Fog-related transport update from Ports of Jersey

Tuesday 14 March 16:17

Fog-related transport update from Doug Bannister, CEO, Ports of Jersey.

Following a number of fog-related transport queries, from Chamber members, after last week's weather issues, please see below the response from Doug Bannister, CEO, Ports of Jersey.

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Dear Chamber,

Thank you for your recent enquiry relating to the measures Ports of Jersey is undertaking to develop our capability to operate in foggy (low visibility) conditions.  You can find more information and a Q&A on our website at jerseyairport.com where we have addressed many of the common questions.  Furthermore, should you have any other questions about Ports of Jersey or require additional information, you can send them into our dedicated email address ask@ports.je and we will do our best to answer them.

Jersey Airport has the same Instrument Landing System (ILS) and low visibility equipment as have other airports in the UK, including Southampton, Birmingham, Heathrow and Gatwick.  Jersey Airport is classed as a ‘Category 1’ ILS, whereas despite having the same technical equipment, Heathrow and Gatwick are Category 3, which allows them to operate in worse conditions than Jersey. The differences between these larger airports and ours is they have longer runways, better topology (ie they don’t have a cliff at the end of their runway) and fewer obstacles (i.e. our Arrivals building and St Peter’s Church).

There is no current technology that Ports of Jersey could invest in so as to improve our operations beyond where we are today; although there are some emerging technologies that hold promise for us – and these are very much on our radar.

Even though fog only disrupts less than 5% of our total flying hours throughout the year (based on first half 2016 data), we are only too aware of the challenges that it presents to our passengers.  For example, during the disruption last week, Ports of Jersey was requested to facilitate an emergency medical evacuation with the unusual step of landing a coastguard helicopter on Victoria Avenue.  We know such conditions challenge islanders and visitors, and why they are important to Ports of Jersey.

The ability to invest in future improvements to our operational resilience, without recourse to tax payers’ funds, is one of the main reasons why Ports of Jersey was incorporated in 2015.  To address these issues, some of the activities that we have done or are currently doing include:

  1. Introduced new procedures, called ‘Lower than Cat 1 ILS’, whereby aircraft with the right equipment and aircrew appropriately trained in using it on Jersey approaches, can land in worse conditions than normal Category 1 ILS.  Not all aircraft and pilots have this equipment and training, which can be why one aircraft can land while another is ‘holding’.  This has made a marked improvement.
  2. Clearing airfield obstacles, which is necessary to retain our current Cat 1 ILS.  The larger obstacles, including the Arrivals Building and former Jersey Hangar next to the runway are being addressed through our Airport Master Plan investments.  In 2015, we also invested £1.5 million in purchasing and removing two houses to the north of the airfield, which were the two next most important obstacles.  As a part of this investment, we have also provided community benefit through the creation of dedicated footpaths and cycle tracks through the purchased property.
  3. Investing in new technology, including our Runway Visual Range and Remote Tower Contingency.  The new Runway Visual Range equipment, as a part of our Automated Weather Observation System project that has a value of £463k will allow us to more accurately measure the visibility down the runway, which is essential when conditions are changeable and marginal.  The Remote Tower Contingency will allow us to continue to operate the airport if the ATC building has to be evacuated, and it further has the ability to introduce infrared technology, which may assist in low visibility operations.
  4. Investigating new technologies, including satellite-based navigation.  This technology is still in development and a few years away, but it could help Jersey Airport to improve our ability to land aircraft in lower visibility conditions than today; perhaps even allowing us to become a Category 2 ILS.

To improve our ILS capability using the existing technology available to us would necessitate having to make some very large capital investments with high impact in our community.  This would include removing all airfield obstacles and extending our runway by a minimum of 200 metres but preferably up to 300 metres, which could cost £100+ million.  We are addressing the immediate obstacles, including the two houses that we have already removed on the northern part of the airfield, Arrivals Building and the Jersey Hangar. However, with an extended runway more obstacles come into the protected area that would need to be removed, which would have a profound impact on St Peter’s Village, including the church. Furthermore, the main road between the Airport and St Peter’s Village would have to be moved in order to accommodate the longer runway.

While we may be able to raise funding to achieve these things, we believe the investment of over £100 million to partially improve less than 5% of our flying hours, the greater impact would be on our community with the radical changes to areas bordering an extended runway operation.  Nowadays, aviation technology is changing rapidly and we believe a technical solution will yield greater future benefit; hence this is where we are focusing our effort.

I hope I have been able to answer you questions but once again if you or your members have any further questions please do not hesitate to email ask@ports.je.

Best regards,

Doug Bannister,

Group CEO

Ports of Jersey.

 

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