Options for the refurbishment of Guernsey’s airport runway

January 17th, 2009 by Shane Langlois

Deputy Minister Bernard Flouquet of the States of Guernsey Public Services Department invited Assembly members to put forward suggestions on alternative approaches to upgrade the Guernsey Airport runway.

Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher’s sursis included examples of three possible alternative approaches for the runway. I would like to add a further one, based on the following;

1. Our airport is built on a plateau with valleys to the East and West. Infilling either or both these valleys to extend the airport boundaries would;

a. Be extremely expensive, involving as it would importing several hundred thousand tonnes of fill material and

b. Destroy forever the landscape of the valleys including, at the western end, the setting of one of Guernsey’s twenty one Grande Maisons.

2. It is very plausible that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will increase the mandatory length of Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs) at Code 4, typically international & large regional, airports from 90m to 240m.

It is not so plausible that the CAA will insist on the increase for Code 3, typically small regional, airports such as ours. It would be illogical to do so when the forward momentum of a regional jet/turboprop landing is so much less than that of a 747.

3. If one took regional jets at maximum weight out of the equation our existing runway, resurfaced, would be perfectly adequate for our current turboprop services and for the next generation of 90+ seat turboprops which are planned to come into service in seven years time.

4. There is no guarantee that any airline will fly 120 seat regional jets into Guernsey given our tiny catchment area. Spending huge sums preparing the airport for such regional jets at maximum weight is putting all our eggs into one basket. Our objective is maintaining our air links. It may well be that the most efficient way of doing this is less work to the airport infrastructure and more cash in reserve to cut airport taxes, secure slots at UK airports, etc.

5. The Guernsey Department of Commerce and Employment’s proposal is, in effect, to spend £120 million providing us with a large regional airport. This right in the middle of an island with a small land mass and a population density in the world’s top ten for jurisdictions greater than 50 square kilometre. The economic and environmental consequences would be disastrous.

Between the Guernsey Public Service Department’s ‘Baseline Proposal’ and the ‘rehabilitate the existing pavements only’ alternative option c. of the sursis lies the sensible solution to the problem.  I have sketched a runway layout, within the confines of the existing airport boundaries, which could accommodate all existing services and the Embraer 195 (fuelled for 500nm) with the Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs) extended to 135 metres ie 50% more than our current shortest RESA. I am obviously not putting this forward as the solution, I have only come lately to airport design. It is intended to illustrate that there are alternative, more affordable solutions if only we apply a ‘Guernsey filter’ to the understandably universal recommendations of the consultants.

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