Flights to Ascension would be economically “do-able” when St Helena’s airport opens, according to the chief executive of the proposed Atlantic Star airline.
Captain Richard Brown said his team was keen to provide a service for Saints working on the island – but it could not be frequent.
He and a team of fellow pilots and business advisers hope to set up Atlantic Star as a dedicated airline for St Helena to meet the highly unusual challenges of flying to the island.
“Ascension we see as do-able,” he said. “We see it as something that we would want to do but it certainly wouldn’t be as frequent as a weekly service, simply because I can’t see enough tourist traffic to sustain it.
“Part of the issue would be that the pilots and cabin crew who’ve just operated out of Europe down to the island would not be rested in order to carry out another service on to Ascension, which means we would have to base pilots and cabin crew on the island.
“However, when you look at a number of Saints, a few tourists, perhaps some military personnel moving backwards and forwards and some cargo, then we see it as a route that could be viable.”
The same was not true for flights between St Helena and the Falkland Islands, he said – despite speculation that it was seen as a strategic alternative to the military route via Ascension Island.
The distance involved would mean the aircraft would have to carry a heavy load of fuel – leaving less room for people and cargo.
Captain Brown said: “We have run a feasibility study and it is possible to operate down to the Falklands; not with a full passenger load because of the length of the runway at St Helena.
“Simply, you can’t lift enough weight off the runway to get down there, but we could do it with a restricted passenger load.
“We see operating from St Helena to the Falklands as potentially challenging, and it’s not easy for us to make a commercial case for it.”