1. ITV Report

Retired pilot condemns £46m plans for new planes in Guernsey

Credit: ITV Channel TV

A retired pilot, with over four decades of commercial flying experience, has condemned plans to spend more than £46m of tax-payers money on new planes.

In November plans were unveiled for three new 72-seater airplanes to join Aurigny's fleet. The planes would be equipped with new system called 'ClearVision' to enable them to operate in poor visibility.

In a report retired pilot Mervyn Dacey argues that replacing the current fleet would not significantly reduce disruption caused by poor visibility.

Instead he recommends upgrading Guernsey Airport’s landing capabilities. Mr Dacey says this would reduce fog disruption by up to 53%.

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 (Enhanced vision system) equipped aircraft alone.

The purchase price of 3 EVS ATR aircraft is in the order of $60 million. The costs of an upgraded CAT IIIA / CAT IIIB airport will be far lower.

Before any decision to purchase EVS equipped ATR72s is taken, the States of Guernsey should carry out a fully costed evaluation of airport upgrade options to CAT II, and CAT IIIA/B with a runway extension, taking full consideration of the new technologies available.

– Mervyn Dacey, retired pilot

Aurigny has dismissed Mr Dacey’s report as being out of date.

We're basing our case for the enhanced vision system on science not on opinion or conjecture. And the business case for the ATR600s is very valid even without the enhanced vision system.

– Nigel Moll, Flight Operations Director, Aurigny

The States Trading Supervisory Board president, Deputy Peter Ferbrache has backed the business case for replacing the current fleet of ATR aircraft.

The business case identified potential long term savings for the airline, principally through reduction in the maintenance costs being incurred from operating older planes and improved reliability that new aircraft would provide.

Those are significant financial benefits, with or without any additional capability for landing in low visibility conditions.

– Deputy Peter Ferbrache

But Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher, who sits on the board, says that Mr Dacey’s report has further weakened the business case for the new fleet.

My view is it doesn't help (the business case). It strengthens the argument against. The business argument that's put forward is there. I think it's weak as it is.

We've got nine year old ATR72s, they are not old aeroplanes and we don't need to change them.

The scenario if we don't support this purchase - what will happen? Absolutely nothing, we just carry on as we are.

And as regards the Enhanced Flight Vision system, that has not been certified. So there is still a risk that it might not be or that it might be certified with so many restrictions that it'll hardly become effective.

– Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher