplane can lift off at. Many of us will remember the trees at the end of Berlin-Gatow…our B737-200’s would have to stop at Hanover or Gutersloh to get back to the UK, especially when full at 130 pax. Cue grumpy squaddies and grimly smiling erks.

On another subject, I thought it was the duty of every Englishman to annoy the French, I mean there’s books about it, and everything…having a dig at the ‘crabs’ was only meant to be a hobby?

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 2, 2013 6:48 pm

@ Brian Black – D’oh! How did I forget Akrotiri! Well, that appears to be the missing link.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 3, 2013 5:03 am

Not just what You clear, but where do you stop
– Kai Tak, now only used for flight training, i.e those planes stop when the acreage of a post stamp has been exhausted
– Madeira
… These and some more on the blacklist of those who have to land there with PAX and yr own license at stake

Dave Haine
Dave Haine
September 3, 2013 6:51 am

Oh dear yes…Funchal…what an arseache for flight planning…three wind directions, and cat ii. No wonder they kept Porto Santo open. Once they extended the runway, tho…landing on a bridge! I worked with a guy who had worked for TAP- he reckoned even their old and grizzlies used to blanch at the thought.

What about the approaches tho…Kai Tek?…aim at the checkerboard until you’d picked up the lights them sharp left and follow them in- mind the washing…

Gib could be exciting too! That stomach wrenching turn round the rock, because it was a trooping flight, and it couldn’t go through Spanish airspace…then reverse thrust as soon as the nose wheel took weight, cos the beach was coming up pretty soon.

Who builds runways in these places- even with props they must have been ‘challenging’ I know they were a bugger to flight plan too.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
September 3, 2013 8:38 am

Have you seen photos of lots and lots of Spitfires on it? Before it was extended!

Now: I saw Phantoms on the runway, abt 4 mnths after they left service… To Israel? Refurbed and onto Turkey? Who knows….who cares?

Anyway, if you overshoot on GIB, that’s water… Even the wings won’t come off at the remaining speed…. My main concern has always been finishing the G&T, cheaper than the ones on the ground, i.e free

Dave Haine
Dave Haine
September 3, 2013 9:39 am

I was reading RE Gilmans book ‘The ship hunters’ recently- there’s a section in it about ferrying a vastly overloaded Blenheim out of Gib to Malta…very illuminating (if that’s the right word!)

I’ve been amazed at the amount of aircraft they’ve managed to squeeze onto that airfield, in the past.

You’re mention of the ‘Tooms on the airfield reminds me of the rumour that circulated around for years about Jaguars in the rock…I say in the rock because a couple of my Air Cadet oppo’s (a few years ago!) on a annual camp there swore blind that they’d seen 4 or 5 Jaguars stored inside one of the myriad of tunnels in the rock. I always poo-pooed it, but you never know do you…

I have to say that final turn in at Gib often played merry hell with the Hosties- a late warning by the FO usually lead to the No1 ‘having a word with the Capt’ and a very dry cockpit on the way back.

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
September 5, 2013 6:50 pm

The St Helena island airport will make a critical strategic difference to the UK. It is a unique new opportunity for Adventurous Training, and so the RAF will be bound to set up a new base there.

Having been there very recently, I can say the diving is excellent. No really, lobsters, pipefish, the lot. And all for £25 a dive! If they can get a puddle-jumper airline to run up to Ascension, then I’m on the next indulgence flight and I’m taking my wife and dive gear.

Apart from that, as already highlighted, a 3000ft runway is cock all use to anybody. The airport is for commercial/economic reasons only, because StH costs the UK taxpayer £20mill a year. This is a chance for economic output to improve to try and reduce the dependency on the UK.

It is, BTW, a lovely island. And still served by the only Royal Mail ship left in the world.

x
x
September 6, 2013 10:44 am

@ Somewhat

The second rule of Think Ships, sorry Think Defence, is if you mention a ship you must post a link to a picture……..

http://www.clickonsthelenaisland.com/welcome/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/RMS-St-Helena.gif

TD will get excited because of the containers but that can’t be helped. :)

x
x
September 6, 2013 10:51 am

Another thought is that a RMS St Helena with a hangar for Lynx/Wildcat would be a good ship for WIGS.

dave Haine
dave Haine
September 6, 2013 11:05 am

@x- now there’s a thought…WIGS, maybe Antarctic patrol(with strengthened-pointy bit) fisheries patrol, FIGS there’s a number of roles it could fill-but where would you put the hanger and flight deck tho’?…you wouldn’t want to get rid of the gantry at the back, would you? And obviously not the Derrick at the front…

x
x
September 6, 2013 12:18 pm

Dave I already have Penguin Land sorted……….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S._A._Agulhas_II

FIGS no it won’t do. For the FI we need something bigger than Clyde for FP and a proper war canoe for Argie bashing (APT(S))

dave haine
dave haine
September 6, 2013 3:20 pm

@x- yes I could see that for penguin-land, but aren’t the hairybacks still using it…unless you’re talking about another ‘cutting out operation’ in which case wouldn’t that cause a bit of ‘comment’?

Do we really need a proper war canoe for FIGS? I’m not saying the argies are a busted flush, but I mean…

RMS Saint Helena, with RM nasties on and appropriate boats, would be real piss-take for them…sail up just outside a port…set the SBS off to vandalise…get them back and f**k off. As you’re sailing away two fingers up at them…

Unless you’re arguing for Black Swan, or Leander mk2, of course…in which case totally agree…absolutely no good…sorry I even suggested it….I abase myself before you