Defying the clifftop airport’s notorious wind shear, St Helena has welcomed its biggest ever passenger jet.
The Boeing 757-200 landed on 31 July, carrying 51 passengers, at the end of its flight from Stansted Airport, UK. The Titan Airways chartered flight landed smoothly at St Helena airport, having routed via Gran Canaria and Ascension Island. The plane can take around 200 passengers, but brought only a quarter on this flight due to the current capacity of the island’s quarantine facility.
St Helena has benefitted from regular scheduled flights from South Africa since its new airport opened in 2017. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the island was virtually cut off from the outside world, with the Airlink flights suspended on 21 March, and not expected to resume until the beginning of 2021.
Photojournalists Darrin and Sharon Henry, who run the What the Saints Did Next website, witnessed the historic event, filming the smooth landing of the plane, which, at some 47m in length, is 11m longer than the normal Embraer jet.
Although this flight was a special charter to repatriate Saints returning from the UK, it has fuelled speculation that when tourism to the remote Atlantic island resumes, it could make a viable alternative to the weekly scheduled flights from South Africa. Titan Airways has another chartered flight to St Helena scheduled for 14 September and if this becomes a regular service, it will post details on its website.
St Helena has had no cases of COVID-19 to date. Which, together with the timely publication of the new Bradt guide to St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, puts it in a great position for everyone waiting in hope to get globetrotting again. Watch this space!