Titan Airways has successfully delivered the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines to the remote island of Saint Helena. The airline operated its Boeing 757 on the route this week, landing Monday after a fuel stop in Accra. It’s the first of two missions to the island that are planned so far.
Titan’s 757 returns to Saint Helena
Last summer saw the first arrival of Titan Airways’ Boeing 757 in Saint Helena. The flight, a repatriation mission, was the first time a 757 had landed on the island, making it the largest commercial aircraft to arrive on Saint Helena. On Monday this week, the 757 arrived again on the island, this time carrying a shipment of vaccines.
Once cruelly dubbed the ‘world’s most useless airport’ by the media, Saint Helena Airport is thoroughly proving its worth with this latest arrival. While landing in Saint Helena is not without its challenges, the airport’s successes since it opened have proven its value.
The Boeing 757 departed London Stansted at just after midnight on January 11th. Following a six and a half hour flight, it touched down in Accra, Ghana, at 07:02 local time. The aircraft stayed on the ground for approximately an hour and a half to refuel, before completing the final three-hour leg of its journey to the island of Saint Helena.
Titan Airways advised Simple Flying that this is the first of two flights scheduled to deliver the vaccine so far. Managing Director Alastair Wilson said,
“This was our fifth flight to St Helena and fourth on the Boeing 757, which is the largest commercial aircraft that can land on the Island. Our team spends a lot of time preparing and training for these flights, working closely with St Helena airport and the Met Office. All flights to St Helena require continuous monitoring of the conditions to ensure a safe landing on the remote runway.
“We have one further flight planned and are very proud to be able to support the UK and St Helena Government to deliver the Astra Zeneca / Oxford vaccine and other essential supplies to the British Overseas Territory.”
The Saint Helena Government has advised that the aircraft delivered 100 Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines to the island. While not enough, by a long way, for the entire population, these will be targeted at those most at risk of contracting COVID-19. In a statement, the government said,
“These initial vaccines will be rolled out on-Island to key health workers and frontline staff as agreed by the Incident Executive Group (IEG) on 31 December 2020. This is due to these workers being at the highest risk of potential infection of COVID-19.”
The return trip is taking place today and departed Saint Helena at just after 09:00 local time. At the time of writing, it has just touched down at Accra and will be making its final leg of the journey later this afternoon.
As well as transporting the crucial vaccine to Saint Helena, the flight operated as a repatriation service for those looking to return to the island. Passengers were required to complete a ten-step process to arrive on the COVID-free island, including a negative COVID test both before and after the flight, and a strict 14-day quarantine on arrival.
Unusually, the return flight (which is also operating as a repatriation service) is allowing passengers to disembark during the technical stop in Accra. As expected, a negative PCR test is required at both ends of the journey.
At the present time, Saint Helena has no regularly scheduled air services. Charter flights are operating roughly once every six weeks, and the airport is holding out hope that the newly rebranded Airlink will make a swift return, once restrictions ease.