The island of St Helena is hoping its tourism industry will take-off following the arrival of its first commercial flight on Saturday.
The remote South Atlantic island, which sits 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa, was previously only accessible by boat until the UK government built a £285 million airport. Problems with dangerous crosswinds and downdrafts – known as wind shear - led to the airport’s safety certification being delayed and it being dubbed ‘the world’s most useless airport’.
An inaugural Comair Boeing 737 flight encountered severe windshear caused by the cliffs that surround the runway, leading to fears the UK government had funded a very expensive white elephant. However SA Airlink, which uses a smaller Embraer E190, is now serving the British Overseas Territory on a scheduled basis.
The first SA Airlink flight from Johannesburg via Windhoek, taking six hours and 15 minutes, was greeted with crowds at the new terminal. Flights carry enough fuel to circle for two hours and return to Windhoek if they are unable to land, which limits the 90-seat aircraft to only 76 passengers.
The island is best known as the last place of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte and his final resting place and is said to have enormous potential for tourism. Among plans to attract tourists is the proposed creation of a Dark Skies park, where there is no light pollution.