St Mary’s Airport Not Fit For Purpose According To Report

St Mary's Airport 'not fit for purpose'

St Mary’s airport is not fit for purpose, according to a report prepared by the Council Economic Development Team and air traffic controllers.

The report, which was discussed by Councillors, claims significant investment is needed to bring it up to standard.

The key problem is with capacity – the airport was designed for just four helicopter flights per day, not the current level of traffic and the report suggests the current passenger numbers needs to be maintained to ensure all travellers have a pleasant experience.

And, as the Blue Sail tourism report warned, there are few facilities for people delayed by technical or weather problems.

So Councillors have approved hiring expert aviation consultants to provide an assessment on what can done to improve and safeguard operations in the future.

The advisors will have a varied ‘to-do’ list.

The uncertainty over the future of British International Helicopters operations to Scilly is one reason for this project and the Town Hall will explore the feasibility of establishing ‘Public Service Obligation Route’ status. This would mean that, if the helicopters ceased operating, leaving Skybus as a sole operator, then European rules wouldn’t be breached if the service was subsidised and that could mean lower ticket prices.

They’ll also be asked what can be done to reduce cancelled flights and to improve the facilities for those passengers subject to delays – over the February 2011 school holidays, only 39 out of a total of 88 scheduled flights actually operated.

Buying additional navigational aids could allow more flying in less than perfect visibility while work could be done to lessen the impact of crosswinds and extend the paved area, which could help when flying is jeopardised by wet grass.

They’ll also investigate improving the airport access road, which Council staff say is winding, narrow and steep.

And the experts will be asked for their ideas on increasing the terminal building size to allow for growth. Another check-in desk could allow a third operator to start services – we understand that enquiries have been made by an airline who may wish to fly from Scilly to one of the smaller London area airports.

However, there’s not enough money in the Council’s airport budget to carry out works that need doing. Your council tax isn’t allowed to subsidise the airport – it has to stand alone and has just £300k in funds available, so a European grant for half the proposed £500k has been submitted.

Councillor Marian Bennett was very clear in her views saying she felt the work was vital for the future of the islands.