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