St Helena was brought one step closer to the future on 21 July when SA Airlink and St Helena Government signed the agreement for Airlink to provide a scheduled air service to St Helena, with a connecting chartered service to Ascension Island. This week on Monday (21 August) the island witnessed the next step as Airlink conducted a proving flight with the Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft that will serve St Helena when flights commence.
The purpose of the proving flight was for Airlink to demonstrate to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) operational proficiency in terms of Extended Range Twin Engine Operations (ETOPS) requirements.
Airlink proving flight arrives at St Helena
The aircraft landed at the airport around 11:30 on runway 20 with 34 passengers following a six hour journey from Johannesburg, with a fuelling stop at Windhoek. Those on board included Airlink CEO, Rodger Foster, personnel from Airlink’s marketing and ground operations teams, Adrian Gardner of Mantis, South African tour operator representatives and South African Civil Aviation Authority (SA CAA).
Photo courtesy of SHG Press Office
Press conference welcomes guests at St Helena Airport
A press conference was held at the Airport following the flight with Governor Lisa Phillips and Airport Director Janet Lawrence. The conference began with Governor Phillips welcoming everyone on the flight. She continued:
“For me, today is about being one step closer to commercial services. And why am I interested in that? Because for me that means more money coming in to the economy, more jobs, higher wages, more taxes from those wages, better services provided, and a better standard of living for St Helenians; and that’s my interest today.”
During the conference, Rodger Foster of Airlink talked about monitoring St Helena’s weather patterns and about their landing during the windy conditions that day. He said:
“By all accounts it was a viable, stable approach. The exercise from here on is to accumulate data over time.”
Commenting on St Helena’s welcome, Adrian Gardner from Mantis said:
“It epitomises what St Helena is about, what the Saints are about. I can’t wait for the world to see this because that sort of welcome that we got, if you can give that to your visitors our job’s going to be easy because word will just spread like lightning around the world.”
“I would like to thank Graham and his team and Agmac. We’ve done some difficult jobs around the world. This one has been one of the more tricky ones but they’ve really faced the task well. I can’t wait to get down there and to see how far the hotel’s got because all I’ve seen is pictures.”
If you would like to listen to the full coverage at St Helena Airport and the Press Conference, please visit the Saint FM website.
L-R – Graham Vass, Janet Lawrence, Rodger Foster, Governor Lisa Phillips and Adrian Gardner
Guests tour St Helena
Representatives of New Frontiers and African Ample Assistance tour operators were led by Tourism Officers Melissa Fowler and Christina Plato on a trip around some of the Island’s key locations, to showcase unique attractions and meet with various accommodation, taxi and tour providers.
“We hope that everyone who arrived on Monday enjoys their experience of the Island, as a team we have planned with various stakeholders to ensure they get the most of their trip. I hope the message is spread of how excited we are to receive visitors and how truly unique St Helena is as a new destination for Airlink.”
Another group visited Longwood House (Napoleon’s residence from 1816 to 1821) and some later met with key stakeholders on the Island.
Melissa with visiting Tour Operators Craig Smith and Sone Kuhn
Reception at Plantation House
During the evening all passengers were invited to Plantation House, residence of Governor Phillips. In her speech, Governor Phillips said:
“We are very keen to start passenger services as quickly as possible, though recognise this cannot happen until all the regulatory approvals are in place. To the tour operators and marketing managers, we are looking to you to bring us the ‘right’ people. This means tourists who will appreciate what we have and who will tell their friends. St Helena needs investors who have ethical approaches and who will consider what they can put into the Island, not what they can take out.
“I’m sure this will be the start of many successful partnerships. There is palpable enthusiasm on the Island for the next step in St Helena’s history – one that will ultimately bring a better standard of living and a better future for everyone who lives here.”
Final tours and farewell
On their second day, many had their first opportunity to see St Helena with an Island tour and stroll through Jamestown, with some having a quick jog up Jacob’s Ladder. A boat trip was organised by the Tourist Office which was attended by the tour operator representatives and many of Airlink personnel including the CEO, Rodger Foster. Following the boat trip the tour operator representatives met with the remaining accommodation providers.
The flight departed at 15:11 on Tuesday, 22 August.