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Montevideo, September 24th 2017 - 01:18 UTC

St Helena hopeful of a regular air link to South Africa following a successful proving flight

Thursday, August 24th 2017 - 07:51 UTC
Full article 4 comments
The proving flight was for Airlink to demonstrate to the South African Civil Aviation Authority operational proficiency in terms of ETOPS requirements. The proving flight was for Airlink to demonstrate to the South African Civil Aviation Authority operational proficiency in terms of ETOPS requirements.
As part of the training program, Airlink carried out a total of 13 flight trials at St Helena Airport on Monday afternoon. As part of the training program, Airlink carried out a total of 13 flight trials at St Helena Airport on Monday afternoon.
This is a routine exercise for new air services, and part of the preparations for introducing an air service on a new route.(Pics St. Helena Gov) This is a routine exercise for new air services, and part of the preparations for introducing an air service on a new route.(Pics St. Helena Gov)

The St Helena government, a British Overseas Territory in mid Atlantic has said that a commercial aircraft completed a successful proving flight to the island. The Airlink’s Embraer E190-100IGW departed St Helena Airport on Tuesday afternoon following the main flight from Johannesburg and several flight trials before returning to South Africa.

 The proving flight was for Airlink to demonstrate to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) operational proficiency in terms of ETOPS (Extended Range Twin Engine Operations) requirements. This is a routine exercise for new air services, and part of the preparations for introducing an air service on a new route.

A two-day program was prepared to cover training and audits at St Helena Airport as well as various discussions with key stakeholders on-Island. During their visit, Airlink was able to assess Air Traffic Control, communications & navigation systems, emergency services, Rescue & Fire Fighting Services, Ground Handling Services, Passenger Assistance, terminal building facilities, and security.

As part of the training program, Airlink carried out a total of 13 flight trials at St Helena Airport on Monday afternoon. These included ‘circuits and bumps’ - where the aircraft circles the runway, comes in to land, touches the wheels to the runway, and immediately takes off again for another circuit.

Head of Operations at St Helena Airport, Gwyneth Howell, said that ”the audits and training on Airlink’s systems and procedures at the Airport have gone very well over the past couple of days and the Basil Read Airport Operations Team is excited and ready for Airlink’s scheduled flights to commence.”

Alongside the training and audits, there has been a great deal of work underway on the practical planning for the commencement of the air service and the opportunities for tourism development that the air service will bring.

“The proving flight has brought together the different specialisms from SACAA, Airlink, St Helena Airport, potential tour operators and those working in the tourism sector. My thanks to everyone who made the visit a success. The reality of a regular scheduled air service and the opportunities it will offer the Island is fast approaching”, explained Airport Director Janet Lawrence.

It is anticipated that ticket fares and the commencement date for air services to St Helena will be announced shortly.

The St Helena airport has had a bumpy flight. In November 2011, St Helena Government signed a Design, Build and Operate (DBO) contract with Basil Read (Pty) Ltd. The contract included £201.5 million for the design and construction of the airport, an additional amount - of up to - £10 million on shared risk contingency and £35.1 million for ten years of operation. However there was some controversy regarding side winds, apparently not contemplated in the original planning.

The project aims to provide air services to St Helena, fulfilling the UK Government’s commitment to maintaining access to the Island, and provide it with a real opportunity for economic growth through tourism.

Both the St Helena Government and the UK Government hope that this will lead to eventual financial self-sustainability for St Helena.

Top Comments

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  • Islander1

    Strange - I have yet to meet any real St Helenian(not an expat) who is actually keen on and can see good economic benefits of a scheduled airlink with just South Africa and Johannesburg in particular.
    Their only connection with South Africa has been with Capetown- shipping and emergency air medivacs.
    As British subjects and proud of it - their natural holiday destination - where many have family relatives living - is Great Britain, likewise education and all things Governmental.
    As for Tourism - the potential economic future - I was unaware that South Africans were a potential large source of well heeled tourists with any interest in things British and French historical?
    Surely a far greater potential from Europe - and also via Europe potentially from North America.
    But then perhaps this airport has not been built for what St Helenians want and need?

    Certainly the St Helenian Govt and the FCO in London should hang their heads in 100% shame for the way they have totally ignored the needs of their citizens left stranded in the Falklands with no way home for a holiday other than a £4000 plus return airfare transitting several continents!
    There was and is a simple answer - a monthly airlink from Cape Verde to Ascension and on to St Helena. then those arriving in Cape Verde can fly to and from the Falklands same as before via Ascension - and those to and from UK - multiple choices - several flights a day to Uk and other European destinations, USA,S America and Africa.
    But since when ahas anyone in Dept of Int Aid ever had common sense and practical mindsets? After all the UK response to theoriginal airport fasco that lacked site wind studies before building £300million of UK taxpayers money - was to give the head of the Dept a Knighthood!!

    Aug 24th, 2017 - 04:34 pm 0
  • DemonTree

    Given how marginal the airport is, I doubt they have much choice over where the flights go. And isn't the runway on Ascension out of action till 2020? Your suggestion sounds very sensible, but there are probably factors the general public do not know about.

    Now I'm curious though. What percentage of your tourists come on the military flight from Britain compared with the one from Chile?

    Aug 24th, 2017 - 10:10 pm 0
  • Islander1

    Asc Airport still open- just closed to very large heavy civilian registered aircraft like the A330 as its the end of the runway that is U/S - smaller aircraft just land and take off a bit further along - it is very long as designed ti take the Shuttle as a diversion airfield in its days.
    Some of our tourists come by the MOD charter flight- but its cheaper for them to come the commercial route via Chile from UK. MOD charges a tourist non FI resident about £2200 - commercial via S America its about £1500 return- and discounts for block bookings etc like anywhere else. No discounts with MOD!

    Aug 25th, 2017 - 11:31 am 0
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