New ATRs ‘bad use of taxpayers’ money’
PURCHASING new ATRs with ‘fog-defying’ technology for $60m. would be ‘high risk’ for Aurigny and a bad use of taxpayers’ money, a retired pilot has said.
But States Trading Supervisory Board president Peter Ferbrache said its case for replacing the ATR fleet was not based on the provision of this technology. And Aurigny has vigorously defended its case, saying much of the analysis was based on out of date information.
Captain Mervyn Dacey, a Guernsey resident who has over 40 years’ commercial experience for British Airways and Emirates Airlines, has produced a report analysing ways to improve the visibility capability at Guernsey Airport and minimise fog disruption.
Captain Dacey, who has participated in flight trials of different landing equipment used during foggy conditions, has sent his report to all States members.
They will be asked to guarantee a loan that would enable Aurigny to spend $60m. on three new ATR aircraft fitted with ClearVision technology, which Aurigny’s analysis estimates would reduce fog delays by 50%.
Captain Dacey disagreed with those estimates, suggesting the reduction would 14%: ‘To purchase or guarantee a loan for such a small potential reduction in flight disruption would be a bad decision.'
He argues that instrument landing equipment at the airport should be improved and the runway extended instead.
‘Given the technical risks involved for Aurigny, a small airline, it would offer poor value to the taxpayer. Government funds could be better spent elsewhere.’
The Aurigny recommendations are being brought to the Assembly by the States Trading Supervisory Board, but one of its members does not back it.
Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher said Captain Dacey’s report could not be disputed since it was based on factual data.
‘It all comes down to whether the States wants to do something that’s going to work for the next 30 years or keep pussyfooting around,’ he said.
He too was sceptical of Aurigny’s claim that the ClearVision technology on its three ATRs would reduce fog delays by 50%.
‘Following [Captain Dacey’s] report my position on the STSB policy letter is hardening, not softening,’ said Deputy Kuttelwascher.
In his view, it would be a bit ‘foolish’ to decide on replacing the fleet before seeing the outcome of the PwC report into air links and travel links.
Captain Dacey said the new technology was ‘experimental’ at this stage and had not yet approved by aviation authorities such as EASA and the Federal Aviation Administration.
‘The EVS system is a high risk for Aurigny. It is a small airline and will be the first customer for this technology,’ he said, adding that the maintenance costs for the system are unknown.
‘It may not deliver the promised performance on a regular basis in the Guernsey fog environment.’
He said upgrading the airport capability, plus a runway extension, would cut fog disruption to a greater extent at a lower cost.
‘New technologies are available that would enable Guernsey Airport instrument landing capability to be substantially improved without the need to redraw the airport boundary or undertake major earth filling works.
‘An airport upgrade to CAT IIIA/CAT IIIB [from Category 1] plus runway extension is recommended.
‘This report shows that the potential benefits of an airport upgrade using new technologies are greater than any improvement in flight reliability that could be obtained by replacing the Aurigny ATR72 fleet with EVS equipped aircraft alone.’
He suggested that the States of Guernsey should carry out a fully costed evaluation of the upgrade options detailed in his report.
In 2017, Guernsey experienced 50 days of schedule disruption due to fog, an average of one day a week.