Test flights ‘blackout’ puts rumour forum into tailspin

Efforts to meet the highest possible safety standards at St Helena Airport may have “come to bite” the construction team, a post on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network has suggested.

“All I can assume is that the engineers planning the airport played it safe and threw in every possible navaid that might be useful,” says a forum member who uses the name Broken Biscuit.

“After all, the navaids were probably quite a small percentage of the £250m of UK taxpayers’ money that went to build it.”

The UK-based writer, picking up on silence about the outcome of a second round of test flights to the airport, goes on to acknowledge the problems posed by the airport’s location.

“Presumably they didn’t want to limit operations in the event of GPS problems – it is in the tropics after all with the higher likelihood of ionospheric effects.

“And they’re starting 1,000 feet closer to the cloudbase with its cliff-top location. Add in the fact that it’s a shortish runway, quite a crosswind most of the year and probably severe turbulence as you approach the cliffs, pilots will need all the help they can to land safely.

“Oh, and I forgot the high terrain all around – you’ll want to remember to turn away from that smartish in the event of a go around!”

The same writer notes that the VHF radio gear [DVOR] and various antennae had to be moved after the first calibration flights in October 2015.

“They no longer illuminate the sea – I suspect that there was severe cancellation of the signals at some distance/height due to reflection off the ocean.

“Another possibility is that the DVOR was located just metres away from Bradley’s Camp – all metal buildings – used for the construction crew but also going to be converted into long term tourist accommodation.

“So the choice of some navaids which may be unnecessary has come to bite them.”

A writer using the name TCAS FAN questions a media quote about “the unknown nature of building an airport on the island’s uneven terrain,” saying surveys should have removed such doubts.

But another forum member, Ddraig Goch, suggests the terrain may actually be causing problems with “nav and landing aids, which because of where St Helena is and the position of the runway require more sophisticated equipment than your bog standard airport.

“I have been asking for the results of the second calibration flights without success for ages. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence with much that happens there.”

In another post, Broken Biscuits says: “I take the deathly silence from the St Helena Government and their contractors Basil Read over the second round of calibration flights to mean the navaids still don’t come up to spec, despite having been relocated.

“You would think that, if the calibrators had found all reasonably good that some sort of positive statement would have been made. Instead they talked about it all having to be analysed in London very carefully…

“There might be big discussions going on about who is liable for the costs of the delayed opening, which may explain the public silence.”

Moving equipment could be the result of “a pretty basic failure of design”, says Broken Biscuit. “We can only speculate given the news blackout from the project team and government.

“There’s now about 90 odd days before the opening ceremony – I wonder if there’ll be a plane on the apron to add some authenticity to the celebrations?”

Read the PPRuNe forum posts on St Helena Airport

 

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Airport ‘non-story’ is worth many thousands, says tourism chief

Gloomy stories about St Helena are great news for the island – because they come with beautiful pictures that pull in potential visitors all round the world, writes director of tourism CHRIS PICKARD.

 

The UK’s Independent newspaper recently ran an article suggesting that the first flights to St Helena, and the opening of the airport, had been delayed. The article, subsequently picked up by the Mail, was something of a non-story: a cut-and-paste job that took a series of random quotes, many out of context, and then came up with the result that 2+2=5.

Negative reporting of tourism and infrastructure projects is nothing new for me. But if asked as director of tourism for St Helena if I was happy to see the stories about the airport in print in the UK, I would have to say Yes.

Between them they created hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of positive publicity for St Helena as a destination and brought the island to the attention of many potential visitors, thanks to the images used.

It is very important to take St Helena out of the tourism pages and in to the main news sections of the media. That is what helps to promote and develop a destination.

So while I am delighted with all the positive coverage the island has generated recently in the travel sections of the international media, I am even happier when I see St Helena being covered in the other news pages and sections of the media. But I am experienced enough to know that these will not always be 100% positive.

An example of non-tourism coverage is the recent stories about Jonathan, which generated a lot of interest in people wanting to come to the island, as did reports on new species being found.

While I did not agree with everything he wrote, Matthew Engel’s cover story in the Financial Times’ weekend magazine also generated many hundreds of thousands pounds’ worth of positive publicity.

And not just in the UK: I got feedback from North and South America, Australia, and across Europe from people who, having read the FT piece, wanted to come to St Helena or set up tours to the island.

The result of all this coverage has been that people in the right circles are talking positively about St Helena in terms of helping to contribute to building a sustainable tourism industry.

Sadly for the island, St Helena Tourism is already having to turn away business or put it on hold, but that has nothing to do with the airport or air access and when it starts, but is down to not having a sufficient amount of the right type of accommodation that tour operators demand. But that is something we are working to resolve.

International tour operators, many of which I have worked with over the years, have been contacting us to get information about what St Helena has to offer, and most are now putting together one week packages to the island. They know me well enough to be sure that when St Helena is ready for them, and the flights have started, I will let them know.

We all work on facts, not fiction or speculation.

What people on St Helena will need to understand, however, is that like it or not we are now playing on the global stage, and global tourism is extremely competitive. St Helena – as I know from the conversations I have had with other tourism directors who are jealous of the media attention we have been generating – is firmly on the radar and that means there will be people looking to knock us down.

It also means that the media will be interested in writing news stories about the island, both good and bad, and that is because we are now news and the readers are interested. That is how I like it.

Far more negative is likely to be the coverage on Trip Advisor and other review sites as the visitors themselves – not the media – judge what we have to offer and the service levels behind it. Saints and others working in travel and tourism on the island will have to develop a thick skin.

As crazy as it may seem, my job is to make the St Helena Tourism strapline of “Secret of the South Atlantic” redundant, and if that means putting my hand up and apologising to the Saints who for personal or business reasons wish to keep the island a secret, so be it.

2015 was a record year for St Helena is terms of international visitors, and that is before the airport opens. So there are lots of positive things to look forward to in terms of tourism and what it can bring to the island.

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More action planned on illegal fishing – minister

The UK government is planning to step up efforts to investigate illegal fishing around St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, it has been revealed.

The House of Lords heard that short term patrols and satellite monitoring are already used to track fishing vessels around the islands.

But it appears the islands do not yet benefit from oversight by the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre – set up in 2011 to detect dangers such as sea-borne terrorist threats.

The centre does protect waters around two other overseas territories chosen as Marine Protected Zone – and a third such zone is planned for Ascension, suggesting it may get similar protection.

Lord West of Spithead

Lord West of Spithead

The information was disclosed by foreign minister Baroness Anelay in response to a question by Lord West of Spithead on 3 February 2016.

He asked whether the new agency “is providing comprehensive surface coverage of the exclusive economic zones of dependent territories to ensure wildlife and resource protection; and how those zones are policed, in particular around Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island and St Helena.”

Baroness Anelay replied that the centre was helping to investigate illegal and unregulated fishing around the British Indian Ocean Territory – meaning the Chagos Islands – and Pitcairn, in the Pacific Ocean.

She said: “Overseas territories are policed in a variety of ways as marine management is a devolved responsibility.

“In St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha, a variety of surveillance and enforcement measures are deployed, including satellite monitoring, vessel tracking, short term patrols and observer coverage of fishing vessels.

“Potential enhancements to surveillance and enforcement requirements for the UK’s 14 overseas territories are being considered as part of the government’s commitment to create a Blue Belt around these territories.”

The planned Blue Belt of protected waters around all UK overseas territories was announced with great fanfare at a reception at the House of Commons in September 2015.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith declared it “the biggest conservation commitment by any government ever.”

 

It includes a plan to create a vast protected zone around Ascension, with only limited sustainable fishing allowed – similar to zones already established or announced round the Chagos and Pitcairn islands.

“Blue belt” marine conservation zones, with lesser protection, are promised for all other territories, including St Helena.

People at the launch event heard how satellite and radar data are being used to detect fishing vessels by tracking the pattern of their movements.

The technique is described in a news report on the website of the Blue and Green Tomorrow campaign group.

It says: “Analysts can track declared fishing vessels and monitor the behaviour of undeclared ones.

“Container ships and cruise liners tend to go in straight lines. Fishing vessels tend to hover where there are fish. If a ship exhibits suspicious behaviour the relevant authority can be notified.”

The site says: “Industrial fishing ships can stay at sea for months refuelling and offloading stock mid-ocean. A quarter of all fishing is illegal. But the world’s oceans are a notoriously difficult place to monitor and protect.”

Lord West is a former Royal Navy officer who rose to become First Sea Lord and later Chief of Defence Intelligence.

He is also chairman of Spearfish, a company the helps clients “manage physical security risks – both on land and at sea.”

His listed interests include defence and the environment, and overseas territories in the South Atlantic.

Read more:
Biggest ever conservation commitment: UK overseas territories’ Blue Belt

(Original image of Lord West from Wikimedia Commons)

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Independent publishes ‘censored’ edition

Indy Vince censored 640

The St Helena Independent has been published with a section removed and replaced with the word ‘censored’.

It followed an extraordinary legal manoeuvre by St Helena Government to block publication of a sensitive story.

Indy censored front 400A blacked-out space appeared on the front page, and a chunk of Vince Thompson’s weekly column was removed.

The sensitivity of the story was not known when it first ran on Saint FM on Friday, 29 January 2016.

The government secured a temporary injunction on Thursday afternoon, by which time the newspaper column had already been printed.

Acting Attorney General Angelo Berbotto had already issued an aggressive threat to sister station Saint FM for running a story that he said would run the risk of endangering lives.

No explanation was given either then or at any time up to the issuing of the injunction, and supporters of the newspaper who were consulted about the issue were baffled by his actions.

Further information will be published when it becomes known.

The affair coincided with the publication of an article in the Financial Times magazine that was highly critical of government secrecy on St Helena.

Read the paper here.

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St Helena gets first female governor – after 359 years

Lisa Phillips, by ILRI/Riccardo Gangale (under Creative Commons licence)

Lisa Phillips, by ILRI/Riccardo Gangale (under Creative Commons licence)

Lisa Phillips is to be the first female governor of St Helena since the job was first created more than 350 years ago, in 1657. She also becomes non-resident governor of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

Indy on Lisa Phillips front

The St Helena Independent hinted in October 2015 that Lisa Phillips could become governor

Her appointment will have come as no surprise to social media users or readers of the St Helena Independent.

The newspaper ran a teasing editorial on 2 October 2015, saying that it was time the island had a female governor – and “suggesting” Ms Phillips as an ideal choice.

It highlighted her forthright campaigning on women’s issues and AIDS in her role as head of Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) team in Kenya.

Six days before Christmas, she appeared to endorse the story by following a number of island-based users on the messaging website Twitter.

Shortly after the news was made official in London, she posted her own online announcement:

“So excited to share with my Twitter followers where my next job is. Such a privilege!”

A congratulatory message was quickly posted by Christina Scott, governor of Anguilla – another UK overseas territory in the Caribbean.

Twitter Lisa Phillips Anguilla

Lisa Phillips tweets and blogs regularly on issues such as open justice and ending female genital mutilation in Africa. She has promised to continue publishing her thoughts online in her new role.

Her emergence on Twitter as likely governor came just over a week after the Wass Inquiry report severely criticised the island government, and governor Mark Capes, for “inexcusably and repeatedly” repeatedly failing to act on warnings about child welfare.

Indy Phillips ragout

How the Indy hinted at Lisa Phillips’s future job

It also dismissed allegations of widespread sex abuse and official cover-ups.

The report found Governor Capes had not been adequately briefed on the existence of previous reports raising concerns about child safeguarding, and said his successor must be given stronger guidance.

The Independent editorial in October 2015 highlighted Ms Phillips’s work on issues similar to those found on St Helena.

As head of DFID Kenya, she describes her team’s work on “improving health, increasing the quality of education, reducing vulnerability among Kenya’s most disadvantaged, and catalysing private sector growth to create more jobs for young people.”

Twitter Lisa Phillips pic

She adds: “I’ve worked for DFID for more years than I care to mention in a variety of jobs, both in the UK and overseas.”

By 1984 she had worked with the Overseas Development Agency – fore-runner of DFID – in several countries in Southern Africa, before joining the ODA teams covering India, Barbados and South East Asia.

Managerial roles in the United Nations and Commonwealth Department were followed by work on migration. In 2011 she was made head of DFID’s department dealing with fragile states, and the following year, its lead on anti-corruption.

She became head of DFID Kenya in 2013.

Her appointment as governor of St Helena marks a break from the long-established tradition of appointing diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a practice questioned in the Wass Report, which said the island needed a hands-on manager.

twitter Lisa Phillips congrats

Governor Andrew Gurr had also been recruited from outside the FCO, but he had served in a senior job on the Falklands.

When he left in 2011, the role was given to Mark Capes, an FCO man who will now take up another diplomatic posting. The location was not made public, but one Facebook user on St Helena undiplomatically wished him well in Antarctica.

The Independent’s October 2015 editorial suggested Mr Capes had focused his energies on the island’s airport project at the cost of addressing its pressing social needs – a view echoed by the Wass Report.

It said:

“Credit where it’s due: for Mr Capes, the airport has been the big job, and it’s been a success. But now we have some more human problems to address.

“So we’d like someone who knows about improving education, and has done something about it. We have an educated idea who that could be.

“We’re not all sex abusers, but there are too many victims of abuse. SHG’s style is to keep telling us how everything’s getting better, but we need someone who is actually willing to stand up and say, Yes, there’s a problem, because it was a failure to be open that allowed it to go on for so long.

“We want someone who is willing to stand up and say, out loud, “I want to end violence against women and girls.”

“Someone who’s willing to say, “Justice has to be seen to be done – and be done.” Someone who has actually spent time with the victims of sex crimes would be good, too.

“We know someone who’s said all that, and done all that.

“We never acknowledge there’s a problem with HIV on St Helena, but… there’s a problem with HIV. Too many people have the virus and for all we know, the number has gone up since work on the airport started.

“So we need someone who’s got experience of confronting that awful problem; someone who’s willing to admit it exists. Maybe someone who’s worked in Africa?”

Indy Phillips ragout end

The Independent in October 2015: one last attempt to make friends with Governor Capes?

Once the news of Ms Phillips’ appointment was out in the open, well-wishers in Kenya and around the world congratulated her.

She told one: “I will miss #magicalkenya so much, especially all the people I have met.”

  • Lisa Phillips is not merely the first woman to be chosen as head of state and representative of Her Majesty the Queen on St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha: she will also be the first governor of the territory to have given birth. She has one son.

See more pictures at the Brits in Kenya website

 

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St Helena gets its first female governor

Lisa Phillips has been appointed Governor of St Helena and non-resident governor of Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in succession to Mark Capes, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Lisa will take up her appointment in St Helena during April 2016 (Statement from Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London). 

Read the full story here

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Pioneer runners get St Helena on the move

On The Move run 01 2500

The things people will do to get a free T-shirt – like run 15 or more kilometres around Jamestown, for instance (not all at once). Or maybe they were running because actually, it’s healthy and quite fun and afterwards, you feel somehow better.

Thirty eight people lined up on the wharf, all smiling for the camera, at the start of the first of a series of three-kilometre runs under the banner, St Helena On The Move.

On The Move poster 400A little over half an hour later – 31 minutes and 46 seconds, to be exact – the last of them crossed the line. The fastest was back in a mere 14:25, as timed by the team from New Horizons.

Anyone completing at least five of the initial seven runs gets the free shirt, as a badge of honour.

The weekly runs, scheduled for seven Thursday afternoons from 12 January 2016, have been initiated by Dr Niall O’Keeffe, head of Enterprise St Helena, who brought the idea from his home in Ireland.

“I’ve been participating in and when possible helping to organise events like this for over 30 years,” he said.

“My home village of Ballycotton in Ireland is known by runners around the world for its events. We have regular 3km, 5km, 5-mile series and a 10-mile race in March capped at 3,300 entrants. I was also a member of East Cork AC and we had 3km winter series since the late 80s.

“The events have a very positive impact in the local community for participants, organiser, and supporters. The 10-mile event in March in particular draws competitors from around the world and has a significant tourism benefits.

“St Helena does have a running festival and I’d like to see more people having the confidence to participate by building up distance and frequency of running and walking.

“There are many people already walking and running the roads in St Helena on their own so it’s nice sometimes to participate with others.”

Enterprise St Helena is associated with economic development but Niall said the agency can also take a wider, “holistic” approach to helping people embark on new lives.

“At this time of the year many people’s thoughts turn to resolutions relating to health, career, education, business start-ups etc. ESH can provide support in most of these areas.”

He also said that St Helena On The Move could touch on all three of the National Goals – including strong community and family life.

  • The island runs bear some similarity with the parkrun movement that started in a park in London and has spread to 11 countries worldwide, with well over a million people signed up (including the owner of St Helena Online – 88 runs and counting). The parkrun phenomenon sees people of all abilities turn up in parks on Saturday mornings to take part in free, 5km runs. To get a free shirt, though, adults have to complete 50 runs (children get one after 10). A 92-year-old man in Australia has earned his 100-run shirt and features in an inspirational film, here. Councillor Gavin Ellick made a fact-finding visit to Leamington parkrun in the UK, and there has been talk of trying to establish a parkrun on St Helena.

 

 

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It’s all light on the night as Christmas comes to Jamestown

St Helena Festival of Lights 2015 - What The Saints Did Next

St Helena Festival of Lights 2015

The Festival of Lights in Jamestown gets brighter every year. A replica RMS St Helena rolled down Main Street and in the bay, the real ship was lit up for her final Christmas. A large aircraft and even an air traffic control tower rumbled down through town as well, along with cheerleaders from Pilling School and lots and lots of Santas (most of them female).

Darrin and Sharon Henry launched their What The Saints Did Next blog a year ago with pictures of the 2014 festival, and they’ve produced some great shots again in 2015 – including the one above. Find more here.

Festival of Lights Paul Tyson

Check Paul Tyson’s Two Years In The Atlantic blog to see whether he’s posted his own images there yet; if not, you can see a first selection on his Facebook page, here.

Paul’s verdict: “Another fantastic show for Christmas 2015. Well done to Pilling Primary School and to all the Saint community who are the best when it comes to making the spectacular out of nothing. What a wonderful night.”

Ed Thorpe also has some excellent pictures (see below) in the St Helena Independent and on Facebook, here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 22.57.31.png

 

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Airport road name honours Sharon’s memory

The memory of Sharon Wainwright, who led the push for air travel to St Helena, is to be honoured in the naming of a section of the airport access road.

Wainwright Way was one of seven winning entries in a competition to find names for sections of the road, originally built to carry construction traffic up from Rupert’s Valley.

Sharon was in London in her role as St Helena Government’s airport project manager when she died suddenly on 15 August 2011, only weeks before it was announced that construction would go ahead.

Governor Andrew Gurr said at the time that people who benefited from the airport would owe gratitude to her memory for decades to come.

A competition was held in July to choose a name for the haul road, once it is opened to the public. In the end, seven names were chosen for different sections.

Councillor Pamela Ward Pearce said: “We liked African Slave Road as this shows the area where the recent excavations uncovered the slave graves. Airbay Road was felt to encompass the flow of the road from the airport to Rupert’s Bay.

“Boer Road and Pipe Ridge Pass were sections near the old roads of those names, while Flagstaff View and Wirebird Way are sections where you have a view of Flagstaff and the wirebird nesting area respectively.

“Finally Wainwright Way was chosen to honour our own Sharon Wainwright, who worked so hard to make the airport a reality but sadly did not live to see it to fruition.”

Wainwright Way was suggested by Jean-Claude George, Keegan Yon and Jacob Williams. Other winning names were put forward by Alexandra Benjamin (Wirebird Way), Keegan Yon, Pascal Walters (Pipe Ridge Pass), Charlize Crowie (Flagstaff View), Victoria Mastna, Joshua O’Bey and Renee Youde (Boer Road), Tyran Henry (Airbay Road), and Colby Richards (African Slave Road).

Click the thumbnails to see larger pictures:

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Rape victim left with HIV

A woman was found to have been infected with HIV – the virus linked to AIDS – after being raped by an overseas worker on St Helena, according to the Wass Inquiry report.

It says the worker was temporarily employed on the island’s airport project.

The report says HIV/AIDS was recorded on the island for the first time in 2014 – four cases – though the government statistician confirmed in 2013 that there had been one AIDS death on the island and some Saints were living with the virus.

The Wass Inquiry also reported that it had examined files relating to the rape and abuse of a small number of vulnerable adults with learning difficulties.

They included an adult who was raped at the Challenging Behaviour Unit.

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