UPDATE: of article on St. Helena’s new airport of April 21, 2015
The British island of St. Helena is now a little less remote with the first EVER aircraft landing on the island on September 15, 2015 when a South African Beechcraft King Air 200 calibration airport landed at the new $US 310+ million Saint Helena Airport (ICAO-FHSH, IATA-HLE), a 5 day ship voyage to Cape Town is now a 4.5 hour flight to Johannesburg from February, 2016, and St. Helena will change forever.
St. Helena is 2,000 km from the nearest shore (Lubango, Angola), and till now dependent on the RMS St. Helena (above right photo), a 128 passenger ship, which takes 5 days to reach Cape Town, sadly the arrival of the commercial airliners will mean her retirement, for 25 years she was the life line for the 4,250 inhabitants of St. Helena, the only way in and out for passengers and cargo, a throw back to a time we cannot comprehend today, when a ship’s arrival was big news. The ship is also the last working Royal Mail Ship (RMS) a tradition for the island since being discovered in 1502.
The new St. Helena Airport (above left photo), the beautiful landscape that makes St. Helena unique (above right photo).
The first ever aircraft (Beechcraft King Air 200) landing on the island of St. Helena on September 15, 2015 (above photo left), with a Boeing 737-800 weekly service from Johannesburg to follow in February, 2016. The beautiful capital of Jamestown (above photo right)
The arrival was a few weeks shy of the 200 year anniversary (Oct/1815) of the arrival of France’s defeated Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who was sentenced into his exile on the remote island after the Battle of Waterloo, and where the Emperor spent the final 5 years and 7 months of his life before his death on May 5, 1821.
The first Comair (South Africa) Boeing B737-800 scheduled flight is now planned for February 2016, which will be a regular Saturday service to supply the 4,250 inhabitants with regular air service to O.T. Tambo Airport (Johannesburg, South Africa).
The islanders were looking for a regular service to Cape Town, as it is where there regular 5 days ship service docked, and where they went for medical care, and where many friends and family of local inhabitants live.
It will be a big historical day in February when that first B737-800 lands, finally connecting the people of St. Helena to the rest of the world, but sadly saying good bye to their once only connection to the outside world, the 344 foot, 6,767 gross ton, 128 passenger RMS St. Helena ship that was the lifeline for local inhabitants.
Now, apparently the B737-800 will not be able to take a full passenger load, in fact only 120 passengers as the 1,950 meter runways is too short ? and only 1,550 meters is available for landing, one would think they would have made the runway to accommodate the B737-800/A320 from the beginning, originally it was planned around the B737-700/A319, and nearest alternate airport is 2,201 Km away in Luanda, Angola.
The island will have a ‘open skies’ policy, though no rush of new airlines is expected, though a new charter airline in the UK, Atlantic Star Airlines plans to have a B757-200 service to St. Helena next year, we shall see, as 80+% of planned start-ups never materialize. But I do expect the Royal Air Force to possibly use the island for C-130 flights as well as Safair (South Africa) L-100-30 Hercules flights to bring up cargo when needed.
That also raises the question about the cargo needed by local islanders, as the ship had capacity for 1,800 tons of cargo now at best the long 4:30+ flight to St. Helena will surely be limited in cargo capacity, so how is the cargo to arrive ? a freighter aircraft or ship ?
Anyway, congratulations to the people of St. Helena, may this be the beginning of a revival of the island’s fortunes, as already 32 room hotel is planned, as surely now tourist will want to come to see the island and it’s natural beauty as well as to see Longwood, the final residence of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Short and sweet, till next time, cheers and thank.