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.