Titan Airways’ Epic Saint Helena Repatriation Flight

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Titan Airways is operating a second flight to Saint Helena during the current pandemic, and this might just be one of the coolest routes we’ve ever seen…

What is Saint Helena?

Saint Helena is a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 1,200 miles off the coast of Africa. The island is a British Overseas Territory, and is known as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile and death.

Up until a few years ago it could only be reached by ship, so as you can probably imagine, it’s a pretty isolated place.

An airport had been under development for several years, though construction was delayed significantly. The airport ended up getting commercial service in October 2017, about 18 months late and with a smaller plane than expected due to wind shear issues at the airport.

Until earlier this year, Airlink operated a once weekly Saturday flight between Johannesburg, South Africa, and Jamestown, Saint Helena, using an Embraer 190. The westbound flight had a fuel stop in Walvis Bay, Namibia, while the eastbound flight operated nonstop back to Johannesburg.

Airlink’s usual route to Saint Helena

However, with Airlink having suspended all operations, Saint Helena has been cut off from the outside world.

Back in mid-April, Titan Airways operated a special flight from London to Saint Helena via Accra, to deliver vital supplies. Now Titan Airways is operating an even cooler flight.

Titan Airways’ Saint Helena repatriation flight

Charter airline Titan Airways is currently operating a Saint Helana repatriation flight, for those looking to leave the island. There are many things that make this flight unique.

For one, Titan Airways is using a Boeing 757-200 with the registration code G-ZAPX for the mission. This will be the largest passenger plane to ever fly to Saint Helena. The airport has a 6,400 foot runway, but what’s much more challenging is the lack of diversion points, meaning there’s very little room for error in the event of bad weather and/or strong winds.

In the past week, Saint Helena Airport has been preparing for this arrival by brushing up on ground service equipment knowledge and skills, and even putting new tires on the airport fire truck.

Titan Airways 757-200

What’s equally cool is how the Titan Airways 757 is flying to Saint Helena. The plane was in London yesterday, so how is it getting to Saint Helena?

  • Yesterday it first flew the ~1,800 mile flight from London Stansted to Gran Canaria
  • Then it flew the ~2,500 mile flight from Gran Canaria to Ascension
  • Today it’s flying the ~800 mile flight from Ascension to Saint Helena

Is this one of the coolest routes you’ve ever seen, or what?


Titan Airways route to Saint Helena

This is operating as a repatriation flight, so presumably it will be taking people from Saint Helena. What remains to be seen is:

  • Where the plane will be going after Saint Helena; I’d assume it’s returning to the UK, but let’s see where it stops
  • Did the plane drop off any supplies or pick up any passengers in Ascension, since it’s also a remote island?

What is Titan Airways’ 757 like?

Titan Airways is a British charter airline that operates a fleet of 11 aircraft, including one A318, two A319s, four A321s, two 757-200s, and two cargo 737-400s.

The 757 operating this flight is roughly 20 years old, and used to fly for Iberia and EasyJet.

Titan Airways 757-200

What’s interesting about Titan Airways’ 757s is how versatile the interiors are. The plane can be configured with 76 business class seats.

Titan Airways 757 all business class cabin

Alternatively the plane can feature a variety of two cabin configurations, including one that features 20 business class seats and 162 economy seats, or one that features 40 business class seats and 108 economy seats.


Titan Airways 757 two cabin layout

I’m not sure which configuration was used for this particular flight.

Bottom line

I thought the Titan Airways’ flight to Saint Helena back in April was awesome, when an A318 flew there via Accra. However, to see a 757 fly to Saint Helena via Gran Canaria and Ascension is even cooler.

As an aviation geek, this has to be one of the most remarkable charter routes I’ve ever seen operated…

Anyone else fascinated by this Titan Airways charter flight?

Comments
  1. I can’t imagine there are too many people there needing repatriation… but I’d imagine for any repatriation flight you’d need to maximize seats so it would be going with an economy heavy configuration, no?

    Very cool routing indeed.

  2. There were about 40 pax on board plus a handful out of Ascension, but abou 100 pax on the return sector which is routing via Accra operatibg as a Daylight flight. Only 40 pax because of limited quarantine facilities on St Helena.
    There are close ties between UK and St Helena and most foreign workers there are British. As the Airlink route is currently out of action therd will most likely be a mix of islabders and expatriates on board tomorrow.

  3. ASI is officially a US space force base ha ha. 10,000 foot runway should handle most things thrown at it !

  4. Although Ascension (ASI) still is still working on runway repairs and cannot take the usual direct flights from Brize Norton (BZZ) in England, I understand that it does receive regular RAF services via Cabo Verde. So I would assume the Titan flight might be primarily focussing on serving St. Helena (HLE), which is in a more precarious situation.

    Please also note that repatriation goes in both ways. There are also a number of “Saints” (that’s what the residents of St. Helena call themselves) stuck in the UK, wanting to go home.

  5. Random trivia about Saint Helena Airport. The firefighters double as the baggage handlers. They pull the aircraft to offload the bags with the fire truck.

  6. I seem to recall reading that the 757 has the best thrust to weight ratio out of all the Boeing planes. I’m probably wrong. I fly them to and from Maui regularly and I can subjectively say that it feels like it’s got way more power and stability than the 737. I’d say it’s a great pick for this route.

  7. @ Deepee

    You are probably right on the thrust to weight ratio, which makes it an ideal plane to fly into / out of “problematic” airports like Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Having flown there many times, I recall the AA former 757 as the only plane in which I felt confident we would leave the runway before its end. Not sure what AA uses now (if at all), but this was the one area where the A321 is no match for the 757.

  8. @ Deepee
    @ Pierre
    The 757 was sold to airlines with an emphasis on hot conditions, it maintained enough thrust to take off under hot and high conditions that would have other equipment being delayed or offloaded.

  9. Lucky I believe the westbound stop was Windhoek and not Walvis Bay. I sent clients there who lived in Windhoek. There was no boarding allowed, so they had to fly to JNB just to fly back where they came from!

  10. As one of the operating Captains on this charter we absolutely enjoyed visiting ASI again and arriving into HLE for the first time. This year of covid problems has been a year of first’s for the Trio of TREs involved with this trip. The island was a privilege to visit with islanders happy to see us flying and and passing by in the crew transport to our stay at the Mantis Hotel (as Crew isolation accommodation).

  11. Interesting checking out on Flightradar24 what other rotations that aircraft has done. It fair gets around.
    Must be really interesting for the operating crew to see “different” places.

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