The Following announcement has just been made by St Helena Government regarding the opening of our airport here on St Helena.
AIRPORT OPENING CEREMONY POSTPONED
St Helena Government today confirms that further safety and operational work is required prior to the Official Opening of the Island’s new Airport - and that this event has therefore been postponed. While this means that the Airport will not officially open on 21 May 2016 as originally planned, the safety of aircraft and passengers is of course paramount.
Last week the Island’s Air Service Provider, Comair, brought a Boeing 737-800 aircraft to St Helena on an ‘Implementation Flight’. The crew was able to gather real time information on the conditions at St Helena’s new Airport to assist in preparations for the commencement of scheduled air services. The objectives of the Implementation Flight included route assessment, airside operations, passenger and cargo handling, training and various aspects of safety at St Helena Airport.
One outcome of the Implementation Flight has been the gathering of additional data on turbulence and windshear on the approach to Runway 20 (from the North). As a result of the data gathered and the conditions experienced, it has been decided that there is some additional work to be done in order to ensure the safe operation of scheduled passenger flights to and from St Helena Airport.
Windshear refers to a change in wind speed or direction, including a rapid change over a short distance. Difficult wind conditions, including turbulence and windshear, are encountered and safely managed at many airports around the world.
All parties are now working hard to get a better understanding of how windshear conditions can be mitigated at St Helena Airport - assessing what measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of incoming aircraft landing on Runway 20. Everyone involved remains committed to commencing commercial flights to and from St Helena at the earliest possible opportunity.
SHG - working with all parties - has taken the decision to postpone the planned Official Opening Ceremony until a solution is found to manage this important safety issue.
The Official Opening of St Helena Airport will now take place at a later date which has yet to be determined.
The public will be kept informed as this work progresses.
Today is the day that many have been looking forward to.
Although not a scheduled flight, this was the one which shows the world that St Helena Airport is open for business. The flight is the first Comair flight to arrive here and the one which signals that more will follow.
Many islanders made the trip out to the millennium forest area to get a good look at the landing even though it is Monday and a work day.
The flight was due to arrive at 11.40 and around 11.50 a speck could be seen in the distance.
The plane gradually made it towards the island until the British Airways livery on the tail could clearly be seen. A lack of undercarriage gave away the fact that the plane was probably coming in for a first look rather than a landing. It got close to the runway and then made a climb and returned back to the north east for the landing
Once again In came the plane for what we thought would be the real landing. In it came and almost skimmed the runway but at the very last minute the landing was aborted and again it climbed away through the clouds.
The third attempt was not without drama with a dip to the wings before wheels actually touched the ground. Plenty of dust flew up as soon as touchdown happened and as the plane taxied to a halt..
And so there we have it, commercial aircraft landing for the first time on St Helena. A moment in history and an open gateway to the rest of the world.
Fares have been announced and soon bookings can be made via the British Airways website. This is likely to take place in another couple of weeks.
The plane is going to be here for a couple of days and will be doing test landings and take offs during this time.
Heading back to the office was an experience as we ended up in a massive traffic jam with cars coming from all directions onto the main road. A taste of things to come perhaps?
Sunday was the day that the first Jet arrived on St Helena.
This wasn't a scheduled flight (that's next month) but part of the last phase of the Airport Certification process. The local population turned out in force with many taking position in places where only a 4WD could make it. I didn't go over as roads were congested and my VW likes tarmac.
The Government Press Release gave out this message and sent the photos I have posted here.
A Bombardier Challenger 300 business jet landed at St Helena Airport yesterday, Sunday 10 April 2016, at around 11.20am - the first ever jet aircraft to land at St Helena Airport (HLE).
The flight departed from Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg on Sunday morning, calling at Walvis Bay, Namibia, for refueling and a weather update.
On board the aircraft were three pilots and eight passengers connected to the Airport project - including DFID Airport Project Manager, Nigel Kirby, and Certification Manager, Alan Shaw. The ASSI team will be led by Senior Aerodrome Inspector, Justin Rothwell, who first visited St Helena last year.
From today, Monday 11 April 2016, the ASSI team will undertake its key on-site audit as part of the certification process. The Bombardier jet will conduct several flights during the visit for Air Traffic Control and other purposes.
It is expected that the aircraft will depart St Helena on Friday 15 April 2016, at around 08.30hrs.
Antiques on St Helena are quite common as many families have been here for years and have gathered artefacts and mementos from many parts of the globe.
The Napoleonic era obviously has an impact on island collectables with pictures, ceramics, tapestries and other works lovingly cared for.
When asking folk what antiques they have and do they know about them, the usual answer is, “no its been passed down to me”. Consequently the heralded visit by Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow celebrity Tim Wannacott was met with much anticipation.
Tim visited the island last week with his wife Helen to write articles about St Helena for the Harrods Magazine and Mail on Sunday.
Whilst they were here, we took advantage of his valuation skills and set up an event in Jamestown’s Grand Parade for locals to bring their treasures.
It was estimated that we would get enough interest to keep the ball rolling for around two hours, in fact Tim was still going strong seven hours after he started! The queue started at around 8.30am for the start at 10.00am.
We saw paintings, wood carvings, coins, ceramics, glassware, statues, jewellery and much more. Some items could be valued on the spot but most were photographed and the owners details taken for a more accurate valuation to be sent from the UK.
Did we unearth any rare finds? Well if we did, no one is shouting about it.
There were some items valued in the thousands but the owners want to keep them under wraps. Probably because they just want to keep them in the family, just where they have been for the past 200 years.
An invitation to Longwood House for last Tuesday saw many of us up there to mark the opening of the exhibition “Napoleon in Saint Helena” at the Musée de L’Armée in Paris. The museum is running an exhibition to illustrate Napoleon’s time on St Helena and includes much of the furniture which was used by Napoleon whilst here.
The museum description of Napoleon’s time on St Helena includes the following narrative which in the context of today’s opinion of the island, couldn’t be further from the truth.
“On the rock of Saint Helena, the fallen Emperor launched his final battle, that of posterity, making his last residence a place for writing and creating the legend. Isolated in the midst of the Atlantic, everything conspired to make Longwood a tragic hell on earth.”
Easter weekend is upon us with no let up from the abnormal weather conditions the island has been experiencing since the beginning of the year. A combination of tropical squalls punctuated by bright blue skies offers limitless opportunities for rainbow hunters. I am no such creature, however I was heading into town one afternoon at around 4.00pm which was the ideal moment to experience a rainbow arching the town.
The colours here are pretty accurate, the rainbow really was that intense!
This apparition only lasted a minute or so. I dashed out of my car into the horizontal rain and onto the viewing platform at the top of Ladder hill. Camera clicked four or five shots and then it was over. Also the lens was starting to suffer from raindrops hitting it and rendering the focus useless.
Happily this is the digital age so I was immediately able to check that I had in fact taken a half decent picture and to feel just a tad smug that I have a really nice picture here.
The press release below arrived in my inbox on Thursday afternoon.
It is now official that Prince Edward will be coming to St Helena to open the airport. The opening has been planned to occur on what better day than St Helena day, a public holiday which the whole island participates in a carnival in town.
This news has added to the excitement here and to the reality of the airport opening on time, in spite of the fact that we don't yet have any plane schedules confirmed.
This is due to happen in the next couple of weeks once the final accreditation process has been completed.
As soon as we hear something here, I will report it!
The historic opening of St Helena Airport is planned for the morning of Saturday 21 May 2016 - St Helena’s National Day. It will be marked by a public ceremony at the Airport site, with Royal guest HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, in attendance.
All members of the public will be invited to attend this special event, ahead of the traditional St Helena’s Day entertainments in Jamestown.
As is usual, New Horizons will be organising the traditional programme of events for St Helena’s Day. But this year, this will be preceded by the Official Opening of St Helena Airport at the aerodrome organised by SHG, ESH, New Horizons & Basil Read - subject, of course, to prior certification of St Helena Airport.
Preparations for the Airport opening ceremony are ongoing and further details will follow in due course.
The first build phase has completed on time with the property made good to take interior walls, floors and ceilings.
This is an exciting part of the programme as the vision is now becoming real.
As you walk through the place it is becoming more and easier to imagine the finished product.
All aspects of the build will be completed in a way that they either are in keeping with the original house, such as doors and frames. Or that they can be taken back to the original if at any time it is desired, such as the kitchen and wood burning stoves.
The first floor which will house three double bedrooms with en-suite facilities… is starting to take shape with walls going up and areas allocated for electrical works.
Although we have no stairs yet, I was able to take a peek.
The views from the windows have probably barely changed in 200 years which has quite a grounding effect when time is taken to gaze from them.
We have a long way to go with many items being shipped over from overseas.
It’s going to be a race against time to get the place up and running by the end of May and so far so good!
As the airport nears completion, it is time to fill the building with concessions such as shop, café, restaurant and tourist information. I was invited to take a look at these areas within the new building along with people interested in hosting these businesses.
First impressions are that the area blends with the local environment, local materials have been utilised in modern ways. The sheer size and modernity of the terminal building are incongruent with the rest of the island with its traditional and historic links. Having said this, the contrast is nothing but positive, it shows that this little island is ready to host the world's tourists and to treat them in the manner to which they are accustomed.
The exteriors of some of the building, especially around the control tower and fire station, have been cladded with a dry stone effect which looks fantastic. Inside there are walls of wood panelling, light coloured tile floors and lots of glass. There is a feeling of light and space throughout.
The terminal is to have two catering outlets, one airside café and another landside one which will also have a viewing area.
Outside the terminal on the arrivals side there is paving and real roads with no potholes in them and a large car park. I can envisage locals coming here just to drive on a flat surface! Entry to the building is by a wide walkway, which again is flat, ready for many trolleys and wheels of suitcases.
My fellow visitors and I agreed that the island's airport is going to be a massive asset and one to be proud of. Its not only going to bring tourists to the island and the accompanying benefit to the economy, but also its going to bring families closer together and give opportunities to many in the form of jobs and more efficient connections with the outside world. A great achievement!
Having enjoyed my first Christmas in the UK for three years it is now time to head back to St Helena. The trip takes almost a week from UK to the island and longer if time is spent in Cape Town.
This trip is different in as much as it will probably be my last voyage on the RMS.
She is scheduled to finish her service to the island in July 2016 by which time planes will be taking off and landing at the airport. The travelling time to the island will be vastly reduced to a tolerable five hours from Johannesburg.
As this is to be my last trip I am documenting some of this voyage for posterity… Although I am sure there will be many other records to keep the memory alive.
Arriving at the dockside in Cape Town is more like a homecoming for many, as anyone who has been to the island before, whether Saint or Expat, will know someone else on the Ship. Also many of the local Cape Town Saints will make the journey down to the Seaman’s mission at the port to hear news about their island and loved ones at home. Now passengers are transited through a smart new ocean terminal complete with clean toilets and electronic immigration and security which makes things more efficient.
Travelling home on the same ship is Giselle Richards who had to travel to Cape Town for the birth of her baby. What happens to the new born’s nationality when you have to travel to another country to give birth? Giselle informs me that Baby has a full British passport as this has been pre-arranged with the British Consul in Cape Town. Always something interesting going on!
Checking in at the normal time, we are informed that the ship would be delayed as the cargo ship carrying frozen food from the UK to Cape Town is still in Cape Town bay due to the high winds which the cape experienced the previous week. There is a back log of ships in the bay all waiting for their slot to unload their cargo.
Later, there is a communication that the cargo ship is not going to get unloaded for another 24 hours so Captain Andrew Greentree has to decide whether to wait or not.
The decision to set off without the frozen consignment is made and we set off at around 11.00pm, around 6 hours behind schedule. I make a mental note to get to the shops in Jamestown as soon as I get back as there isn’t going to be much frozen food left and it’s at least a month before the next lot will arrive.
Routines are soon formed, the sound of the mealtime chimes set off an auto-response of hunger, in spite of it sometimes being only four hours since the last mealtime
Meals on the RMS are a highlight of the voyage, quite a challenge to cater for as there are all manner of people travelling: business, leisure and medical being the three main groups. Dinner is served in two sittings the dining room and also to cabins in the event that someone is overtaken by seasickness or are travelling for medical reasons.
Diners are allocated a table to sit at with fellow passengers, the catering team do the allocations and are usually very accurate in picking who should sit with whom……….perhaps they should start a dating agency! Dinner is a four course affair with the addition of cheese and a savoury course if desired, far too much food but who cares when it’s flowing freely along with wine at around £10 a bottle.
Lunch and breakfast can be taken in the dining room and also in the Sun Lounge which is popular with most as it offers sea views, fresh air and a more casual setting.
Other routines include the Captain’s cocktail party, the RMS quiz which is always popular and of course a variety of deck games. Cricket on the penultimate day into port is well patronised and great entertainment. A number of the rope balls inevitably end up over the side when an enthusiastic batsman takes the crease. The final scores are read out by the officer of the watch at 12.30 along with the ship’s position, air and sea temperature, depth of water beneath the vessel and estimated time of arrival. Also mentioned by the officer of the watch is when to change clocks as Cape Town to St Helena covers two time zones.
The final day is soon upon us and is spent, amongst other things, getting bags packed and laundry items washed and dried in the super-efficient drying room…..I wish I had one like this at home, clothes go in damp and within around an hour they are as dry as a bone.
The crew collect bags for shipment to shore and then it’s just a case of waiting to arrive. The sun deck becomes out of bounds as below it lays the hold. Passengers mill around the remaining decks and start to gather in the lounge awaiting their call to disembark. Disembarking is done in an orderly fashion by numbered landing cards.
Once off the ship and through immigration and customs, we are welcomed by a sea of familiar faces all who want to say hello. Giselle with her new baby is surrounded by well-wishers and is swallowed up by the crowd. I quickly lose sight of her. My friends and colleagues have come to meet me, hugs and kisses all round and I immediately feel the St Helena Home from Home welcome which makes me glad to be back.
The past 10 Saturdays have been a labour of love for 9 young people who signed up to join our Junior Chef Academy.
The objective was to create interest and awareness in catering and hospitality, specifically in the kitchen and also to show young people some of the many skills needed to deliver good quality food in a commercial environment.
Chef Trainer Mike Harper worked with the students over the 10 weeks, first starting with knife skills and basic techniques and gradually working up to more technical things such as mousses and choux pastry.
The Students all hail from year 11 of Prince Andrew School which is the only senior school on the island. Although juggling course work and studying for mock GCSEs, they willingly committed to working in the school’s catering block every Saturday morning.
The final week’s format was a competition.
The brief was for each student to create a menu and list ingredients for a two course meal.
They then had to cook the meal in a time frame of two hours and present two plates of each course for the judges to sample.
The atmosphere at the beginning of the day was pretty tense. Soon any nerves were replaced by serious drive and concentration to do the best job and to create a meal to be proud of.
Standards were impressive all round and that didn’t just include the food. Time management, keeping areas tidy and sinks empty all featured.
I would have been proud to have any of these people in working in my restaurant.
Our winnner’s dishes included Hake cooked in foil with lemon and herbs, served with broccoli and bacon mashed potato and a nicely decorated strawberry mousse on a biscuit base with chocolate shavings.
These students really are a credit not only to themselves but also, their families and the school.
I hope this kind of event becomes a regular occurrence on St Helena as there are so many benefits to all.
The secret of the south Atlantic is about to be discovered BIG TIME with the announcement in London this week that the Lonely Planet guides have included St Helena into its top 10 places to visit in 2016.
This will have a marked impact on the numbers of visitors here once the airport opens and also an increase in confidence here that business is going to be hectic next year.
Other destinations on this exclusive list include:
Transylvania, West Iceland, Waiheke Island New Zealand, Valle de Vinales Cuba and also Hawaii which I guess they mean the island of Hawaii rather than the islands of Hawaii.
Our tourist office is receiving more enquiries as the months tick by to airport open date as are individual businesses.
We have also received the news this week that there is to be another confirmed flight to St Helena from the UK. This is initially going to be a one off charter but if successful will become a regular trip. The airline are called Atlantic Star and have been keen to operate a route to and from St Helena for a number of years now.
Atlantic Star have teamed up with TUI-Fly, Europe’s largest tour operator to provide flights using a Boeing 737-800, flying out of Gatwick and refuelling in Banjul Gambia.
Sunday March 20th is the planned date for the inaugural flight, which is planned to match the Easter break which is a great time to be here.
Prices are yet to be confirmed but the word on the street is that a return fare is going to be in the region of around £1200 economy. This is less than the cheapest fare by ship and plane which comes in at about £1500.
People here are already talking about and planning for the visits from relatives who can’t get over because of the time element involved in travelling by ship. What an Easter its going to be!