Council To Proceed With Airport Refurbishment Plan

Plans include increasing passenger space in the terminal

Councillors have agreed to move forward with an ambitious plan to upgrade St Mary’s airport.

This follows a report to members that said the runway could close in September without resurfacing, at a cost of £1m.

It’s hoped that can be done as part of a larger £5m project to refurbish the airport but that will depend on being able to access European Development money. And the clock is ticking, as they’d need to complete the work by December next year.

The Council’s Strategic Investment Manager, Diana Mompoloki, said rebuilding the runway will take 18 months “and we need to start planning now.”

She said money could be found to make those repairs, but that would require the Council to either borrow money or sell some of their property assets, as there’s insufficient money in the airport reserves.

The airport has been running at a loss for several years.

Councillor Robert Dorrien Smith said there are so many uncertainties about the transport at the moment that, if possible, it should be supported.

He said the improvements in the passenger experience through reconfiguring the terminal will be vital, although Councillor Marian Bennett said the cost of fares was the biggest factor for most passengers. She said no matter how comfortable the facilities were, bringing down the cost had to be a priority.

Councillor Richard McCarthy was concerned that members had only recently been informed of the state of the runway. He said no report was brought to the General Purposes committee, which looks after the airport, and it was only discussed in the senior management team. And he felt the delay could have cost them vital time in moving forward with repairs.

Runway will need repairs soon

Diana says the biggest risk to accessing the EU funding is that decisions start to slip. She said the project has to be completed by December 2013 and there’s absolutely no flexibility.

Councillor Fred Ticehurst said in order to do the “great deal of work” needed to move the project forward, a working party was needed with access to the necessary resources.

But Councillor Chris Savill informed him that one had been in place since January – the one that had produced the report. That consisted of herself, as well as Councillors Mumford, Lowen and Bennett.

Chris said time was of the essence and decisions need to be made quickly, and there will be occasions when executive decisions will be required.

She said the report was very good and was equally important for the things it rules out, such as ending the myth that extending the runway and bringing in bigger planes is a good way forward.

But Councillors were also warned by Diana that, in the long term, the airport needs to return to the black. That will mean cutting costs as well as making more money. She said it’s not just about putting up landing charges but other things like how they sell fuel or renting out hangars.

After some debate over what constituted a working party, members finally agreed to stick with the existing one with the addition of Robert Dorrien Smith. They also agreed to move forward with the proposals for the airport and seek the funding required.


18 Responses to Council To Proceed With Airport Refurbishment Plan

  1. Jack, Maidstone July 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Truan, are you applying for the Airport Manager job by any chance!

    • Truan July 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm

      lol, no.

  2. Truan July 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Looking at the report, aircraft chosen for the ‘required runway length’ are only those currently operated, which I completely understand and it does explain why the shorter extension needed for something like the Dash-7 is missing.

  3. Truan July 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    So, the extension that is too costly is one to 1000m? Yeah, I can see that costing too much, given that it almost doubles the length of the runway – but it also seems excessive.

  4. Truan July 4, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Seem to be a fair few DHC-7s still around, and now that Viking have the type certificates for a number of the DHC aircraft you may even be able to get a brand new one at some point (they don’t seem to be selling them yet, although they are producing new Twin Otters) – at the very least they are producing parts so you don’t have the issue of scrabbling round trying to find parts from other aircraft.
    I see what you mean in relation to the Dornier-228, better range and more efficient, but same capacity would mean at least cheaper flights (perhaps) on the longer routes.
    I wonder if the ‘extension’ in the report was to widen the existing end parts, or to actually add some on. If its the latter then perhaps the former should have been considered as well, especially if it would allow something like a Dash-7 or a Dornier-228 to take-off.
    All that said, I think one of the other issues with something like the Dash-7 is the increased maintenance costs of 4 engines, may negate any potential savings from 50 passengers.

    • Diane Cidade July 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Truan (and those others interested) here is the link to the PDF file from the Council’s website which includes the working party’s summary and the actual report from Parsons Brinckerhoff under Agenda Item 4 (pages 65 and 79 of the PDF file, respectively):

      • Truan July 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm

        Thanks for the link, was planning to look it up this afternoon.

  5. Mike Vigar July 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    At the time the decision not to narrow the runway adjacant to the turning circles at each end was to prevent the operation of larger aircraft, e.g., DHC-7, was to protect the helicopter and for no other reason. Perhaps a little short sighted?
    But now then problem is can you find a Dash-7??
    The Cormier 228 is only 19 seats but it’s speed and range would give an operator a much wider choice of destinations with full loads unlike the Otter which can only operate with something like 75% of max capacity on the longer routes.

  6. Truan July 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    That is interesting, I wonder why he was looking at the Dornier 228 instead of the Twin Otters in use now given they have the same capacity and the Twin Otter can clearly operate from the existing runway. Its worth noting that the stated runway length is 600 meters, I believe the section at each end that is slightly narrower is treated as a taxiway/turning circle. If the full length of the runway is in fact 690 meters, then widening it would make it long enough for a Dash 7 perhaps?

    I do seem to remember at the time there was a lot of pressure *not* to make the runway capable of taking larger aircraft to avoid increased noise.

  7. Cassandra July 3, 2012 at 8:51 am

    This is what Charlie Cartwright wrote in the piece about the history of Skybus on his site.

    “During the winter of 1991/92 I carried out detailed investigations into the operation of a Dornier 228 fast commuter aircraft (see below). The standard version of this aeroplane required 690 metres for take off at full load. I discovered that the “extensions” which ostensibly lengthened the new runway from 600 to 690 metres, had been constructed at 16 meters wide rather than the 18 meter minimum width for a runway laid down by the CAA, and hence were useless in computing runway length for aircraft performance! For the Dornier we could only include 600 meters in the performance calculation and to operate on this shortened length we would require a special trim coupling modification to the aircraft which would cost in excess of ,100,000 to fit and which was not cleared by the CAA for use in the UK, all for the want of a few square meters of paving!

    ?I wrote to the Council on 5 February 1992 about it. On the advice of the new Chief Executive (Mr Hygate) they decided not to accede to my request to rectify the defect, once again using their position as airport operator to try and put obstacles in our way. “

  8. Louise July 2, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Has the world gone mad? The runway needs resurfacing – since when has a load of tarmac cost £1 million? Or is half of that administrative and management costs? And just because the runway requires resurfacing does it follow that we need a new airport or are we not getting the whole picture here?

    • Tamar July 3, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Laying a runway isn’t the same as laying a road. It’s not the kind of place you want pot holes to develop!

  9. Cassandra July 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    It may have been the Canadian freighter style aircraft that was in the mix at one point – let me check.

  10. Truan July 2, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I doubt it was the Dornier 228 that was an example, it may require more runway, but it has the same capacity as a Twin Ottter.
    The Dash-7 might be a candidate for larger aircraft as it only requires (I believe) an extra 89m on the tarmac runway to land (and probably some extra width) but can carry 50 passengers rather than the 19 or so of the Twin Otter and Dornier-228.
    The other issue with larger aircraft such as the Dash-7 is possibly the increased fire cover needed, which adds cost. All those cost (extension and fire cover) would be passed on in landing fees and could negate the savings in fares, and all this is assuming anyone is interested in operating a Dash-7 (although you could take a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude, but it’s a lot of money to spend on the offchance)

  11. Cassandra July 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Isn’t the issue to do with runway width as well as length? I read a report which said that when the main runway was originally hardened it was made fractionally too narrow for certain larger aircraft; I think the Dornier 228 was an example.

  12. Peter July 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    We love two groups of islands: Scilly and Madeira. Google images of Madeira’s runway then copy the idea. I’m joking, but a possibility, albeit watered down…?

  13. JeffEastick June 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Believe report rules out extending runway for larger aircraft. Presume airfield will remain open for Skybus/heli whilst improvement work is carried out ?

  14. Jack, Maidstone June 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Cutting costs and making more money?

    I agree, but how?

    Any increase in landing charges will result in greater fares, that’s simple maths, the airline operators aren’t going to take a hit to help out the islands, we KNOW this.

    So what other ideas are on the table?

    The most common sense suggestion for them, and us, are bigger capacity aircraft and less frequent flights. If it means landing at Newquay then so be it, we’re going to have to make sacrifices if this is going to work.