Yesterday, on publication of a UK PAC Report on St Helena Airport, DFID responded to media requests for comment by saying:
“One of the first things the Secretary of State did this summer was to take concrete actions to get the Airport up and running and to ensure the lessons from this project are learnt. We are already seeing the results.
“An external expert was brought in to review evidence of DFID’s actions while an independent panel has been tasked with finding a solution to challenges presented by wind shear.
“Following this work, St Helena Government has now released a tender for air services for a three year period to provide the best possible air service for the Island.
“18 flights have successfully landed so far – including three vital medevac flights. More flights are due next week. To uphold our duty to the island an extension of the Royal Mail Ship service will provide guaranteed access in the meantime.
“The Secretary of State is clear: we will deliver on what we promised for the Island and we will identify failures to ensure they are held to account, redressed and not repeated.”
In addition, St Helena Government observes the following:
- The UK PAC report was unable to take into account progress made at the Airport in recent weeks
- During this time, two large aircraft have successfully operated trial flights into the Airport, landing from both directions
- These were an Avro RJ100 jet aircraft operated by Tronos Jet Maintenance, and an Embraer ERJ-190-100 jet aircraft operated by Embraer Commercial Aviation
- Further trials with another large aircraft are expected shortly
- In addition, on 7 December 2016 SHG commenced a procurement exercise for regular scheduled air services
- SHG intends to appoint an operator or operators using an aircraft capable of landing on the southern approach (Runway 02), which involves a tailwind component
- This will be for a period of time, while we continue to explore the potential for scheduled services into the northern approach (Runway 20)
- And in order to continue to provide security of access to St Helena, SHG also announced an extension of the RMS St Helena service beyond 1 July 2017. Once scheduled commercial air services are fully established, the RMS will no longer be necessary and this service will terminate
St Helena Government also notes that the NAO report of 9 June 2016 – on which the UK PAC based its inquiry – contained a number of positive comments. SHG and DFID welcomed the NAO report and its focus on the objectives for investment in St Helena Airport, including increasing tourism, and economic and population growth – all designed to move St Helena towards financial self-sufficiency.
The NAO report also pointed out that estimating the likely costs and benefits of a project such as this is an inherently difficult task, particularly with a limited number of precedents for building an airport in such a remote location.
Meanwhile, work continues to mitigate the challenges of wind shear at St Helena Airport. We have always said that getting this right will take some time, and we are making steady progress.
15 December 2016