Panel appointed to review solutions for grounded St Helena airport

03 October 2016

The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, has appointed an external expert to review the process that has seen a delay in the start of regular air services to St Helena, a spokesperson for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) told Engineering News.

“The department will establish an independent panel from both government and the private sector to find a solution.

“The DFID has a duty to the British taxpayer to ensure value for money as we meet our international obligations to the people of St Helena and the new Secretary of State will demand fresh thinking to make this happen.”

The £286-million St Helena Airport was due to open in May. However, the start of operations was delayed indefinitely, owing to safety fears related to turbulence and wind shear, which make it difficult to land commercial airliners on the island.

The remote island – a British overseas territory 2 300 km north-west of Walvis Bay – was previously only accessible by ship, the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena, in a journey that takes four to five days from South Africa. The new airport was built to boost tourism to the island and to make the island less dependent on aid.

South African construction firm Basil Read was, in November 2011, awarded the contract to design, build and operate the airport on St Helena. Construction started in 2012 and potential sites for an airport on St Helena were believed to be limited.

Basil Read is responsible for airport operations to 2026.

The company referred all enquiries to the DFID. 

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