A test flight St Helena is hoping will finally lead to scheduled services at its £285m airport will go ahead tomorrow "weather permitting", after prolonged delays due to wind shear troubles.
The government has agreed a deal with South African airline Airlink that will see the airline "provide scheduled commercial air services" from Johannesburg via Windhoek in Namibia to St Helena. It will also operate a monthly charter service between St Helena and Ascension Island.
And a proving flight goes ahead tomorrow using an Embraer jet to prove to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) that the plane can safely service the route, as part of the standard protocol ahead of rolling our an air service on a new route. It is expected to arrive at St Helena Airport at 10.30am local time.
The aircraft will carry around 35 passengers for the test flight, a mixture of Airlink senior management and representatives from the SACAA, with the flight then expected to depart St Helena to go back on Tuesday 22 August.
The St Helena government said Airlink was working with the team at the airport to assess air traffic control, communications and navigation systems, as well as emergency services and security.
The remote island in the south Atlantic takes a five day trip on the RMS Saint Helena to reach, and its 4,200-strong population was hoping the airport development would give rise to a tourism boost. But safety plans put scheduled services on hold, as concerns over wind shear meant commercial planes were having difficulty landing.
The British overseas territory is still being served by the boat service for now. It had been due to be decommissioned, but the Department for International Development agreed to an extension.
A report by the National Audit Office last year noted that with the airport's planned opening date of May 2016 postponed, this was "potentially adding to the project's costs and delaying its benefits".