Ascension : Widewake Airfield Agreement For Commerical Air Operations
Submitted by The Islander (Nathan Prince) 01.11.2003 (Article Archived on 15.11.2003)
On 1st October 2003, the British Government and the US Government signed an “in principal” agreement to open the Wideawake Airfield for Commercial Air Operations.
The RAF Tristar landing at Wideawake Airfield.
(Photograph by Theresa Corker-Coleman)
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) visited the airfield earlier this year, following up a visit made in 1998 which made a series of recommendations of improvements needed to Wideawake Airfield to bring it in line with International civilian standards. More visits will almost certainly be necessary before the CAA will be satisfied that civilian standards will be met.
The Island Administrator, Mr Kettlewell told 'The Islander' that upgrading Wideawake is going to need a step-by-step process. The first step will be employ a consultant to advise the Island Council on the work needed to comply with civilian, rather than military standards. Once it is clear what work will be needed the Ascension island Government will need to look for the funding to undertake the work, which will be recovered through landing fees charged to charter flight operators who use Wideawake Airfield.
At present the Agreement only allows four “air movements” (either a landing or a take-off per week). This arrangement can be reviewed annually.
The island’s present infrastructure will only allow for small numbers of visitors so initially only small aircrafts or jets seating 50 passengers will be sought. An increase in the availability of accommodation will be needed before larger planes can be accommodated at Wideawake.
Mr Kettlewell also said that for tourism purposes it might be possible to attract flights not only arriving from the UK but a range of destinations such as Florida, South Africa or South America.
Incoming flights would see an influx of tourists, this means an increase in Ascension’s population that would place greater pressure on the Island as a whole. The task of creating a complementary infrastructure to accommodate the tourists highlights the need for investment and development. The future for Ascension is in creating a healthy tourist industry that can sustain the development of the Island and protect its most valuable assets.
This Agreement is seen as beneficial to the St Helena Air Access process and not just to Ascension and it's people.