Building a $400mm airport on a 10 mile long island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean might seem a bit of a boondoggle. Finding out after the construction is completed that the field is “too windy” and therefore the runway’s use is postponed indefinitely? Yeah, that’s all sorts of awkward for St Helena.
Turns out that the first 737 flight in earlier this year was successful in that it landed and allowed for certification of the runway, the ATC systems and various other requirements. But it also set off the wind shear alert too often, raising concerns about reliable operations to the remote atoll. You can also see in the landing footage shown in the video below from the first arrival – the runway calibration prop plane – that it was crabbing in to the wind to line up with the approach, an additional challenge to mix with the cliffs, short field and lack of nearby diversion airports.
Following certification of St Helena Airport on Tuesday 10 May 2016, all parties are working to overcome the challenges of wind shear identified by the first few flights into the Airport. This work includes the development of appropriate operational procedures needed to allow services to use the northern Runway (20), where wind shear has been identified, as well as options for using the southern Runway (02), where wind shear has not been identified.
There’s more explanation in this BBC story. But, for now, regular access will remain a 5 day sailing on the RMS St. Helena, a combination passenger and mail ship out of Cape Town, South Africa.
Also, we talked about the island airport in a couple recent Dots, Lines and Destinations episodes. Give a listen if you want to hear more.
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