British Overseas Territory of St Helena, an island in the middle of the south Atlantic, celebrated on Wednesday 3 May 2017, when a charter plane carrying 60 passengers landed at St Helena Airport at 1.55pm, helping to reestablish links with South Africa. Another good piece of news was that RMS St Helena, the regular connection with St Helena is scheduled to depart Cape Town on Friday.
Air Partner, a commercial organisation that sources charter flights around the world, had been contracted to source an aircraft to transport from Cape Town to St Helena passengers affected by the cancellation of RMS voyages 255 and 256. Air Partner then entered into an agreement with SA Airlink to carry out the charter flight.
SA Airlink successfully carried out the flight operation on Wednesday using a British Aerospace 146 Avro RJ85 aircraft. Among the 60 passengers onboard Wednesday's incoming flight were HE Governor Lisa Phillips and a young St Helenian baby born in Cape Town.
Crowds of family members, friends and Island residents gathered at the Airport to witness the arrival. Emotions were high and many people expressed that they were excited but emotional about today’s flight.
The aircraft approached St Helena Airport from the north before smoothly touching down on Runway 20. Passengers disembarking the aircraft were met by a packed Arrivals Hall, all eager to welcome everyone to St Helena.
Following a quick turnaround, the aircraft departed at 3.20pm with 48 passengers onboard. The aircraft is travelling to Cape Town via Windhoek in South Africa.
Councillor Derek Thomas said it was a great day for St Helena to receive our first flight of passengers, and a really good turnout from the people.
“Over the past year there have been many disappointments for air access but despite this our people have been patient while waiting for a successful outcome. The arrival of the aircraft today is one step nearer to commercial use of our Airport and has enabled those people who were delayed in Cape Town to return home safely.
“Thank you to Air Partner, SA Airlink, Janet and the Air Access Office team, Airport staff led by Gwyneth, Kedell our SHG UK Representative and Niall from ESH and [Dr Akeem Ali] our new Health Director who provided tremendous support to our Saints stuck in Cape Town. To all staff in SHG for all their hard work for organising the flight which was a real success and a really successful day.”
Accountable Manager & Head of Operations at St Helena Airport, Gwyneth Howell, also pointed out the significance of the occasion. The team at St Helena Airport did exceptionally well today and we should be really proud of them, everything went as well as we had hoped. There will be lessons learnt and we will always strive to improve but to everyone, from SHG to SA Airlink to Air Partner and the Airport team, I think we all did exceptionally well.”
Meanwhile from South Africa it was reported that RMS St Helena commenced undocking in Simonstown Wednesday afternoon. After clearing the harbour, the vessel then proceeded to undertake sea trials in the bay, which were successful.
The RMS has made her way to Cape Town and was estimated to arrive at the Pilot Station at 4.30pm (St Helena time) to commence loading operations.
Passengers will embark the vessel at 12noon tomorrow (St Helena time), Thursday 4 May. The RMS is expected to sail on V257 from Cape Town on Friday morning, 5 May.