The government of St. Helena has issued a second Request For Proposals (RFP) to all eligible parties for the provision of scheduled passenger services to the British Overseas Territory located in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

In a communique issued this week, the island's government said the contract would require the winning firm to provide regular air services to St. Helena, including a direct service between St. Helena and Georgetown Wideawake on Ascension Island. In addition, the government is also seeking a year-round, weekly flight to a recognised international hub airport or to an airport with direct connections to the UK or South Africa.

South Africa's Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), which operates under a British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) franchise contract, was awarded the first such contract earlier this year and had intended to run weekly return services to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo using a B737-800 back in May.

The service has yet to commence given lingering concerns about turbulence and wind shear phenomena on approach into St. Helena's Runway 20.

“The agreement awarded to Comair for the provision a scheduled air service to St. Helena is still in place, albeit in a temporarily suspended state whilst a more permanent, reliable solution for the island is considered," Erik Venter, CEO of Comair, told ch-aviation in an e-mailed statement. "The recent announcement by St. Helena's Government (SHG) of a tender for air services is based on operations taking place primarily on Runway 02 (the southern approach to the runway) and is an interim measure whilst potential longer term solutions to Runway 20 are explored. We remain very much engaged with SHG and our discussions have been and will continue to be constructive and outcomes-focused.”

For its part, the St. Helena government has said it has carried out extensive work to mitigate the challenges of wind shear on Runway 20's approach. In addition, it is also collecting data on Runway 02's tailwind speeds, in particular the frequencies at which they exceed 10 knots and 15 knots.

"We have always said that getting this right involves complex work and will take some time. We now have nine months of weather data relating to both approaches, plus reports of the experience of each of the many flights that have so far operated into the Airport. Computer and physical modelling are adding to this and building a stronger picture of the conditions under which we will be asking aircraft to operate."

Earlier this year, Atlantic Star Airlines (London Luton), a start-up carrier that has long sought to offer one-stop flights between the United Kingdom and St Helena, said its own research had shown that an ARJ-100, equipped with added fuel tanks, could handle a Runway 02 approach given its 'strong performance when landing on limited runways in tailwind conditions'.