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First flight to land in remote British territory St Helena

18 October 2017 08:13

Tourist numbers are expected to increase from 1,000 to 59,000 by 2042

Tourist numbers are expected to increase from 1,000 to 59,000 by 2042

Officials are hoping a new airport on the remote island of St Helena will boost tourism, after spending £285,000 of taxpayer money on the airport's development.

From Saturday, October 14, flights between Johannesburg, South Africa and the British overseas territory off Africa's west coast will be operated weekly via SA Airlink.

Due to the position of the island, which sits in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, the trip will take six hours and 15 minutes including a stop in Windhoek, Namibia.

Until now, a six-day jaunt by ship from South Africa had been the only way of getting to the island.

The RMS St Helena's final voyage will take place in February 2018.

A tourism boost

St Helena receives around £52 million in annual aid from Britain. The Government is hoping the new airport will improve tourism links to the island and make St Helena more self-sufficient.

The Department for International Development (Dfid) had forecast tourist numbers will increase to 59,000 by 2042, up from just 1,000 last year.

Lisa Phillips, governor of the island, said: "As the big day draws near, I for one am getting really excited about the new chapter in St Helena's history.

"I am sure everyone will give this first flight a huge St Helena welcome."

'Staggering' miscalculations

Prolonged delays developing the airport have cost millions, with planners underestimating the problem the island has with trans-Atlantic winds.

An opening ceremony in April 2016 had to be abandoned after it took three attempts for a commercial plane to land on the runway.

A damning report from December calls it "staggering" that MPs could not foresee the problem with wind shear.

"We asked the department how, if Charles Darwin could have experienced and described the problem of wind shear on St Helena in 1836, it commissioned a £285.5m airport, paid for by the British taxpayer, without properly appreciating the danger of this effect," the report said.

When travelling to remote islands and destinations, worldwide travel insurance should be an essential part of planning your trip.