13 JUNE 2016


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Article from BTNews 13 JUNE 2016

COMMENT: The empire strikes back

As part of the British Overseas Territory that also includes Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, St Helena could reasonably be seen as a tiny remnant of empire, a bit like the Falkland Islands but with better weather. 

It is one of the most remote places on earth and for some time has been struggling valiantly (or not, according to your point of view) first of all to persuade the British government to give it an airport and, having succeeded in that, to get it built. 

Now it is built and it is certificated but it turns out there is a worm in the apple in the shape of a problem with wind-shear, a not unknown phenomenon in aviation.

For some reason, possibly not unconnected with the slight whiff of empire already mentioned, this has led to a flurry of hostile media reports which have also alluded to the airport costing £250m to build. Some of us may think that’s not a big price to pay for a whole new airport; rather less in fact than the £350m a week the UK is alleged to have to pay for the privilege of being in the EU, but that’s another story.

The cheering thing about this situation is that St Helena decided not to take the criticism lying down. As reported in this issue, the governor, Lisa Phillips, appointed in January, sworn-in in April and already a Twitter regular, has brought out a statement saying in so many words there’s nothing wrong with her airport that can’t be fixed. 

“Press reports in the UK and elsewhere that describe St Helena Airport as being ‘scrapped’, ‘mothballed’ or ‘postponed indefinitely’ are incorrect,” she storms. “The situation remains as in our last update …we are collecting wind data which will allow larger planes to land … but this will take some time.”

Sounds fair – unlike some of the press she’s had lately. 

Oh, and she’s also young and blonde. Wait till the media get hold of that.

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John Baxter-Smith, Haywards Heath England

I've always found BTN quite an intersting read btu now see its slumping to similar depths as the Sun or Daily Mail in using any old excuse to have a dig at the EU. I have no idea if this airport will turn out to be a white elephant or worth its £250m but I do know that we don't give away £350m to the EU for nothing. Some we get back in cash, the rest is the cost of being an influential member of a club where we have a say in how its run and where the benefits both financial and other far outweigh the costs.