British Airways 737-800 First Landing On St Helena

The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 flying in for a first low-level pass over the new St Helena Airport, below the ruin of Prosperous Bay House and King & Queen Rock.

The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 flying in for a first low-level pass over the new St Helena Airport, below the ruin of Prosperous Bay House and King & Queen Rock.

THE FLIGHT FROM THE TOP OF THE BARN | Sharon Henry

The last time we clambered onto ‘The Barn‘ the airport runway was only partially laid, this time we’ve scrambled up to watch an actual aeroplane land on that completed piece of gleaming concrete. And not just any aeroplane, a spanking new Boeing 737-800, operated by Comair, emblazoned with British Airways livery in the red, white and blue of the Union Jack. It’s the first passenger plane to touchdown on the new landing strip, the BIG one after the three smaller calibration flights before it.

Taking A Risk Or Two

Photography is often all about different angles; we also like to add a little adventure and for today’s special shoot we spiced it up with some altitude. That is to the dizzying 616 metre height of ‘The Barn,’ one of St Helena’s most challenging (and may I add dangerous) hikes.

On our way to try a different angle for the big Boeing's arrival. The large boxy hulk of The Barn in the distance, very grey and dull on an overcast morning.

On our way to try a different angle for the big Boeing’s arrival. The large boxy hulk of The Barn in the distance, very grey and dull on an overcast morning.

Arriving at The Barn Post Box with the cloud closing in. At 616m, this is one of the more difficult post box walks on St Helena, nearly all of the route is over steep, difficult terrain.

Arriving at The Barn Post Box with the cloud closing in. At 616m, this is one of the more difficult post box walks on St Helena, nearly all of the route is over steep, difficult terrain.

There are a number of these solar powered safety beacons that have been installed on top of the Barn as part of the St Helena Airport project. Quite impressive that someone carried all this equipement up here!

There are a number of these solar powered safety beacons that have been installed on top of the Barn as part of the St Helena Airport project. Quite impressive that someone carried all this equipment up here!

The Barn is a hulking brute of a rock that from ground level seems to jut scarily close into the flight path of approaching aircraft. We decided last minute it would be a great spot to get a different angle and maybe even reach out and touch the plane!

It was one of those things though that sounded like a good idea at the time. However, in the cold, cloudy light of dawn it lost some fizz when I thought of the two hour plus walk we had ahead of us. I should also mention that The Barn is notorious for unpredictable cloud cover that can accumulate suddenly. One minute there’ll be glorious sunshine the next a complete white-out. We were taking a risk and after a hard slog we could end up with an empty memory card.

The St Helena Weather

There was already a fluffy layer of cloud on The Barn when we set off on the dot of 8, lugging cameras, telephoto lens, heavy-weight tripod, sandwiches and birthday cake. Our godson’s 10th birthday was to be marked with this milestone.

Amazing views from the top of The Barn, especially with the weather now clear. Munching into our sandwiches and birthday cake while we wait on Comair/British Airways to arrive at St Helena.

Amazing views from the top of The Barn, especially with the weather now clear. Munching into our sandwiches and birthday cake while we wait on Comair/British Airways to arrive at St Helena.

The long wait is finally over - the Comair operated, British Airways 737-800 appears behind us over the top of The Barn, lining up on the runway.

The long wait is finally over – the Comair operated, British Airways 737-800 appears behind us over the top of The Barn, lining up on the runway.

British Airways 737-800 lands on St Helena - What The Saints Did

The new St Helena Airport is built in the shadow King & Queen Rock which provides a dramatic backdrop for the British Airways 737-800 as it approaches the beginning of the runway.

Not wanting to get caught out by missing status updates, we tuned into SAMS Radio 1 for changes in the flight schedule. The ETA had moved from 11.40 to 11.50am. The weather ran through a repertoire of dullness, splashes of blue sky, spots of rain, swathes of mist then a miraculous turn to clear skies and sunshine.

By the time we’d eaten our picnic and licked our fingers of cake crumbs we had an hour of playing the waiting game.

Darrin, having learned from his error of missing the fly-pass of the first plane to land on St Helena‘s a few months ago due to chatting, was now a stickler for preparedness and constantly scanned the skyline whilst listening for jet engine sounds.

Sea Rescue service on standby off the coastline, viewed from the top of The Barn.

Sea Rescue service on standby off the coastline, viewed from the top of The Barn.

737-800 Landing On St Helena

Then at 11.52 the shiny tube of ZS-ZWG popped into sight from behind us and it was action stations; camera on rapid burst and video camera rolling.

The pilot did a brilliantly skilful fly-by skimming just 50 feet above the runway, much to our delight and I’m sure the large population of onlookers, including the island’s school children, who had congregated around the safety zones of the brand new St Helena airport. Darrin being a ‘Top Gun’ nut was ecstatic.

Great view of the brand new jet as she glides past The Barn against the blue Atlantic, about to carry out the second fly-by at the new St Helena Airport. The British Airways 737-800 is operated by South African airline, Comair.

Great view of the brand new jet as she glides past The Barn against the blue Atlantic, about to carry out the second fly-by at the new St Helena Airport. The British Airways 737-800 is operated by South African airline, Comair.

View from near the Millennium Forest of the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 on final approach to the St Helena Airport, with spectators on the top of Horse Point. Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

View from near the Millennium Forest of the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 on final approach to the St Helena Airport, with spectators on the top of Horse Point.
Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

The St Helena Airport landscape is a ruggedly dramatic sight for passengers on flights making the final approach to the runway.

The St Helena Airport landscape is a ruggedly dramatic sight for passengers on flights making the final approach to the runway.

Then after it had circled around and come in on a second approach, this time with landing gear down, we had a heart-stopping moment. Just as the wheels were about to kiss the runway, the aircraft suddenly pulled up hard and fast and leapt back into the sky. Not sure if it was a planned test or a problem with landing but it certainly was dramatic.

The 737-800 on its second pass looked as though it was about to touch down, then suddenly powered up and climbed steeply away from the runway.

The 737-800 on its second pass looked as though it was about to touch down, then suddenly powered up and climbed steeply away from the runway.

British Airways 737-800 lands on St Helena - What The Saints Did

The dramatic and stunning final approach for aircraft landing at the new St Helena Airport, flying in over the Atlantic Ocean, right past King & Queen Rock before landing. This is the very first ‘big’ aircraft to land here, a Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800. The airplane has flown from Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 landing at the new St Helena Airport. The colourful earth and lunar terrain on Prosperous Bay Plain makes for a dramatic arrival scene for passengers.

The Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800 landing at the new St Helena Airport.
The colourful earth and lunar terrain on Prosperous Bay Plain makes for a dramatic arrival scene for passengers.

Touchdown at 12:08 for the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, the first of its size and type to land at St Helena Airport. Viewed from near the Millennium Forest with spectators at Bradley's Camp visible in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

Touchdown at 12:08 for the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, the first of its size and type to land at St Helena Airport. Viewed from near the Millennium Forest with spectators at Bradley’s Camp visible in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

St Helena Airport in the distance has a Boeing 737-800 on the apron.

St Helena Airport in the distance has a Boeing 737-800 on the apron.

The third round was less so and the airplane touched down at 12.08pm with a textbook landing. A happy pilot no doubt and contented photographers; we had three chances to capture some excellent shots especially with the awesome backdrop of King & Queen Rocks and Prosperous Bay House.

The Only Way Is Up From Here

I still find it astonishing that we have an airport here on St Helena. And today is particularly poignant thinking of the loved ones who did not live to enjoy this moment with us. Crazy though, that finally we are entering the world of air travel. I’m getting a head rush from the excitement coursing through my veins thinking of the easier and cheaper travel options soon to be available for Saints.

Mind you, that head rush might also be attributed to thoughts of our two hour return journey. But coming here was definitely worth the effort of adding more amazing albums to our adventures in photography.

Hundreds of islanders turned out to witness the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, land at St Helena Airport. This the long line of vehicles leaving on the Bottomwoods Road after the event. Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

Hundreds of islanders turned out to witness the Comair operated, British Airways Boeing 737-800, land at St Helena Airport. This the long line of vehicles leaving on the Bottomwoods Road after the event.
Photo courtesy of Pat Henry.

Making the long walk back home after a successul day on top of The Barn shooting the first passenger jet to land on St Helena.

Making the long walk back home after a successul day on top of The Barn shooting the first passenger jet to land on St Helena.

St Helena's new Airport has passed its first big test - a Boeing 737-800 has made a first landing and is taxing to the terminal.

St Helena’s new Airport has passed its first big test – a Boeing 737-800 has made a first landing and is taxing to the terminal.

51 thoughts on “British Airways 737-800 First Landing On St Helena

  1. Well done Sharon and Darrin….the pics and write up are amazing. What a momentous time for our lovely island . Thanks for sharing. …just so incredible !!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly was, which involved a monumental landfill of a deep gully along with a long list of other crazy construction feats. Well done to Basil Read Construction!

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  2. Fantastic photos, thanks! This must be a truly amazing and emotional time for Saints. The whole world is watching you right now. I’ve been following this story from the UK with much interest and can’t wait to visit, your island looks amazing. Well done to everyone involved in the project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Nick. This really was one of those surreal moments when you had to pinch yourself to prove that it’s real! It’s been many years in the making and finally air travel is (almost) here just waiting for the flight schedule to be published and we’ll be flying high. πŸ™‚

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  3. Fabulous images and great video! Thank you for letting us share some of those feelings through your pics and vids. Very emotional watching this from afar! Hope that it won’t be long before we can get home this way too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Watching a full-sized airplane land evoked a lot of emotions for many of us – especially when the realisation hits that ‘home’ is just mere hours instead of days away. Looking forward to seeing you around sometime πŸ™‚

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  4. I’m very proud of you both for your ambitious adventures ambling the rocky mounts to gather operational data of angle views on the flight approaching her first landing on St Helena’s Airport. Fantastic Photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pat – and especially for the brilliant photos you ‘lent’ us from a closer vantage point of the airplane landing. Priceless πŸ™‚

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  5. So excited about the new airport and flights now available. It means we will be able to visit our daughter Sarah who is soon to join the nursing staff at the hospital in Jamestown.Thanks Darrin and Sharon for the great update.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The airport now opens so many possibilities for travel to and from St Helena. It’ll be a special experience touching down first time on the island. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay.

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  6. Thank you for the fantastic coverage & the huge effort you put into getting to such an advantageous vantage point. Just looking at your wonderful shots made my knees ache from thoughts of the climb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes thanks to ‘Mr Pat’ we managed to cover extra angles! Love the touchdown photo with Basil Read contractors in the foreground looking at the amazing feat they’ve collectively achieved. πŸ™‚

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  7. Just got back from St Helena last week having spent 18 days on the RMS and on the island. Great pictures and the “Barn” is absolutely an unpredictable beast of a mountain that we didn’t quite pack into our trip. Next time. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Steve – that’s great you’ve experienced a journey on the beloved RMS. When you visit next be sure to put tackling The Barn on the top of your list.

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    • Thanks Derek – we were counting our lucky stars that the dreaded cloud shifted in time. Otherwise the ‘head rush’ would have taken on a whole new meaning πŸ™‚

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