Dealing with Inclement Weather

From Jersey Airport,
17 March 2017

One of the most frustrating aspects of air travel is a delay caused by inclement weather, in particular fog. Being an island we know that Jersey is susceptible to foggy conditions, often with little or no warning. When this happens, the aircraft's pilot unable to see the runway beyond an agreed visibility level must rely upon instruments on the ground and in the cockpit to land the aircraft safely.

 

Even though fog only disrupts less than 5% of the Island's total flying hours during the year, Ports of Jersey is only too aware of the challenges that it presents to our passengers. Their frustration is shared by the airport, its airlines and their ground handlers. After all, it is all of ours' objective to keep people and aircraft moving as smoothly and as safely as possible; when poor weather conditions prevent this from happening it has a negative impact on the overall operations of the business and of its transport providers.  

 

In the early part of 2017 Jersey Airport has suffered a number of continuous days of severe foggy conditions, which has impacted air services in and out of the Island. While the severity of the weather conditions is understood, concerns have been raised as to what measures Ports of Jersey is undertaking to address these issues and make improvements.

Jersey Airport has the same Instrument Landing System (ILS) equipment as have other airports in the UK, including Southampton, Birmingham, Heathrow and Gatwick.  Jersey Airport is classed as a 'Category 1' ILS, whereas despite having the same technical equipment, Heathrow and Gatwick are Category 3, which allows them to operate in worse conditions than Jersey. The differences between these larger airports and ours is they have longer runways, better topography (i.e. they don't have a cliff at the end of their runway) and fewer obstacles (i.e. our arrivals building and St Peter's Church).

You can find more information about the different categories of ILS and the respective Decision Heights and Horizontal Visibilities associated with Jersey Airport's Category 1 on our 'Dealing with Inclement' page on this website.  

The ability to invest in future improvements to our operational resilience, without relying upon government/tax payers' funds was one of the principal reasons for the Incorporation of Ports of Jersey, completed in October 2015. Some of the activities Ports of Jersey has undertaken or currently pursuing include:

  • The introduction of a new 'Lower than Cat 1 ILS' procedure. Ultimately, this means aircraft with the correct equipment on board and appropriately trained aircrew can land in poorer visibility conditions than the usual Cat 1 ILS. Unfortunately, not all aircraft and pilots operating into Jersey Airport have this equipment and training capability to allow them to do so, which is one reason why people may notice that some aircraft can land in inclement weather conditions while others can't. 
  • Significant advances have been made in recent years in reducing airfield obstacles to ensure Jersey Airport can retain its current Cat 1 ILS. These large obstacles include the current airport arrivals and former Jersey Hangar buildings, removal of which are being addressed as part of the overall Airport Master Plan improvements. In 2015 £1.5m was invested by Ports of Jersey in purchasing and demolishing two houses to the north of the airfield. As well as removing the obstacles it also provided additional community benefit with the creation of dedicated public footpaths and a cycle path through these cleared areas.
  • Significant investment has been made in new technology, including Runway Visual Range, which will allow Jersey Airport to more accurately measure the visibility down the runway (essential when weather conditions are changeable and marginal) together with a Remote Tower Contingency, which will allow Jersey Airport to continue to operate in the event of an evacuation of its air traffic control facility. Furthermore, this has the ability to introduce infrared technology, which may assist in low visibility operations.
  • Investigating new technologies, including satellite based navigation. Although still in the development stages it could help Jersey Airport's improve its ability to land aircraft in lower visibility conditions that it can handle at present, potentially leading to the ability to land aircraft in conditions that currently require Cat 2/3 ILS, although this is some years away and may still require further obstacle reduction.  

However, to improve our operating capability using existing technology available would need significant financial investment (likely in excess of £100m). This would include removing further airfield obstacles and extending the runway by a minimum of 200 metres. Unfortunately, this would severely impact on the nearby St Peter's Village (including the Parish Church) and a relocation of the main road between the airport and the Village.   While funding for such a major project could potentially be found to partially improve less than 5% of its available flying hours, we do believe the impact on our community would be even greater.

For further information on dealing with inclement weather conditions, including supporting documents please click here. If you have any further questions and/or comments to make in relation to this subject please do not hesitate contact Ports of Jersey by emailing, ask@ports.je