The British government has just built a new airport. Lifeline to a remote community. Its cost has so far ballooned to £285 million. Yet seems doomed to never see a plane. As Napoleon supposedly said whilst exiled there in 1816, St Helena does indeed seem “an accursed island”.
As a ghost airport it may not be the world’s first. Yet it is still utterly disgraceful.
Here’s one such summary, from London’s newspaper of national record and their column, Thunderer;
“Due to have opened in May (2016), it has been mothballed indefinitely after it emerged that wind conditions make it too dangerous for planes to take off or land.
No proper wind tests had been carried out before the airport was built.
You might think that it would have occurred to someone during the planning stage to ensure it was safe for planes to use.
But that would be to assume a basic degree of competence….”
There’s plenty of coverage across UK media on this right now. Including giving voice to the sagacious that evidently informed those involved that they were building the runway in the wrong place.
Their words considered so prescient that would-be bidders supposedly withdrew as a result.
The major issue is that on the tiny volcanic outcrop, where the building has taken place there’s unpredictable wind flows that can (and often have elsewhere) proved fatal. As one former pilot is widely reported noting;
“If an airport is built on the edge of a near 1,000ft cliff, the prevailing wind is bound to cause problems. To grumble about windshear at St Helena is a bit like grumbling about the heat in a newly built Saharan airfield in the Summer. It is entirely predictable.”
Oh dear. Yet all this heartache from a cliff-top landing strip white elephant could have been avoided. How?
A simple Wind Test.
The unsafe landing conditions could have been easily discovered, documented and hopefully diverted.
It feels one of those back-of-the-envelope decisions.
When the simplest and cheapest of preliminary sketches can irreversibly shape and cost a long and complex project.
Every project has a point before which justification can race away, along an unstoppable trajectory all of its own.
Accepting that to over-analyse any project would invariably lead to it being rendered a non-starter, there still remains a useful basis to ask prospects what their Wind Test has been for the solution you seek to bid for.
And save yourself your own millions.