An aviation pressure group is arguing that proposals to extend Alderney’s runway would benefit only Aurigny and should not go ahead at a potential cost of tens of millions of pounds.
Last month, a public drop-in was held in Alderney to discuss a series of options for the future of the island’s airport. Among the suggestions was a proposal to extend and widen the runway with associated improvements to the taxiway and apron.
You can read the full list of proposed options HERE.
Aurigny has publicly supported a runway extension. Chief Executive Nico Bezuidenhout said that it would result in cost savings to the company within their wider plans of fleet rationalisation.
But the Guernsey Aviation Advisory Group (GAAG) thinks the proposals to extend Alderney’s runway would effectively demand the construction of an “entirely new airport” at an estimated cost of £56.2 million. It also disagrees with Mr Bezuidenhout’s suggestion that the move would result in financial savings to the taxpayer.
Among GAAG's concerns is the re-categorisation of the airport to a higher specification if larger aircraft were to operate from the island. It says this would demand substantial changes to perimeter security fencing, a new terminal building, enhanced baggage scanning and a new control tower.
GAAG says this is “an extremely technical and complex process controlled and managed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority".
Peter Bachmann, a member of GAAG, questions why “there is no option to not do anything substantial to the runway?”
Pictured: The States' Trading Supervisory Board is considering development options for Alderney's runway because it argues that it is beyond its design life.
But Guernsey Ports - part of Guernsey's States' Trading Supervisory Board, which is responsible for Alderney's airport, has argued that small changes are not an option as the “the main runway, taxiways and apron are reaching end of their life”.
"A ‘do nothing’ option has been discounted as it would involve ongoing deterioration of the existing surface, resulting in increased operational disruption, risk to aircraft safety and levels of reactive maintenance," said Guernsey Ports.
"This option was considered incompatible with the requirement to retain the airport as part of Alderney’s essential lifeline infrastructure."
GAAG points to an agreement from 1948 between the States of Guernsey and Alderney. It says that Guernsey “is under no contractual obligation to lengthen or widen the Alderney runway or to rebuild, extend or improve any of the ground facilities of the Alderney airport”.
It also points to the public service obligation now in place which requires the States of Guernsey to subside Aurigny's flights to and from Alderney and says it amounts to the Guernsey taxpayer having already paid towards supporting air services in Alderney “at a cost of £3.4million”.
“GAAG does understand that there is a moral ‘good neighbour’ debate to be had concerning infrastructure investment and other support to the Bailiwick’s smaller member. However, the quantum of support will have to be proportionate and financially rational," it said.
GAAG questions who would pay the tens of millions of pounds required to overhaul Alderney’s airport.
It also told Express that it doubts there is broad support among deputies in Guernsey for such proposals.
In response, Guernsey Ports said: “The States of Guernsey have an obligation to provide and maintain an aerodrome for Alderney." This is done under the terms of the 1948 agreement.
Pictured: Aurigny says that extending the runway in Alderney would help it to rationalise its fleet, possibly including replacing Dornier aircraft with ATR-72 turboprop aircraft to serve Alderney.
Guernsey Ports also highlighted that extending the runway would “accommodate larger ‘Code C’ aircraft”. This may allow Aurigny to run its extensive fleet of ATR turboprop aircraft on Alderney routes, rather than having to maintain Dornier aircraft for use in Alderney only, thus helping the airline to rationalise its fleet and potentially reduce costs.
This worries GAAG.
"The ATR-72 and its sister aircraft, the ATR-42, were never designed to operate on such short haul flights, such as the Guernsey-Alderney route, and such short 1,100-metre runways," it said.
"GAAG has been reliably informed that a fully-loaded ATR-72 cannot take off from such a short 1,100-metre runway.
"It is our understanding that passenger numbers are, therefore, likely to be restricted from 72 to a maximum of 40-45 passengers. This would render any Alderney/Guernsey flights with an ATR-72 financially completely unviable."
Tim Robins, an ex-pilot and member of GAAG, thinks the idea of landing ATRs in Alderney is “an utter, dangerous absurdity”.
“An ATR-72 aircraft has a sophisticated...landing system that will trigger mandatory ‘wind shear’ and ‘sink rate’ audible warnings because of the horrendous updrafts and downdrafts regularly experienced in Alderney - only to be further exacerbated by extending the runway further west, closer to the cliff edge,” said Mr Robins.
He said that a widened runway and the continued use of small aircraft “is the only prudent and safe long-term aviation solution to Alderney’s requirement”.
However, Guernsey Ports says that operating larger ATR-72 aircraft to Alderney would generate cost savings at a direct benefit to the States of Guernsey “through reductions in the cost of the [public service obligation] contract”.
Pictured: Plans to extend Alderney's runway have been welcomed by the States of Alderney, Alderney Chamber of Commerce and Alderney States' member Alex Snowdon (right), who also represents Alderney in the States of Deliberation in Guernsey.
GAAG also claims that Alderney no longer operates direct flights to Jersey or France because of onerous baggage screening requirements.
But Guernsey Ports says the lack of regular services is down to commercial considerations.
“[Alderney] has previously provided occasional ad hoc services to Jersey and France and can still do so - for example, to support sporting events,” said Guernsey Ports.
It said that Aurigny has flights between Alderney and Jersey on 10 and 13 June of this year.
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