St Helena is situated in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean and forms part of the British Overseas Territory along with Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. The island is more than 1200 miles from the nearest major landmass in West Africa; and currently it can only be reached by a ship from Cape Town once every three weeks. This small island with its resident population of 4500 is factually one of most remote but populated places on earth!
Considerations for an airport on St Helena were first proposed in 1943 when the South African Air Force undertook a survey on Prosperous Bay Plain from October 1943 through to January 1944. They concluded that it was feasible but an airport at that time was not a practical proposition. From the 1960`s the idea of building an airport was always proposed but it was not until 1999 that it was seriously taken up by the island government. After many years of canvasing and consultation, in 2005 the British Government finally announced plans to finance and build an airport on St Helena. However following further delays and the credit-crunch it was not until November 2011 that a company was finally appointed and given the go ahead to build the airport.
Engineering Group Basil Read (Pty) commenced the construction of the airport early in 2012. The logistics associated with the airports construction were critical because of the island’s isolated location, the lack of construction equipment on the island and the fact that all the heavy duty equipment and the materials had to be shipped in. This has resulted in a mammoth and unique construction project!
Brand new airports are pretty rare these days. But this new 260 million pounds Sterling airport is particularly significant as it is the only airport for nearly 1000 miles in any direction!
St Helena Airport isn`t quite ready to open just yet but the first calibration trials using a Beechcraft King Air aircraft took place in September 2015 with the airport on target to open to commercial and private aircraft early in 2016.
St Helena Airport will boast a 6,070 foot runway, a terminal building, fuel storage facilities and a dedicated fire and rescue service. This mirrors the set up you would expect to find at a small regional airport in the United Kingdom. The first scheduled flights will initially link St Helena with O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
The inaugural fire-fighting vehicles
Marcé Fire-Fighting Technology was formed in 1998 with its spacious head-office and main manufacturing plant based in Centurion near Pretoria in South Africa. The company started as an importer of fire-fighting vehicles and equipment but in 2001 the Marcé management realised that there was great potential in local manufacturing providing that high standards were met. Today the company builds between 75-80 high quality and innovatively designed fire-fighting and rescue vehicles per annum – employing 150 people at their Centurion site.
Following the competitive tendering process, Marcé was appointed to supply the new St Helena Airport with its inaugural fleet of airport rescue and fire-fighting vehicles. These fire-engines were tailored to meet the customer`s specific requirements and manufactured within the precise timings of the airport project – taking in to consideration the proposed opening date and the logistics associated with delivering the fire engines to this remote island. Marcé has built and delivered three “Marcé Buffalo” airport fire-fighting vehicles based on the proven Mercedes Benz Actros range of all-wheel drive commercial chassis.
Fire 1 and 2 are identical “Buffalo” major airport foam tenders built on a Mercedes Benz Actros 3358 6×6 chassis featuring a 580 hp Euro 3 diesel engine and automatic transmission. These foam tenders feature a spacious clean flowing Marcé extended crew-cab conversion seating a driver + 5 crew incorporating wide opening doors, easy crew access and rear mounted SCBA mountings plus additional air conditioning. The rear superstructure is of modular construction incorporating five large lockers enclosed by roller shutter doors. These major foam tenders carry 8000 litres of water, 600 litres of foam plus 135 kg of DCP courtesy of Perren Engineering Limited. The fire-engineering consists of a 4000 lpm Zeigler centrifugal pump linked to a 3000 lpm bumper turret and a 4000 lpm roof mounted monitor – both joy stick controlled.
Fire 3 is a “Buffalo” airport foam tender based on a Mercedes Benz 1858 4×4 chassis featuring a 580 hp Euro 3 diesel engine and automatic transmission. The Mercedes Benz cab seats a driver + 1 crew and is fitted with a front mounted electric winch and bull bars. The superstructure also features a five locker arrangement and media of 5000 litres of water, 440 litres of foam plus 135 kg DCP. It has the same fire-engineering as Fire 1 and 2.
The three fire tenders were manufactured to a very high standard and meet all current ICAO and NFPA standards. The tenders boast generous locker space, two stacks of water and foam media level warning lights and an interesting combination of conventional blue – mixed with the latest clear light technology warning lights. The fire engines were delivered fully equipped and stowed in two shipments in August and September 2015.
Jan Steyn Commercial Manager at Marcé Fire Fighting Technology told the International Fire Fighter Magazine that the company was pleased to be associated with the new St Helena Airport and honoured to have been selected to supply it with its inaugural fleet of fire and rescue vehicles. Working closely with the customer we have built and delivered three robust airport rescue and fire-fighting vehicles well within the critical timings of this project.
When fully operational St Helena Airport Fire service will provide professional fire and rescue cover to ICAO category 7 standards – under the leadership of Fire Service Manager Marc Fowler.
For more information, go to www.marce.co.za