St Helena airport opening delayed by safety concerns

10th Jun 2016
St Helena airport opening delayed by safety concerns

The opening of a new airport on the British overseas territory of St Helena has been delayed over safety fears.

Despite a series of test flights, high winds have made it impossible for commercial aircraft to land at the new airport.

The project, which cost £285 million, was paid for the by the Department for International Development.

It was due to open in May, with warnings the cost to the UK government could now rise.

DFID said it was committed to helping St Helena become “self-sufficient”, with plans in place to “design, build and operate” an airport.


However, there is currently no timetable for the airport to open or figure on potential cost overruns.

DFID and the St Helena government are currently looking at the options for dealing with the problem caused by the wind conditions.

In a statement St Helena governor Lisa Phillips said: “The situation remains as in our last update. 

“This is that there are wind shear challenges on one runway which means larger planes cannot currently land safely.

“We are collecting wind data which will allow larger planes to land on this runway, but this will take some time.

“Wind shear is a factor at several airports around the world, including London City Airport, where safe landings happen every day.

“In the meantime, we are working hard to identify an interim flight solution that can land on our second runway.

“There is no wind shear on this second runway, but there is a tailwind. 

“We have identified aircraft types which can land in these conditions, and airlines that have such planes - and we are now exploring the specific availability of aircraft with these airlines.

“The airport is certified and open.”

The Royal Mail Ship St Helena, which provides a weekly service to the island, was due to be decommissioned next month and not be replaced.

However, the ship may now make further journeys to the remote island.

St Helena lies approximated 1,150 miles off the west coast of Africa in the South Atlantic Ocean

The island is famous as the location for the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte.


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