The St Helena government has responded to reports that the new airport project on the South Atlantic island is set to be scrapped following wind shear challenges discovered on the northern approach of the runway.
St Helena Airport, constructed on the British island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, had been scheduled to receive its first commercial B-737 flight in May 2016, but test flights revealed wind shear challenges at the northern end of the runway.
Wind shear can prove hazardous for larger aircraft and has been attributed to several aviation incidents in history. However, the southern end of the runway is unaffected and has handled flights by several smaller aircraft in recent weeks.
“Press reports in the UK and elsewhere that describe St Helena Airport as being scrapped, mothballed or postponed indefinitely are incorrect,” said Lisa Phillips, governor of St Helena. “There are wind shear challenges on one runway (the northern approach) which means larger planes (737-800) cannot currently land safely. We are collecting wind data that 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 (from the south). There is no wind shear on this second runway, but there is a tailwind. We have identified aircraft types that can land in these conditions, and airlines that have such planes – and we are now exploring the specific availability of aircraft with these airlines.”