NEWS

St Helena Airport That Cost £285 Million To Build But Is Too Windy To Use

One of the world's most remote communities won't be flying anyone in anytime soon.

09/06/2016 17:01 | Updated 10 June 2016

A remote airport that has proven too windy to use cost the British government nearly £300 million, it has been revealed.

The British Government built the airport for St Helena, a British Dependent Territory in the South Atlantic that is one of the world's most remote communities.

It was supposed to become active in May, but in April the island's government announced more work was needed to overcome "difficult wind conditions on landing the plane safely" detected on the first test flights into the airport.

The National Audit Office has produced a report on the Department for International Development's (DfID) business case for building the airport and said the cost of designing, building and operating the airport until 2026 was £285 million.

SAMS St Helena
The first Commercial flight at St Helena took three attempts at landing

There is not yet a date for opening the airport. The NAO concluded the delay would cost the DfID more.

The DfID opted to build the airport instead of replacing the RMS St Helena, the ship that connects the island to the rest of the world and carries all supplies and provisions there.

It was due to be decommissioned in July but it will continue in the interim until flights can begin.

The DfID currently pays £27.8m to the St Helena government a year. The airport was seen as crucial to making the island self-sufficient by bringing in around 30,000 tourists a year to the community of 4,000 people.

The first Comair Boeing 737-800 flight to Saint Helena Airport

The Government hopes to stop paying St Helena the subsidy by 2043.

The Department for International Development told The Times: "The UK supports its overseas territories in line with international law.

"We are helping St Helena to overcome the challenge of being one of the most remote island communities in the world so it can develop its tourism industry and become financially self-sufficient, making it less dependent on aid.”

St Helena is best known as the place of Napoleon's final exile and death in the early 19th century.

Fiona Hanson/PA Archive
A group of MPs with demonstrators from the island of St Helena campaign in Westminster
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