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STRUTH! Flightless airport’s wind of fear

February 4, 2017 Weird & Wacky No Comments Email Email

THE Queen has knighted a British public servant who sanctioned a 285 million pounds grant – that’s around AU$490m – to build an airport on a remote South Atlantic island, but which can’t be used because the island’s too windy for planes to take off or land.

Sir Mark Lowcock received his New Year’s knighthood for “public service” as head of the Department of International Development,  that amongst other things funded the airport on St Helena Island, a British territory 1,900km off south-western Africa and one of the world’s most isolated communities.

But after it was officially opened last May, St Helena’s own local government banned the new airport’s use because of wind shear, which it said was “one of the biggest causes of fatal air accidents.” And while several test and medical emergency flights have been made since, pilots of these described take-offs and landings as “hair raising” because of the unpredictable wind shear off cliffs near to the runway.

However the local government has now called tenders to see if it can find an operator game enough to provide its four-thousand residents with a commercial air link to South Africa’s Johannesburg.

And while they patiently await, the islanders continue with ships to carry themselves, cargo, mail and tourists 5-days from Cape Town to their tiny dot (to which, incidentally, Napoleon was exiled after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, and where he died in 1821.)

FOOTNOTE: Sir Mark Lowcock’s department annually gives 12-billion pounds sterling in aid (AU$19bn) to struggling nations and territories, critics suggesting he should have been knighted “Sir Waste-a-Lot.”

David Ellis

RUNWAY to nowhere: St Helena’s new 285m pounds sterling (AU$490m) airport that can’t be used because the island’s too windy. (St Helena Tourism)

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