St Helena is One Step Closer to a Scheduled Air Service
In one of the most anticipated events of St Helena's recent history, following on from the disappointment of the British Airways test flight in 2016, SA Airlink's test flight to St Helena was a resounding success.
At 11.34am on Monday, 21 August, the Airlink Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft landed successfully at St Helena Airport after a six-hour flight from Johannesburg and a refuelling stop in Windhoek, Namibia. Thirty-four passengers, including CEO of Airlink Roger Foster, the flight crews that will operate the route, personnel from Airlink's marketing team and representatives from the South African Civil Aviation Authority were on board.
After performing a series of test circuits of the airport during the morning, the flight departed at 3.11pm local time on Tuesday 22.
The airport has come under fire for its £285million cost and the subsequent delay in scheduled commercial air traffic to St Helena, a British Overseas Territory that currently relies on the RMS St Helena and its three-weekly, five-day voyage from Cape Town for the transport of passengers and supplies to and from the mainland.
The original plan for aircraft to fly to the island was put on hold after the much larger Boeing 737-800 that performed the test flight was affected by wind shear. However, the smaller Embraer E190 has repeatedly made the crossing with ease, as have other, non-commercial medevac and charter flights.
The advent of regular, scheduled flights will bring a much-needed lifeline to St Helena's population in general, as well the island's growing tourism business. The remote location, endemic species and clear and calm waters are sure to attract divers, especially between December and March each year, when St Helena is visited by a unique aggregation of whale sharks.
Although there is no confirmed date for the commencement of the scheduled air service to the island, it is anticipated that the first flights will be in October this year.
For more about St Helena, you can read about DIVE's adventure to the island earlier this year, and our forthcoming autumn print edition explains why their whale shark gathering is so unique. Click here to subscribe and order your copy in advance