Mother Nature threatens to blow up airport project on remote island

Mother Nature threatens to blow up airport project on remote island

A brand new $560m airport on a remote British island may be forever mothballed over fears dangerous prevailing winds could flip incoming passenger jets.

The cliff-top airport on St Helena, which lies 1800km off the African coast and 2900km east of Brazil, was scheduled to open in May

But heat is now coming on the UK government who went ahead with construction, despite repeated warnings from pilots who were adamant the exposed site was a passenger jet disaster waiting to happen.

Larry Erd, who has flown in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, aborted a recent flight to the island because of concerns the runway was too dangerous.

Erd was due to fly a British politician to the island, but pre-flight he had harbored grave misgivings over wind shear – one of the biggest causes of deadly aviation accidents.

Another test pilot who took on the tricky approach before the airport was set to open described the landing as “hair-raising”

After delaying the opening of the airport for an indefinite time, St Helena’s governor Lisa Phillips acknowledged wind shear was an issue.

Ms Phillips denied the winds have spelled the end for the island’s airport.

She said authorities were now trying to identify which type of aircraft was most susceptible to wind shear and which could land safely.

The airport was planned to boost tourism and secure supply lines to the island, which was once held by French emperor Napoleon before defeat in 1815.

St Helena, home to some 4100 inhabitants, has been connected to the world by a mail ship that makes a four-day trip to the island from South Africa every three weeks.

That vessel was scheduled to be retired with the opening of the new airport.

A former British Airways pilot claimed he had warned UK Prime Minister David Cameron about wind shear problems on St Helena.

“If an airport is built on the edge of a near-vertical 1000-foot cliff, the prevailing wind is bound to cause problems,” Brian Heywood wrote in St Helena Independent.

“To grumble about wind shear at St Helena airport is a bit like grumbling about the heat in a newly built Sahara airfield in the summer. It is entirely predictable.”


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