No ‘Satisfactory Answer’ Why Technology to Reduce Flight Disruption Isn’t Operational

airport 12The new EGNOS system at St Mary’s Airport, which should help planes fly in poorer weather conditions, will still not be working by the start of the 2016 holiday season.

And the Chairman of the Council’s Transport, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee says he can’t get a satisfactory answer as to why.

Cllr Robert Dorrien-Smith raised the issue at the committee’s meeting on Tuesday, where councillors voted to increase airport landing fees by 15%.

When planes can’t fly, it means the airport loses those charges. Council Chairman Amanda Martin said that has “a material bearing” on those fees.

In response to questioning, Senior Infrastructure Manager Craig Dryden said the airport was still working with the CAA to get the system commissioned and it was likely to be in place “by the end of the calendar year.”

EGNOS uses satellites to augment the existing GPS signals, so that pilots can rely on it for a safe approach under reduced visibility – conditions that would currently result in aircraft being grounded.

It was fitted at St Mary’s and Land’s End Airports as part of the upgrade programme, managed by the Council’s Strategic Development team led by Senior Manager Diana Mompoloki.

The work at St Mary’s Airport cost £580,000 more than expected and has been criticised by councillors and members of the public for its poor design and quality.

The project was completed in autumn 2014 but in January 2015, former Airport Manager Howard Cole told councillors that the EGNOS system was “unlikely to be complete until next winter.”

Officers did not give a reason for the continued delay at St Mary’s although Cllr Dorrien-Smith said he understood the system will be operational at Land’s End Airport, which is managed by the Steamship Company, this spring.

Steamship Company Chief Executive Rob Goldsmith told ScillyToday: “We are disappointed to hear, if true, that EGNOS is unlikely to be delivered until the end of the year or beyond when we have been working so hard to have these implemented much earlier at Land’s End with our first runway due later in the spring.

“We are also disappointed that a number of very basic problems with the new St Mary’s Airport facilities have still not been fixed after more than a year of repeated requests for action which does not sit at all well with a desire by the Council to significantly increase charges.”

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