Positive Response For St Mary’s Airport Plans

airport plans entrance
Islanders got their first chance to see the plans for St Mary’s airport at a special exhibition held in the Old Wesleyan Chapel last Friday.

Around a hundred people visited the display and the Council’s Strategic Investment Manager, Diana Mompoloki, says the response has been largely positive.

The plan involves resurfacing the runway, something that has to be done to allow continued use, as well as refurbishing the terminal building.

The entire runway will be resurfaced in just eleven nights, starting at 7pm in the evening and finishing at 6am in the morning, meaning no disruption to normal scheduled flights. Diana says this is a major change from the last time it was resurfaced, which took six months.

A special large machine will be brought over to lay the asphalt, at a cost of £800,000, and because of the cost of bringing the machinery here, they’ll also be making best use of it by relaying the surface on Church Rd, Church St, Hugh St and The Strand.

That’s likely to happen towards the end of September.

airport plans seating 2

There will be changes to the apron area of the airport, currently used for Skybus arrivals, with more isolated parking for the air ambulance and cargo planes. It means more privacy for sick patients and less disruption caused by freight movements.

The café will move to the far end of the terminal and there’ll also be a glass extension to the front, which Diana says will make the terminal brighter and airier than at present, and the number of seats will be doubled to 186.

This will make the terminal much more pleasant if passengers are delayed by bad weather.

It also means there’s more space for extra security measures in the future, should the airport have to put them in, although this will come at the expense of seating.

Because the airport is used by many people travelling for medical reasons, there’ll also a separate first aid room that can be used by sick patients. It can also be used by the police for escorting people to the mainland.

airport plans exteriorAnother new feature will be carousels for baggage, because of new restrictions on the amount of lifting that baggage handlers can now perform.

But Diana says this is not just about space and new facilities. It’s about improving our image and making the island’s as aspirational for visitors as possible, as well as improving the whole experience for residents.

The colours and materials are inspired by Scilly, she says, with light wooden finishes that are elegant and subtle.

The proposed EGNOS navigation system will make some improvements to weather resilience, says Diana, but more importantly will bring the airport up to the higher safety standards that will be required in the future.

But the proposed changes to parking arrangements are likely to be the most controversial.

There will only be passenger drop off and pick up, with no long term parking allowed at the front except for transport minibuses. It’s to bring the airport up to the latest security requirements, says Diana, which restricts parking in front of airport terminals.

Taxi operators will be asked to pay for a permit to pick passengers up, although the cost hasn’t been agreed.

airport plans seatingDiana says the majority of comments from people attending the exhibition have been very positive, with people liking the look and feel of the designs.

The proposals are still subject to grant funding being awarded for the scheme, and Diana says they’re likely to hear if that’s successful in July.

The bid for hardening the runway at Land’s End airport is also part of the overall proposal for improved air transport to the islands. Diana says the business case for that is very good, and it’s gone to the grant awarding body for review.

And she doesn’t feel that competition from the Cornwall-run Newquay airport is a good argument against that bid being successful.

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