Long-awaited flights from St Helena are drawing closer with a proving flight scheduled for later this month, after a prolonged delay due to issues with wind shear.
The £285m airport could soon have its first scheduled service after the government announced an agreement with South Africa's Airlink last month, confirming the trial flight date this week.
It plans to start a service from Johannesburg, with a stopover at Windhoek in Namibia and then on to St Helena. Airlink will also operate a monthly charter service between St Helena and Ascension Island.
SA Airlink will use an Embraer jet, with a proving flight lined up for later this month on Monday 21 August to demonstrate to the South African authorities that the plane can safely service the route.
The progress is a significant step forward for the airport, which has been plagued with difficulties since its completion earlier last year. Flights were meant to be going to and from the island from last May, but that was put off indefinitely due to concerns over wind shear.
The British territory in the south Atlantic is difficult to reach and takes a five day voyage on the RMS Saint Helena.
The small island is hopeful that the airport will open up direct flights to it, providing a needed boost to its tourism industry.
St Helena’s government announced the agreement with SA Airlink last month, with the governor of St Helena, Lisa Phillips, saying:
Undoubtedly, 2017 is the year of positive change for St Helena. Very soon a trip to South Africa, for St Helenians, will take a matter of hours rather than days.
And we will be able to welcome tourists here in larger numbers and improve the economy of the island and offer a better life for those who live here.
Fares for the six-hour flights have not yet been announced, with the government saying further details will be provided in the coming weeks.