The Falkland Islands' Executive Council has considered a proposal to investigate the future development options for Stanley Airport. A paper put to ExCo by the General Manager Aviation Services and Director of Civil Aviation was described as not a comprehensive review of all the options, but gives approval for the Chief Executive to develop clear terms of reference for a study which can define the realistic potential usage options for Stanley Airport.
The ExCo paper recommends that the focus for future development options be based on attracting the regular South America based air ambulance providers, such as Aerocardal (Gulfstream G150) and small regional airlines such as the 80 passenger Aerovias DAP (BAE 146-200) whilst ensuring the airport remains sufficiently able to cater for FIGAS and possible future heavy helicopter operations in support of hydrocarbons exploration.
It was noted that this type of development would also make the airport more appealing to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Increasing the current runway size would be required for the air ambulance aircraft operators and small regional airlines.
The report notes that the required runway size for the air ambulance service providers is similar to that required for small regional passenger aircraft but the passenger aircraft would require additional passenger and ground handling facilities such as higher rescue and fire fighting capabilities, aviation security and a larger passenger terminal, etc which would represent a significant investment but could be completed in stages over a period of time.
It is not recommended that time and money is invested in exploring an upgrade of the airport to accommodate large passenger aircraft such as the weekly LATAM service because this would mean duplicating the airport that already exists at Mt Pleasant.
The paper stated: “It is important to understand that just increasing the size of the runway to the minimum dimensions to allow the operation of larger aircraft such as the air ambulance operators may still not be enough to entice them to use Stanley Airport.
A pilot faced with the task of flying from Santiago to the Falklands return, a journey of some 6-7 hours, perhaps at night and/ or in poor weather is going to look at the options of Stanley and Mt Pleasant and the runway size will not be the only thing on his mind; the pilot will also be interested in the facilities that go with the runway: the runway lighting, firefighting capability, the type of air traffic control service available and the standard of landing aids, etc.
“Typically FIG has barely complied with the requirements in many of these areas whereas, using the example of an air ambulance flight, the facilities at Mt Pleasant are better in every regard.”
It was also flagged up that the Government cannot not compel operators to use Stanley Airport.
“Some of the air ambulance providers do operate aircraft that theoretically could use Stanley based on runway size alone but when recently asked by the DCA, they stated that they would not plan to use Stanley; we need to fully understand why as we explore options further.
KEMH’s hospital manager has also confirmed that being able to conduct emergency medical evacuations from Stanley would be a significant clinical improvement.
The complete paper is available at www.fig.gov.fk (Penguin News)