The tropical island of St. Helena is probably best known as the remote British territorial island prison where Napoleon spent the final six years of his life exiled and isolated in the South Atlantic. Napoleon arrived at St. Helena two hundred years ago in October 1815. St. Helena is 2,760 miles from Cape Town, South Africa and some 4,000 miles from Paris, France. Presently, St. Helena is one of the most remote inhabited places on earth and difficult to reach.
St. Helena Airport, scheduled to open in February 2016, will end centuries of South Atlantic island isolation. Next year, when St. Helena Airport opens, visitors will arrive after a five hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, ending over 500 years of island access only by sea since the Portuguese arrived by ship in 1502.
BBC America broadcast the documentary this weekend St Helena: An End to Isolation about the small island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic with 4,200 residents. The island politically is part of the British Overseas Territories, similar to Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands and Pitcairn Islands. The UK government finances about 25 million GBP ($38 million USD) for island expenses annually.
St. Helena is accessible only by five days voyage on a British supply ship from Cape Town, South Africa every few weeks. Next February, a new airport is scheduled to open with flight service from South Africa by Comair. In 2016 tourists will be able to travel to St. Helena by plane with a 3,065 mile flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, ending more than 500 years of island access only by ship travel.
RMS St. Helena, a British government funded vessel, is scheduled for its last voyage in March 2016. The ship brings nearly all the supplies needed for the island residents.
St. Helena Airport is a 250 million GBP project (about $400 million USD) started in 2011 by the British government. The airport is scheduled to open February 2016.
The goal of government support for St. Helena island infrastructure is for tourism revenue growth to make St. Helena more self-sufficient and less dependent on government for local employment.
Comair, a South African airline is the preferred bidder to operate once weekly service between Johannesburg JNB Airport, South Africa and St. Helena with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft for a 4.5 hour flight.
MercoPress – South Atlantic News Agency: St Helena names South African airline preferred bidder for when airport opens next year (March 21, 2015)
BBC News: Awaiting St Helena’s new airport (March 20, 2015)
BigNewsNetwork.com – St Helena says South African airline is preferred operator for new airport (March 21, 2015)