History was made on St Helena at 13.50hrs GMT Tuesday 15 September 2015, as a Beechcraft King Air 200 aircraft arrived from Angola and touched down at St Helena’s new Airport, prior to conducting a series of calibration flights.
The aircraft flew from Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg, to Namibia, then to Angola and on to St Helena, taking approximately four hours for the final leg of the journey to the Island.
For the volcanic origin tropical island in the middle of the Atlantic the airport and air link will mean a radical change for its people and economy. Currently the only contact is by sea and with a vessel that makes several trips a year from South Africa. St Helena is famous since Napoleon spent his last years in the island after he was captured by the British in 1815. His death occurred 5 May 1821.
Stepping out of the aircraft, Captain Grant Brighton said: “It feels fantastic and we’re privileged to have flown the first plane to land on St Helena and to be part of your wonderful project. “The trip over was good. It was interesting landing here, a bit windy on the threshold but a terrific runway, surface, Airport and facility.”
Watching the landing – together with numerous residents at various vantage points – St Helena Councilor Lawson Henry commented: “First of all this is quite emotional – we’ve waited so long for this moment and it has finally happened. This is history in the making and we’re a part of it.”
Basil Read Island Director Deon de Jager added: “It’s brilliant – all the hard work has paid off. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved – we’ve actually done it.”
Airport Project Director Janet Lawrence said of the day: “I honestly can’t describe today. Years of planning and thousands of man hours have gone into this moment and to actually see it happen is an immense feeling.
“There are so many people we should be thanking, including people who can’t be here with us today. It’s not over yet – there’s still a great deal more to be done – but this event clearly shows that we’re going in the right direction.”
Greeting the crew on the Airport Apron, Governor Mark Capes remarked: “Today we witnessed an event that will feature prominently in the history of this Island. For the Airport project another important piece of the jigsaw has slotted firmly into place. There are a few more vital pieces to be added before the picture is complete, but we are nearly there and I warmly congratulate everyone who has played a part in this extraordinary project.
“When we launched this work almost four years ago, such were the many obstacles to overcome that there were those who doubted that it would succeed and yet, behold, a plane has landed at St Helena Airport.”
The aircraft is expected to remain in the island for several weeks as calibration tests commence. Several flights each day – weather permitting – will be undertaken.