Flights to Ascension Island, the key midway point in the Falklands Air Bridge, were suspended following reported issues with the airport’s runway.
Easter Sunday’s flight was cancelled due to “operational reasons” according to a statement on the RAF website, this is believed to be the deteriorating condition of the runway which is now unable to handle the large A330 aircraft that regularly service the route from RAF Brize Norton to RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falklands.
Future flights are currently on hold and the government is taking steps to limit the non-essential population on the island to reduce demand on food and other supplies until regular services can resume.
The construction of an airport for the nearby island of St Helena has been completed, with the aerodrome recently recertifying for its Air Traffic Services and Aerodrome Certificate accreditation. Issues with wind-shear have however delayed the commencement of any regular services pending further test flights. It is therefore doubtful that it will a suitable short term alternative.
Adding to these problems the aging RMS St Helena supply ship has only just returned to service following ongoing maintenance issues and a spell in drydock in Simon’s Town. It should arrive in Ascension next Sunday. Along with the air bridge, this ship is a vital lifeline for the islands of Ascension, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha, transporting not only people but food and essential medical supplies.
Flights are expected to resume next week utilising an airport in West Africa. The territorial government in Jamestown is also presently investigating options for a relief supply ship or aircraft capable of landing at St Helena.
RAF Ascension Island, also known as Wideawake Airfield, is manned by a contingent of 19 RAF personnel. As well as servicing the South Atlantic Air Bridge it is used for emergency landings by transatlantic passenger jets and was an emergency landing site for the space shuttle. During the Falklands War, it was famed for briefly becoming the busiest airport in the world in terms of aircraft movements.
Passengers for all affected territories are advised to contact their booking operators for more information.