The president of Portugal’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) has said that he understands the complaints of businesspeople when there are constraints at Madeira airport due to wind, but assures that the priority is the safety of flights from which he will not abdicate.

“I understand the frustration of the people and businessmen who have their businesses and what they want is to have a connection so that tourists do not have problems. But the fact is that the winds have changed,” Luís Ribeiro told Lusa.

According to the president of the air regulator, the rules have not changed at the airport, instead over the past two years there has been a large percentage of days when there were winds above the safe limits and that was why operations have been impacted more.

During the opening speech of the 45th Congress of the Portuguese Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism (APAVT), in Funchal (Madeira), the president of this association, Pedro Costa Ferreira, said that Madeira has a problem of inoperability that has been killing the confidence of ‘players’ and is slowly, but inexorably, removing aircraft from the runway.

Pedro Costa Ferreira classified this issue as inexplicable because, in his view, in recent years the winds have not changed, aircraft approach management technology has improved and the technology onboard aircraft has also improved.

For the president of APAVT, what worsened was the number of authorised approaches to the runway, which, given the picture described, is simply unimaginable and bear incalculable damage.

In his reply, on the sidelines of the APAVT congress, the president of ANAC pointed out that the issues cannot be seen in this simple way.

“The problem with this particular airport is the sudden changes in wind intensity and direction. This is what makes the approaches to this airport particularly dangerous,” he explained, stressing that it is first of all the manufacturers who define wind limits for the aircraft and then the companies in their operating manuals define other limits that are usually a little more demanding than those of the manufacturer itself.

Then there are exceptional cases in which the regulator itself imposes other types of limits, he explained.

According to Luís Ribeiro, situations such as those already recorded at Madeira airport may happen again, because these phenomena are unpredictable and that, even in the working group that studies these matters and has technicians from the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere, do not know if they are facing a trend or atypical years.

He added that the group was continuing to develop its work and that it would help develop its technology and tools to measure turbulence in real-time.

Luís Ribeiro told Lusa that, in addition to the work developed by the working group, with IPMA and airlines, tests have already been carried out, exemplifying with one carried out by an Airbus 321 Neo who, after finishing the test, after about 15 approaches to the runway, had to replace the landing gear.

There is a turbulence effect in Madeira because of the very orography of the valley in which these operations are made, he said, insisting on the importance of technology and own instruments to try to measure this turbulence in real-time.

The president of ANAC said that if this is achieved, it will reduce to some extent the periods of unavailability of the airport and added that the winds will not disappear, what they can do is measure more easily and more accurately the precise conditions that the pilots will face.