Titan Airways Airbus A318 Delivers Covid 19 Test Kits To St Helena Island

//Titan Airways Airbus A318 Delivers Covid 19 Test Kits To St Helena Island

Titan Airways Airbus A318 Delivers Covid 19 Test Kits To St Helena Island

A Titan Airways, Airbus A318 is landing on St Helena today, bringing long-awaited Coronavirus, or Covid-19, test kits and other medical supplies, plus approximately 10 passengers, including three new medical workers to supplement the island’s health service.

Sharon, my dad, Pat, and me, are on our way out to photograph and film its arrival.

St Helena’s regular air service, provided by SA Airlink, is currently suspended while South Africa is in lockdown because of Covid-19. Which has triggered this A318 relief flight with the primary aim of delivering test kits.

 

 

Photographing The Dumpty Plane – By Darrin Henry

Today’s flight is significant for a few reasons.

It’s the very first Airbus type aircraft to fly here, a special mission brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. And it will be very interesting to see how the Airbus A318 performs at St Helena Airport as for the last four years many aviation enthusiasts have suggested that it could be ideal machine for our windy conditions.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of today’s flight is its direct route from the UK, albeit with a technical (refuelling) stop in Accra, Ghana, and an overnight stop at Ascension Island. The direct route from the UK, as opposed to the existing arrangement of having our air service linked to Johannesburg in South Africa, has always been the preferred option for many.

Ironically, the flight bringing test kits is also scary for many on St Helena because it represents a threat to our current Coronavirus-free status. (It is assumed the island is still Covid-19 free at the time of writing this). One medical person who was due to come on the flight had to be bumped after they contracted Covid-19, a stark reminder of how fragile our position is.

 

Cut Off From The Outside World

Isolation has defined Saint life, since… well, forever.

Air travel has only been up and running here since October 2017, two and a half years ago, so most of us are quite happy to pretend we still have a ship and its broken down somewhere leaving us cut-off from the outside world again. Island people everywhere know how quickly seasonal flu can spread in the community, so this new Coronavirus and its lethal capabilities scares the crap out of us.

Lots of Saints have told us they would prefer if this flight wasn’t coming at all.

For now, though, the three of us are quite looking forward to seeing a new type of passenger plane and how it looks and manages the conditions on the runway. We saw on Facebook that it left Ascension Island at 11.13am so it seems the 1pm ETA advertised last week is still on.

 

Police road block at the Millennium Forest preventing the public from going any further

Problems With The Police

Photographing aircraft landing at St Helena is awkward. There’s no clear vantage point from the airport itself, which in any case is now closed to the public completely, and the viewing positions on the Horse Point headland are still some distance away from the runway. Our preferred shooting spot involves a 20 min hike down and around the hillside below Bradley’s Camp, and that’s where we’re off to today.

We’re surprised to encounter a police road block at the Millennium Forest, preventing us reaching Bradley’s.

The old airport construction workers’ camp has been modified for use as a quarantine site for incoming passengers and road is closed, supposedly to protect their privacy.

I try to reason with the two police officers that we have no interest in seeing anyone at Bradley’s, we’re just here to photograph the aircraft landing, but it’s no use. We’re told one of the councillors has ordered the closure and we should take it up with him.

It’s a frustrating setback to our little plan, but time is ticking, so we turn around and head off to Horse Point. There are a few spectators there already and we learn later that others were also stopped by the police from accessing their normal viewing points.

 

The Airbus A318 Arrives At HLE

Once the cameras are all setup and ready for action, it’s picnic time while we wait.

Fruit cake, vegetarian pizza, chicken kebabs, crisps and chocolate! Ok, it all sounds a bit much, but it’s Monday and some of this is leftover from Sunday dinner, and it’s all easy finger-food.

Right on time, one o’clock, the all white Titan Airways jet appears over the hill behind us. All three of us train our lenses to the sky. Sharon and my dad are shooting stills and I’m taking video. We’ve had a few requests from WTSDN followers for video of the landing.

We were expecting the Airbus A318 to do a fly-over on the first run, but right away I notice the landing gear is down. We’ve been keeping an eye on the runway windsock since we arrived and it’s been pretty much horizontal most of the time, so a steady breeze for the pilots to contend with.

 

Getting our first look at the Titan Airways Airbus A318 as she arrives at St Helena

Coronavirus Test Kits Are Here

But, the rather dumpty looking aeroplane makes a simple, no-fuss approach, glides past the distinctive landmarks of King and Queen Rock, and settles down easily on the runway like there was nothing to it. Piece of cake you might say.

All three of us are impressed and start looking in the bags for more food as we discuss what we just saw.

The aircraft is scheduled to do some ‘proving’ and ‘training’ flights, so we put the cameras away while we wait as it’s a bit windy and dusty.

We pass the time by sizing up the amazing coastal landscapes around us, moaning that the weather’s getting a little chilly now and then finishing off the pizza.

Finally, just after 2.30pm the plane creeps back out onto the runway and down towards the end where we are, turns around, then roars back up the concrete strip and into the air.

 

The first Airbus aircraft to land at St Helena Airport

Direct Flights From The UK One Day… Maybe?

Over the next hour and a half, we enjoy the spectacle of a fly-over, this from the Runway 02 tailwind end, a normal Runway 20 landing, a take-off, a tailwind landing on 02, another take-off and finally finishing with a regular landing into the wind on Runway 20.

Everything looked easy from afar, I have to say, even the tailwind landing.

I’m assuming the aircraft was empty, so maybe a full load of passengers might affect handling a bit, but even so, it all looked very straight-forward from where we were.

We understand the flight was chartered by the British government to deliver 2.5 tonnes of medical supplies and a few residents needing to get back to the island. Tomorrow, when the plane leaves it will repatriate about 28 people back to the UK.

But those ‘training’ flights? What was that all about? Training for what?

Could it be someone, somewhere, is finally considering the benefits of a direct flight from Europe?

We pack up the gear and trudge back up the creeper-covered hillside to the car, chattering away and speculating about what it all might mean. We’re the only ones left out here on Horse Point, and by now, it’s after 4pm, the clouds have rolled in and we have our jackets on. The wind has not stopped all afternoon.

The conversation turns toward that nice cup of hot tea when we get home. And the three slices of gateau left in the fridge!

 

Runway 20 at St Helena Airport – starting from the very beginning

 

 

Titan Airways Airbus A318 flys past King & Queen Rock on the way to land at St Helena Airport

 

Titan Airways Airbus A318 take-off from St Helena Airport

 

Titan Airways Airbus A318 flying training and proving flight over St Helena

 

Waiting around at the hilltop viewpoint

 

 

By |2020-04-21T09:12:57+00:00April 20th, 2020|St Helena|13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Paul G April 27, 2020 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    What’s really amazing about this story is that on your isolated rock there are jobsworths and control freak politicians. Unbelievable. How many are you down there? I mean, Ascension is essentially a military island and understandable as to photography restrictions. Ditto the Falkland Island RAF Mount Pleasant. But St. Helena. Something is afoot.

    Exactly what is the councilor worried about that he would order the ‘serfs’ back? I don’t buy the isolation compound excuse. Sounds like a neo-feudal world down there.

  2. Rick and Sally Stucker April 21, 2020 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    To echo your thoughts, and those of some commenters, what will happen next? Now that the question of the A318 being able to service HLE or not has become moot, what will follow once global travel is booming again? This imposed downtime would be a great opportunity to press for direct-from-Europe service. Keep up the great reporting, photography and insights. And please stay healthy.

    • WTSDN April 21, 2020 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      Seeing is believing and it will be hard to ignore the calls now for a direct link to the UK, going forward.
      The link with South Africa we hope will still be maintained as the island has so many established connections with SA and Cape Town especially, but there’s no doubt the UK or Europe direct flights will help us all so much.
      Great to hear from you both, Rick & Sally, you two stay healthy too. Don’t take any risks with this awful virus.

  3. John April 21, 2020 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Great post. thank you. I also have an interest in Titan’s A318 ever since they purchased it from British AIrways where it operated from the short runway with steep approach path at London City airport. Pleased to see it being used for flights where it is well suited. Not sure why they came via Ascension as the A318 has the range to do ACC-HLE including a few missed approaches and still get back to ACC if it could not land at HLE. Pehaps they needed additional fuel uptake so they could do the additional flights out of HLE. Anyway, great to see and thanks again!

    • WTSDN April 21, 2020 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      A government press release today said one UK national was returned to Ascension on that flight who had been unable to make it home, so that was one reason for the ASC stop. Not sure if any other cargo or people movements took place.
      Thanks for the comment John, good to hear from you.
      Cheers

  4. Jill Flagg-Young April 21, 2020 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Great blog WTSDN loved the ref to your food for lunch and the gateaux in the fridge for later ! Made me smile. An interjection of humour always helps in these difficult times. Glad u were at least able to get some photos n video of the take off and landings. Great news item thanks Jill

    • WTSDN April 21, 2020 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      Haha, thanks Jill. We’ve learned our lesson trying to photograph planes here, you always spend so much time waiting around so take plenty of food!
      Yes, pleased with the video. We know these are popular with people so we try to do them if we can.
      Great to hear from you, take care over there.
      best wishes, D&S

  5. Roger LEE April 21, 2020 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the information and video on the A318 Darin . The Atlantic people originally wanted to do that route with a 757 . They are proved correct and until it happens the Tourism will not take off . A direct link with the UK is essential , ideally a two centre holiday , one week in St.Helena and one at Ascension if that`s possible .

    • WTSDN April 21, 2020 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Yes, I remember Richard Brown telling me about Accra and their plans, first I had ever realised what could be possible in that regard.
      A direct Europe route will definitely have huge advantages for visitors. And for Saints too, it would make travel a little bit more possible as the double flight cost to get to UK at the moment is very preventative.
      That Titan flight has certainly opened up the conversation now.
      Thanks for the comment Roger, great to hear from you.

  6. Chris Pashley April 21, 2020 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Wonderful record. Thank you Henrys – very jealous – isolated at home here in Surrey. We’ve both had the dreaded and I (men have it worse) am just 3 days back into ‘life’. would like to know why it’s so deadly to some (tempting providence!). Lungs not perfect but with my Asthma and COPD was expecting worse..
    Praying that it is not carried to your beautiful Island.
    Keep communicating.
    Appreciative Chris & Jean Pashley
    Just mended my waterproof Bluetooth speaker so keeping my ‘old’ hand in, Darrin. Near vision a problem now I’ve had bilateral phacoemulsification (lens replacements for cataracts). Digging garden just about to be tried but don’t anticipate such rapid success.

    • WTSDN April 21, 2020 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      Lovely to hear from you Chris, sorry to hear about what happened but what a relief to be on the mend from this.
      We are mercifully still (far as we know) free from Covid but it all feels so fragile and there is a lot of nervousness. We are desperate to keep it out, just hoping our leaders are able to do their bit.
      Well done with the Bluetooth – it’s all moving to fast these days, you’re still way ahead of me there 🙂
      All the best getting back to full health, enjoy the garden 🙂

  7. Mark Bellamy April 21, 2020 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Thanks very mush Darrin,great visdeo and pics from your family as well.Shame your policemen were not a little more reasonable and understanding of the situation.
    I follow this little aeroplane on FR quite abit and it certainly is kept busy and an ideal workhorse sort of aircraft.

    • WTSDN April 21, 2020 at 10:47 am - Reply

      You’re welcome Mark, thanks for the feedback.
      To be fair, the police on the barrier were quite apologetic about the situation but were having to follow orders from above.
      It was brilliant to see an A318 here at last and that link down through Accra is very interesting.
      All the best Mark.

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