For months the inhabitants of the Atlantic island of St. Helena have faced a connectivity problem. The mailship from Cape Town broke down near the end of its life and the there was no way to get on or off the island as easily as before. This was despite the fact the British Government had spent £285m on a new airport.
We have previous stories on the problems this airport faced with wind shear. The first commercial test flight was undertaken by South Africa’s Comair, using a British Airways branded 737NG. That did no go well as the cross winds made the landing on the island unexpectedly difficult. But that was in April, by December a new solution emerged.
We anticipated that the success of the Embraer flights to and from the island were going to show the way forward. The lighter Embraer E-Jet would enable the island to be connected to South Africa again. This would then enable people to easily transit from Johannesburg to the UK.
Today we understand that SA Airlink has signed a three-year deal to provide scheduled services to St. Helena using their Embraer E-190. The island has been waiting since May 2016 for air service to start. The proposed flight will occur weekly, from Johannesburg to St. Helena with a tech stop in Windhoek, Namibia. Total flight time will be six and a quarter hours – the Windhoek stop is included and should be 30 minutes to refuel for the long over water leg. The plan is for these flights to start in October.
SA Airlink acquired E-190s from NAC earlier this year. The flight tests on the island by Embraer proved the E-190 to be the right aircraft. The willingness of SA Airlink to take on this unusual flight will enable it to demonstrate a significant increase in capabilities.