St Helena Airport Update

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It has been a couple of years coming but the new airport at St Helena is fast approaching the date of its inaugural flight. St Helena is one of the most isolated islands in the world, 1,200 miles from the coast of West Africa, 800 miles from Ascension Island and a whopping 3,800 miles from the Falkland Islands. Previously served by infrequent visits from the Royal Mail Ship St Helena in 2011 the British Government announced a £250m investment package that would see the construction of an airport with a 1,550m runway with 240 Runway Safety Area (RESA), air traffic control, terminal building, bulk fuel installation and navigation equipment.

The ultimate objective is to improve tourism and trade to reduce the islands dependence on support from the UK. The contract was let to Basil Read, a South African construction company and work started in 2012. The airport is due to open in 2016 with the first test and calibration flight by FCSL scheduled

Thales are installing the most of the navigation and communication equipment including approach lighting and distance measuring equipment for approaching aircraft, beacons, meteorological equipment, air traffic control, voice recording,  communications and alarms. The airport will also require the services of both a land and sea based rescue capability which will include three rescue boats. Comair has recently been named as the preferred bidder the air services to St Helena and they have proposed a weekly 4.5 hour flight between the island and Johannesburg with a Boeing 737-800. If it is allowed to use Ascension as its designated alternate, currently subject to negotiations) the reserve fuel requirement will be lower, usable payload higher and ticket costs, lower.

From a strategic security perspective the benefit is often overstated but it is still an important part of the UK’s Atlantic presence, with Ascension, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and Tristan da Cunha.

The contract also required Basil Read to build a temporary jetty at Ruperts Wharf to allow offloading of construction plant, equipment and materials from the NP Glory 4 because we are all interested in ship to shore logistics, aren’t we!

This allowed them to bring the following to the island.

  • 8 million litres of fuel
  • 3,000 tonnes of explosive
  • 6,200 tonnes of concrete and pulverised fuel ash
  • 500 tonne sof sand
  • 120 items of construction plant
  • 9,000 ISO containers
  • 1,200 tonnes of reinforcing steel
  • 5,000 tonnes of other cargo

Videos…

NP Glory 4 – Time Lapse of docking at temp jetty

St Helena Airport Project update video

Simulated landing on St Helena

St Helena's new Airport – a Gypsy's view

Basil Read St Helena Airport Project progress March 2014

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Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson

Oddly enough just half watched a segment on French news last night on TF1 (French equivalent of the Beeb, but with ads) on the island and airport. Of course very slanted from French point of view, and almost had me believing it was the French doing the whole project. Bit of irony early on as shows Napoleon’s old lodgings, now lived in by a Scots Celtic fan. If anyone interested, up on their school French, and can stick the annoying ads before it, they do get round to the airport eventually after the wallowing in Napoleon nostalgia, and talking to the few French speakers remaining on the island – http://videos.tf1.fr/jt-13h/2015/serie-5-5-en-2016-sainte-helene-sera-dotee-d-un-aeroport-8582210.html .

The Other Chris

Well worth visiting once flights are available. If they can obtain the funds to repair High Knoll Fort they’ll complete a lovely set of sightseeing locations.

Glad they took the decision to extend.

@TD

Any further details on either the rescue boats, boat facilities, or whether they’re also widening the runway for the likes of 757’s?

stephen duckworth

Interesting to see just how much kit and materials can be offloaded from effectively a landing craft. Brilliant news for the Islanders in the great transportation link they can utilize as well as the potential for tourist or even some commercial venture in the seas around the island.
9000 ISO’s , that’s a lot of metal boxes !

Dave Haine
Dave Haine

5000ft runway means that a 757 at max payload won’t get off with enough fuel to make Jo’burg.

….Mind you, a quick look at google earth makes me think it wouldn’t too hard to put in an extension, even a temporary one.

…And that temporary wharf doesn’t look that temporary, either. Ideal place if you needed to transfer stuff from air to sea.

The Other Chris

I don’t have the details to hand, Atlantic Star were talking about 757 operation (120 pax, more fuel?) but the problem was width, not length.

Andy Evans
Andy Evans

Moe details on the construction here: Building St Helena Airport – An Industrial Scale ‘Grand Design’ – http://aerossurance.com/fixed-wing/building-st-helena-airport/

davidbfpo
davidbfpo

This has been a huge UK-funded project, under DFID auspices and so counts as Overseas Aid.

My recollection is that the runway is too short for any UK military aircraft to use. That of makes no sense, but DFID are rarely keen on anything military.

The Other Chris

Think the widening route enables C-130 use as well as 757.

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[…] St Helena Airport UpdateIt has been a couple of years coming but the new airport at St Helena is fast approaching the date of its inaugural flight. St Helena is one of the most isolated islands in the world, 1,200 miles from […]

Chuck Hill

If it can land 737s, I presume it can land P-8s

Secundius
Secundius

ISO Containers come in two sizes FEU (Forty-foot Equivalent Units) and TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), which one…

Tony Williams
Tony Williams

I enjoy visiting islands but have never got as far as this one. I expect that the impact on the society will be considerable – probably worth a “before and after” sociological study! I hope they manage to take advantage of the good it does, and avoid some of the potential problems from its easier accessibility.

I also hope that they’ve done their research on the airport location. I did a tour of the Cape Verde islands just over a year ago, and on one of them is a civil airport built some years ago by a German company. The problem was that the cross-winds were so strong in that location that it proved too dangerous to use, so there it sits, abandoned and useless…

Observer
Observer

I took a look at the location on the world map. It’s pretty bad, in the middle of nowhere. Seriously can’t see it taking off (pun not intended) in a big way. What *might* help is if African trade to South America picked up and they used the island as a waystop, but even then, it is questionable.

If it were up to me, I’d say evacuate and abandon.

martin

@ davidbfpo

i am pretty sure Typhoon and A400M and C17 can all make it into a 1500 ft runway. F35B can easily do it.

Keith Campbell
Keith Campbell

If I remember correctly, the contract has been amended and the temporary port is being turned into a permanent one — another boost for the island. The airport has been put in just about the only place on the island that could host an airport. Like Chuck, I am wondering about the ability of MPAs like the P8 (and other ISR aircraft) to use the airport, if need be. The RAF’s expeditionary structure certainly means an air base could be set up there rapidly, if need be. That would give us an outpost to monitor the south east Atlantic. In addition, St Helena might have strategic value in some African contingencies, as a secure aviation base.

Comair must not be confused with an unrelated US company with the same name. Comair (SA) operates two airlines, a conventional one under the British Airways brand, and a low cost one, Kulula. So passengers from the UK will be able buy a single through ticket from London to Johannesburg to St Helena. So, in practical terms, it will be rather like flying to Durban or to some of SA’s regional countries.

WW
WW

@Keith
That rumour about the temporary port being turned into a permanent one is what I seem to recall too. Can’t find any confirmation though, but admit I havn’t searched for it very intensively.

For sure, an airport alone is not going to be enough to replace regular calls to the island from RMS St-Helena. Somehow a commercially viable substitute will have to be found. A jetty, even a small one or one with limited facilities, will help.

For St-Helena to survive long-term without (too much) financial help from mainland UK, tourism will have to take off. That’s the only source of income that can be exploited. Contrary to the FI, there’s no oil, almost no fishing rights to be sold, hardly any possibility for limited industry (such as meat and fish on the FI). Today, many Saints earn their income on Ascension or the FI (read somewhere that most lower skill jobs on the FI are taken by Saints).

Fedaykin

I know there has been some consternation about the runway not being longer and the relation to the Falkland Islands but beyond the fact of the limited geography to site it you only have to look at a map to realise why it isn’t a staging post for the Falklands. It is thousands of miles out of the way from the already established air route from Ascension. It would be quicker for somebody from St Helena to fly to Ascension first and transfer to a Falklands bound flight.

Secundius
Secundius

@ Martin

So could the MV-22C Osprey for that fact…

Mark
Mark

What a job that must of been to plan and design I bet it won’t be forgotten in hurry by those involved. DFID project that will change lives for ever looks a spectacular place I’m guessing some off our navy guys have paid a visit?

Martin 1550m runway not 1500ft so should be fine for a400, c17.

PJS
PJS

I haven’t watched it in its entirety but caught the back-end last night and BBC were making sure they were offering a ‘balanced’ view, bless ’em…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05p32km/our-world-st-helena-an-end-to-isolation

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

DfID has a pile of money unspent sitting in bank accounts. I would use some of it to build similar small airports on South Georgia & Pitcairn(or one of the nearby islands). Those dots on the map mean we still have a global presence. A recent UN ruling went against us over Diego Garcia. Lets use DfID money to do what we should have done all those decades ago i.e. keep Diego Garcia British forever, but pay very generous compensation to Maldives & the Chagos people.
Ps. one of the other sites says the St Helena runway will be 1850 m long, not 1550.

Fedaykin

@John Hartley

I pretty much agree, considering it is a constant stick that is used to bash our country with internationally proper restitution to the Chagossians should be look into. Their treatment has been shameful and it is a stain on Britain’s reputation.

But I do feel the origins of the Chagossians should be properly reported, they were an imported 18th Century African slave population. The country that imported them onto the Islands as slaves was France and it was a historic happenstance that Britain gained them when Napoleon was defeated, it was a further accident of history that they remained in British hands with the independence of Mauritius.

I must admit I was always slightly puzzled why we needed to evict them in the first when we leased the land to the US for the construction of the airbase. I would of thought a local population might of been useful as a general workforce.

Keith Campbell
Keith Campbell

The permanent wharfs confirmed. It is in the case study of the St Helena airport project on the Basil Read website: http://www.basilread.co.za/operations-construction.php#case

There is a specific website for the project: http://www.brshap.co.za

Very nice pics, but not as up to date as it could be.

Finally, an advertisement, if I may: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za has done a series of stories on the project. Type St Helena into the search field (at the top of the page). (I’m a Senior Deputy Editor.)

Observer
Observer

I see a lot of money being spent, but I really can’t see how a majority of it can be recouped without a sudden boom in fishing, undersea oil drilling or undersea mining.

How many tourists other than those of a historical bent would want to go to an island in the middle of nowhere as opposed to other locations in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia? For the rest, tourists can transit to other destinations if they get tired of their locality, here, they are stuck until they leave again.

What can the island offer that will bring people in other than Napolean’s ex-home?

as
as

Has anyone heard how the plans for a deep water port at Port William in the Falkland’s are going?
It was going through planning then everything has gone quite.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Observer. From Europe to St Helena is straight down, so no jet lag. Cape Town is the same, but from a crime point of view, St Helena is a lot safer.

The Other Chris

@Observer

First question you need to ask is whether this is a business investment or more of a development gift.

Observer
Observer

JH, so the tourist draw of St Helena is… no jet lag?

ToC, that is a good point, though in the end, other than a reduction of travel time, it does not do anything for the people there other than saddle them with maintenance costs. You know the difference between “teaching a man to fish” and “giving him a fish”. This is giving them a fish. They need to diversify their financial base with more industry, agriculture or fishing otherwise a new airport is just makeup on a pig. It just hides the problem, not solve it. And honestly? I’m a bit stumped to come up with new industry for them. Only thing I can think of is to increase the fishing fleet.

Mark
Mark

Observer

It will do something for the people there. For example specialist medical care Is now 4.5hrs away not 5 days. It also means a ease of travel for education or work which may mean islanders are more prepared to bring new ideas back to the island than move away permanantly. There will also be employment to look after the airport.

Change always has winners and losers and I’m sure it will be difficult for the way of life on the island, but I think that’s why its a 10 year plan to allow transition.

ChrisM
ChrisM

It is remote, unspoilt, yet safe and British – something novel in the high end tourist market
Just the idea that their dinner party guests won’t have been there will get a good few in who will spend several grand. With an airport and better visitor facilities I wonder whether it will attract quite a few yachts and maybe RN stopovers
There are only 5,000 locals so you don’t need that many rich guests to really make a difference
The place was becoming unviable in a modern world, this is a chance to give them a future that hopefully doesn’t involve £25m subsidy year after year

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Observer. You may mock, but I know people who go to Cape Town rather than the Caribbean or Far East, just to dodge the jet lag.
If St Helena is 4500 miles from the UK, then could a direct A320, say Gatwick to St Helena, with a fuel stop in Ghana, be a faster route?

ChrisM
ChrisM

I assume they wouldn’t be allowed an overnight stopover on Ascension?
Reckon you could sell a regular charter package for that

Observer
Observer

JH, not mocking, just not able to grasp that particluar mindset.

TD, maybe you’re right, I was looking too high end instead of smaller scale.

wf
wf

@dave haine: the concrete runway length is 1950m, LDA is 1650m (extendable further if they add a 240m runoff), TORA 1950m. Supposedly all good for 737-800, although as you say, load factor is something economically significant. Given these factors, what sort of weight could a 737-800 take off at given that the airfield is already at 1000ft above sea level?

The Other Chris

The folks in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are very helpful. Pointed us towards this document on the St. Helena Government website for some technical details, although not completely up to date:

http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/St-Helena-Air-Services-Information-Memorandum.pdf

Note the two runways have been both lengthened (breakdown of lengths in the above, runway 20 is the primary) and widened to 45m with 7.5m shoulders allowing for 757-200’s with modified winglets and altered payload arrangement. Further scope for lengthening.

Plan is to gradually build up to 30,000 passengers per year over a ten year plan, funds are a development grant (i.e. no DfID “payback” expected), and if they can hit this rate they can look at operating something like an A320neo.

Atlantic Star admitted in their bid that the first ten years of operation would be financially challenging and there will be an element of subsidy.

Airfield can handle a C-130 following the widening which ticks emergency boxes. Also accepts some private jets though limited apron space. They were unsure about A400M. It needs to map inside a Category 4D aerodrome code and be happy with Jet A-1 only as that’s all they’ll have.

Standard 737’s can land and takeoff but with payload reductions. I’m sure P-8’s would be operated from Ascension anyway.

Speaking of which, no arrangement for Wideawake (RAF Station Ascension) to be used as an alternative for St. Helena yet.

EDIT: If this is the kind of thing the 0.7% GDP is going to be spent on (i.e. CD/BoT/Commonwealth) then great. It’s handing out cash to nuclear powers with satellite launching capability that irks.

WillS

I’ve always fancied building a house* somewhere scenic and remote using ISO containers (which is quite a popular approach to semi pre-fabs these days). I wonder if they’ll be leaving any behind?

They have some very interesting/unique flora & fauna on the island , as well as the “Napoleon died here” thing, which might give them a decent chance at the high-end tourism market.

* by “building a house” I do of course mean “getting someone who knows what they’re doing to build me a house and then taking credit for it”.

wheatleymr

Are there any plans to build a runway, or upgrade the port, on Tristan da Cunha Is? (Which at least has a population.)

Also, on South Georgia: what level of global warming would turn it into a viable colony?

Deja Vu
Deja Vu

Pedant’s Corner

Suspect it was 6,200 tonnes of cement and pulverised fuel ash, not .. concrete and … Typically 8 times as much concrete by weight is produced give or take, and that ties in with the 1,200 Tonnes of reinforcement steel.

Should get out more.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

MW, I doubt South Georgia would ever have a colony as such, but it still needs an airport for eco & extreme sport tourism. Though the real prize is as a base for the future exploitation of Antarctica. Go back in geologic time & Antarctica & Australia were one. Look at all those nice commodities being dug out of Australia. The plan to keep Antarctica untouched will not survive a global population of 10 billion+ all wanting TVs, Tablets, Cars etc. A base in South Georgia gives Britain a foot in the door.

WW
WW

@MW
If there is a place in the middle of nowhere it’s Tristan da Cunha. Rough climate too, especially in the southern winter.
The only flat terrain to build an airport is where the Tristans live and where they grow their potatoes and vegetables.
Also, Tristan da Cunha is a snoozing volcano. iIRC the last eruption was in the early sixties. Much damage to houses and fields. The population had to be evacuated to the UK. They could return but after several months.
Both South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha are a no go for airports, I fear.
For JH’s future jump off airport to the Antarctic, MPA will do the job, if any, if ever.

wf
wf

@John Hartley: I think South Georgia really shouldn’t have an airfield, purely for military reasons. We’d have to garrison it, or deal with a company of Argentinian’s doing another invasion. I suspect the katabatic winds there would make it a bit marginal anyway.

Tristan De Cunha is different: there’s scope for a 1000m STOL strip west of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas in the potato fields. Obviously, we’re not thinking of a military or major airfield, just an all weather strip for some very hardy tourists, locals wishing to visit elsewhere, and medevac. Trouble is, it’s over 2000km to St Helena, and even further to the Falklands, and I can’t think of a STOL aircraft that has that sort of range, particularly since unless there’s a convenient Nimitz / QE in the area, there’s no diversion airport either :-)

I think the place might be better served by building a better all weather harbour. There were repairs recently, but I’m thinking the sort of place which would allow landings under most weather conditions rather than the crude facility they have now

http://www.tristantimes.com/art_5246_55_40_2.html

Kent
Kent

@wf – The Beechcraft AT-6 with four drop tanks has the range to make it to Tristan de Cunha from St. Helena with over 400 km to spare. A diversion, of course, would be problematic since there isn’t anyplace to which to divert!

@wf; @TD – As for improving the harbo(u)r: MULBERRIES! Use a heavy lift ship to carry them down there (rather than towing them a gazillion miles or a gazillion and a half kilometers!), place them where needed, and fill them with concrete. That would give you another place to station an OPV, too!

PJS
PJS

I know this is a stupid question…but why aren’t Catalina-type flying boats considered for such inter-islands operations… I am just curious…

stephen duckworth

@PJS
Good idea , the Japanese use the ShinMaywa US-2 , RR powered too :-) for their island patrols and SAR work.

The Other Chris

If you’d like some insight into Seaplanes in a modern military context, there’s a good PowerPoint available from the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

As it’s from 2005 it uses the US-1 rather than the US-2 as the base model, however it’s a reasonable backgrounder:

Seaplanes within a Seabase Environment (Odedra and Hope, 2005)

Kent
Kent

Just did some quick calculations – Tristan de Cunha to St. Helena: 1317 nm/2439 km, to Ascension: 1751 nm/3243 km, to FI: 2120 nm/3926 km. If you are range limited and can’t inflight refuel so you can’t make it from Ascension to FI in one hop 3403 nm/6302 km, you could, given a proper runway, save 1283 nm/2376 km by staging through Tristan de Cunha. Of course, I don’t know how you’d manage a “proper runway” on a volcano.

backofanenvelope
backofanenvelope

On the subject of Diego Garcia. I flew over the island on several occasions in 1961-63 in an RAF Shackleton. We were looking for (and found) a ditched WW2 Catalina. There was no one there! No houses, no people. Oh yes, on one of the three occasions there was one man who had a canoe, who waved at us.

Quite why the whole of the Chagos population had to be deported I have no idea, but Diego Garcia is a long way from the rest of the islands – and was empty in 1963.

wf
wf

@PJS, @monkey, @Kent: build a big enough breakwater protected area, then seaplane access without diversion options might become more realistic :-)

And a better port into the bargain!

Kent
Kent

@wf, @PJS, @monkey – Could someone see if Agusta-Westland or GKN still have the plans for the Saunders-Roe Princess in a drawer somewhere? A re-imagining of the airframe with modern materials and modern turboprop engines might lead to more range and higher load carrying capability. I believe the original Princess already had the range to fly from the UK to St. Helena non-stop without overflying ANY other country. West of Brest, France; west of Northwest Spain; west of Grand Canary; between Cape Verde and West Africa, east of Ascension at about 4300-4400 miles, and right into St. Helena. If you re-engined with six of the A400M’s Europrop International TP400-D6 powerplants instead of the original 10 Proteus powerplants, you’d increase available power OR be able to run them derated for longer life.

as
as

Better get some Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 re-engineered and modernised as well. The splash fighter.

Kent
Kent

@as – The SR.A/1? Oh, no! THIS: Convair F2Y Sea Dart re-imagined and re-engineered! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convair_F2Y_Sea_Dart New engines should be able to get it to a 1:1 trust/weight ratio, and a digital fly-by-wire system should ensure it can’t be flown past design limits. Something the size of a Russian Typhoon could carry three of them forward in place of the missile launch tubes, to boot!

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

I have never been to Tristan da Cunha, but there seems to be a plateau above where the residents are. Hard to get to it thanks to a cliff. Suitable amounts of explosives + JCBs, should be able to build a ramp access road. Should be able to build a suitable airstrip for regional jets.
As for South Georgia, either you can see its ability to be the next North Sea Oil economic boost to Britain in about 30 years time, or you cannot.

as
as

The Most Isolated Town on Earth Wants a Radical Redesign. Tristan da Cunha, looking to the outside world to plan its future.
http://gizmodo.com/the-most-isolated-town-on-earth-needs-a-radical-redesig-1694550855/+travis

pettinger
pettinger

The cost of the airport is justified mostly on the consequent saving from the withdrawal of the RMS St Helena, which has been subsidised to the tune of millions a year, and would need replacing with a new ship at the cost of tens of millions if the airport had not been built. The permanent port construction is underway, and can cope with up to 5000 t vessels alongside a wharf, and coincidentally, just about a Royal Navy destroyer. There is a new tank farm adjacent for jet fuel, but could also handle diesel and fuel oil.
St Helena is some 800 miles closer to the Falklands Islands than Ascension, and also does not need the permission of the Americans to use it . Taken the above into account, £250 million does not sound like a bad deal for an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the middle of the South Atlantic

wf
wf

@pettinger: at 1950m, the Saint Helena airport is nowhere big enough to handle anything other than 737/757 type aircraft or a C17 (which couldn’t take off again with a full load although it could land with one). A Voyager couldn’t land or take off. Although a lot more “Dry Gut fill” would allow an additional 240m of emergency overrun area covered with Engineered Material Arresting System concrete and would thereby add much the same distance to the landing run (and it is planned to happen eventually), the total length of the strip would still be 2250m or so, and there is *no way* it can be extended further: there’s no more island available! And with no taxiway, the sortie rate would be limited anyway. On the other hand, both Ascension and MPA have 3000m runways that 747’s can land on. No contest really, and since we own Ascension, we really need to slap the Yanks around if there are still limitations on how we can use the place.

On the other hand, the idea of a few UAV’s based on Saint Helena to police it’s ignored and very significant EEZ sounds like a great idea to me…

pettinger
pettinger

Ending of long term subsidies for, and replacement of, the RMS ST Helena will pay for much of the airport cost. Personally, I think the Navy will benefit more from the independent re-fuelling and re-supply base. The new facilities are admittedly basic and not suitable for any long stays, but Ascension has no effective sheltered port at all, and , as you say, loaded C17’s could land to resupply , without the need to take off with cargo. In the event of any Argentinian interference with the Falklands, those islands would not be safe for resupplying ships, and its likely that nearby S American countries may not be very cooperative. St Helena is also far enough away from S America to avoid any action by Argentina. The new port may seem to have been an afterthought, and of course it will help the islanders as well, allowing bigger and cheaper cargoes, but it would surprise me if its use to the Royal Navy has not been noticed.

pettinger
pettinger

Another thought has occurred to me: military flights from Ascension would not need very much fuel either to reach or return from St Helena. Wouldn’t this enable larger aircraft to operate from the new airport?
( though civilian aircraft are not allowed to use Ascension)

stephen duckworth

They DFiD is looking at a proposal for small changes to the existing design to slightly widen the taxi ways extra so that Boeing 757 can use the airport . By using a refueling touch down in southern Europe ( such as the flights from London City Airport to New York do at Shannon , they can have direct commercial flights from London.
http://sthelenaonline.org/2013/06/14/no-flights-from-london-woah-im-going-to-barbados//

pettinger.
pettinger.

Think they already have widened the runway for 757s and the port is already half built : see the March 15 video update in the Basil Read website for the project. Quay length will be 105 metres with water depth of 7.5 meters : just about the max for a 5000 ton tanker (or a destroyer) They have not stinted on any of the infrastructure and facilities, (and, as has been stated above, the runway is now the absolute max that can be accommodated within the limits of the island terrain).

stephen duckworth

@pettinger
Thanks for the update on the 757 acceptance. A direct flight from London even once a fortnight to bring in or rotate out various specialist to help with island development, holiday makers ,medical specialists or even patients needing more specialist treatment. Obviously the schedule flights with South Africa could cover this but it may be viable as a route with a DFiD subsidy such as the merchant vessel received.

wf
wf

@pettinger: indeed, from the start of the project there was a push to get permission from the MOD to specify Ascension as a formal diversion airfield, so fuel reserves could be reduced and hence increase the cargo margin (whether pallet or self loading varieties). No progress as yet I understand.

We should ask @dave haine regarding what sort of plane could conceivably get into St Helena directly from London. Relying on second hand 757’s doesn’t appeal :-)

wf
wf

Just a quick thought re Tristan De Cunha: given the likes of a US2 seaplane having landing and takeoff distances of around 300m, along with 4000km ranges, the idea of an expanded harbour which doubles as a sea plane landing area sounds like a great way to give the place an emergency medevac / delivery service / well heeled tourist transport that works the majority of the time….

pettinger
pettinger

Tristan Da Cunha is another matter altogether. Virtually no flat land, apart from a few acres used for growing food. The plateau on the top of the volcano is nowhere near level and is almost impossible to reach, even on foot, as it is surrounded by enormous cliffs. The ‘harbour’ is actually no more than a small 40 m breakwater sticking out into the open ocean with no shelter on the island at all. It is usable for small craft only in calm weather and is frequently damaged by high seas. The depth of water just offshore is so deep that it would be a very major job indeed to construct any useful harbour for ships of any size , let alone big enough for a seaplane to land and , more importantly, take off again. There is no real financial incentive either: there are less than 300 people on the island. The supply vessels consist of a very old converted Danish coaster, plus intermittent visits by fishing vessels coming to collect the islanders catch, that have to load or discharge their cargo into small boats in order to reach the island. Check out the official website.

coral
coral
This sector seems perfect for some turboprops like the King Air 350i, Antarctic Variant of the DH Dash7, the Pilatus PC12 or even the C17 at its normal 50-ton payload . How about newer IL-76 and Beriev ?
These STOLS are more than capable of operating on Tristan provided there’s a patch of bulldozed and concreted potato field strong enough for the job.
pettinger
pettinger

These aircraft could get there, no doubt. This still begs the question of finding enough space on Tristan da Cunha for any runway. Literally, the entire area available for agriculture would have to be taken over to build a runway of any size at all. Its an airfield or food , not both. The rest of the island is cliffs or a high mountainous area with craters. The lack of any port , or any marine shelter for ships, would make it horrendously expensive . not to say almost impossible, to build a runway, even if it would be worth it for less than 300 inhabitants. St Helena is much larger, with a large usable agricultural area, 4000 people, basic port facilities, shelter for ships, and the airport is being built on an arid unproductive area of the island. Its not the same proposition at all.

stephen duckworth

@Pettinger
On the volcano shield , in the South West corner between Third Gulch and Gypsy Gulch on the 550m contour there seems to be a relatively clear area about 2km long . Getting detail views is hard to find though but could provide an area to build a runway on. It would have a distance to get down to the settlements on the coastline but runways have been built in worse places. As you say though the cost would be high .
http://www.google.co.uk/url?q=http://en-gb.topographic-map.com/places/Tristan-da-Cunha-13428/&sa=U&ved=0CB0QFjAEahUKEwix3Neqv4XGAhWLS9sKHRh6ADg&usg=AFQjCNGJgNw3fwwiKeJAAU1u7vcTe9kXyw

stephen duckworth

Correction 550 FOOT contour :-)

wf
wf

I refer @Pettinger and @monkey to my previous suggestion: build a bigger harbour and breakwater, and utilise the space in part to provide the 400m of reasonably calm water that a US2 flying from St Helena would need to land :-)

After all, the Tristan’s primarily need a proper small port and fishing boat harbour…

stephen duckworth

A 1MB pdf giving so interesting detail . On page 18 there is topographic map of the island followed by a bathometric map of the surrounding seas ( units are fathoms ) . Perhaps what they scrape of the volcano to make the runway could be belt conveyed to the coast to build a harbour similar to the Chinese operations in the South China Sea.
http://www.google.co.uk/url?q=https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/documents/mono-006.pdf&sa=U&ved=0CCAQFjAKahUKEwje0pW3woXGAhVHa9sKHYImAEE&usg=AFQjCNHtTpMgeS9AVGTL-FzI-uhcJ0EAKA

stephen duckworth

@wf
Agreed an all weather port would be of more use to the Islanders than a runway however useful to us as an MPA staging point. The bathometric map on the pdf I posted gives little detail. A proper tidal chart and related wind chart giving some detail of the conditions over a year would need to be completed . In terms of construction the options are endless from mining suitable local rock to floating in a Mulberry style concrete structures and sinking them onto a prepared seabed ( my favourite as less environmental issues or so I would of thought ) . When the harbour is built a runway at some later date could be more viable .

pettinger
pettinger

All these plans for a new large harbour and runway are all very well: anything is possible if you throw money and resources at it. The St Helena airport is costing the UK government £250 million, which will be paid off over 20 years by cancelling the £12 million annual subsidy for the Royal Mail ship, and it may be useful as a military airbase in the future. A new airport AND a new harbour on an even more isolated and difficult island will cost a lot more. Who is going to do this for less than 300 people who live by lobster fishing? As far as I know there are no useful minerals on the island, and no-one other than the islanders are going to need these facilities.

Jessica
Jessica

Hi Tony. I noticed your surname is Williams. My mother’s ancestors were from The Island of St. Helena. Her maiden name is also Williams. Her wish is to go see the Island before she dies. She will be 80 years old in Feb 2016. Please do go see the Island before it gets too crowded.

mike atherton
mike atherton

if you’ve never been you don’t know.
there is talk of retaining a service ship but it would take a lot longer to get there making any profit.

Dunservin
Dunservin

All part and parcel of the little-publicised effort to improve St Helena as an environmentally-friendly tourist destination when the airport is complete:

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2015/august/20/150820-rfa-flag-flies-as-divers-honour-wreck

wf
wf

Uh huh: airport opening postponed because of windshear issues.

http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/operational-readiness/

Something called out at the beginning of the project too. Oh well, keeping fingers crossed….

John Tyrrell
John Tyrrell

Yes, thinks don’t look too good for St Helena airport – the Government has had to start talks about bringing back the R.M.S. St Helena. Meanwhile the airport will be ok for smaller planes doing medical evacuations, and for the private jets of any billionaire who happens to be flying overhead.
http://johntyrrell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/the-disturbing-story-of-st-helena.html

stephen duckworth

Video of test landing at St Helena Airport with the pilot reporting high wind shear issues.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36493860

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Many American airports suffer from windshear & NASA has done a lot of research into it. A suitable ground based radar can give partial warning for a go around. Also experimental fitments of kit on airliners such as microwave radar &or lidar &or infrared. Perhaps the steep approach used at London City airport. Perhaps use a slightly too sturdy for its size, A318?

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