The airport serving the British Overseas Territory of St. Helena, located in the southern Atlantic Ocean, has seen its maiden commercial passenger service almost a year after the facility was first opened.

According to Flightradar24 ADS-B data, Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) conducted flight SA8878 on Wednesday, May 3, to the remote island from Cape Town via Namibe, Angola, using ARJ-85 ZS-SSH (msn 2285). The return service, SA8879, flew back to Cape Town via Windhoek Int'l on the same day.

The one-off charter flight was to bring back passengers stranded in Cape Town on account of the island's only dedicated ship, the RMS St. Helena, being out of service owing to a broken propeller.

Though the airfield has been open to all traffic since May last year, no commercial operators have yet started scheduled services to the island on account of the challenges of wind shear on its Runway 20's approach.

South Africa's Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), which was awarded the first contract to run scheduled passenger flights between South Africa and St Helena, has held off on account of these adverse operational conditions.

Following this disappointment, a second Request For Proposals (RFP) was issued late last year. However, unlike the first tender, this round focussed on the provision of flights primarily using Runway 02 (the southern approach to the runway). This track's approach has been touted as best suited to ARJ equipment given the strong tailwinds inbound aircraft encounter.

Though no final candidate has yet been selected, virtual carrier Atlantic Star Airlines (London Luton) and technical partner Cello Aviation (CLJ, Birmingham Int'l) have confirmed that they have not been invited to participate in the next phase of the Air Access tender process.