The States of Alderney and Alderney Chamber of Commerce have penned a joint letter to Express, rebuking claims made against runway extension proposals by a former pilot and States member.
Ian Carter, Chairman of Alderney's Policy & Finance Committee, and Andrew Eggleston, President of the Chamber of Commerce, share their thoughts below:
It is certainly not true that the majority of Alderney residents do not believe the project is right for Alderney. We have held two very well-attended public drop-ins in which the response was overwhelmingly in favour of an extended runway and full airport regeneration – in excess of 200 local people attended yesterday’s drop-in with conservative estimates that three-quarters were supportive of the project.
Many of these were young parents and local businesses, both groups expressing firm support as they see the airport regeneration as essential for the island’s economic growth and the next generation’s future. The Alderney Chamber of Commerce, which represents most of the island’s businesses, is also 100% committed to this view, as are all of the States’ Members who represent the people of Alderney.
We fail to understand why Mr Burridge, who has been retired for many years from active participation in the aviation industry, should be writing to the media and deputies with such strong – and frequently inaccurate – opinions against the project when there is such hope here in Alderney that we will have an airport fit for the 21st Century and air links that include a direct Alderney-Southampton route. He does not appear to be in touch with the needs of the next generation.
Mr Burridge persists with his insistence that the project will cost at least twice as much as that quoted in the Outline Business Case. His figures are plucked out of the air and have no basis in reality, a reality which can only become clear when the work is put out to tender should the Guernsey Deputies agree to proceed to this stage.
A response to his attack on Aurigny is best left to that airline and its owners, but yesterday we were privileged to have the Chief Executive, Nico Bezuidenhout, with us for the day to explain lucidly how the development will bear on the provision of air links into and out of Alderney and its resulting impact on future subsidies. It beggars belief that a long-retired pilot would consider that his personal views should carry more weight and influence than the aviation industry specialist that the States of Guernsey themselves appointed specifically to guide Aurigny to firmer financial and more sustainable future in regard to its services in both islands, and who has vastly improved day-to-day and strategic relationships .
Mr Burridge appears to want Alderney to return to the past with small aircraft operating to the other Channel Islands, including a medevac ‘taxi’ service. If this project were not to proceed, it would likely mean the removal of the Dorniers from the route and almost certainly the withdrawal of Aurigny (which is a government-backed airline) from both our lifeline routes. If, however, Guernsey was still prepared to continue to subsidise Alderney’s air links beyond the end of 2025 at a lower annual level of subsidy, then it is likely that services at best would return to eight/nine seat Islander types of small aircraft operating between Alderney and Guernsey.
It is unlikely there would be any scheduled service direct to the mainland, and certainly not to a major airport with modern connecting infrastructure like Southampton.
While some may hark back to the ‘good old days’, this does not future-proof Alderney Airport – its tired terminal becoming ever older with no assurance of airport rehabilitation – and we would remain an economic backwater while the other Channel Islands prosper without us. Looking backwards is a dangerous way to approach the future in our fast-changing world.
This view also overlooks the fact that the majority of the old Trislander fleet was effectively financed, and thus provided by, the then traffic on the Guernsey-Jersey route. Such traffic has declined and is now fully accommodated by ATR aircraft. It also overlooks the many significant changes to aircraft security and safety that has happened since Mr Burridge retired as a pilot. Few people would now wish to return to those more liberal days with reduced safety procedures.
The increased runway length would permit aircraft such as the Kingair to operate into Alderney Airport. Hitherto, this has not been possible because of Alderney’s restricted runway length. In addition to upgrading the island’s medical service from an air taxi to an air ambulance, the provision of a medevac service will also reduce the costly disruptions to Aurigny and its scheduled passengers.
Finally, Mr Burridge makes no mention of the several derogations and variations under which Alderney Airport operates. These are determined outside the Islands by regulators, and over which we have very little or no control. If these are withdrawn or changed, which could occur at any time, Alderney would be left without satisfactory air services. If it proceeds, the project will make such derogations obsolete. The increased runway length and width, together with improved security systems, will thus future-proof Alderney’s air services. This is critical for the future of the island, especially to Island businesses and to our younger people, including parents with families who hope to see a vibrant social and economic community on Alderney for the future.
The option now being considered of a rehabilitated, extended and widened runway suitable for larger aircraft would not only future-proof Alderney, but it would also enable the Island’s tourist industry and population to grow with increased employment opportunities and significant positive impacts on Alderney’s economy. This would contribute further revenues to the Bailiwick Exchequer.
Rather than look back fondly on the past, we prefer to look towards a brighter future.