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Remote island gets new airport but at a hefty cost

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 01:42

St. Helena, a remote volcanic outcrop in the South Atlantic, has welcomed its first commercial flight. As Jacob Greaves reports, the mammoth engineering feat costing 285 million pounds ($378 million) of British taxpayer money nearly didn't happen.

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A front seat view for history buffs, travel enthusiasts, or just dare devils- taking the first passenger plane to St Helena. This the moment the inaugural flight from Johannesburg approached the remote volcanic outcrop in the middle of the south atlantic. The risk of wind sheer has limited the size of planes that can fly in to an airport dubbed the 'world's most useless'. It's also pushed this journey back a year. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ED CROPLEY, REUTERS AFRICA BUREAU CHIEF AND A PASSENGER ON THE FIRST FLIGHT, SAYING: "A bit of a bumpy landing, you can see in the gallery behind me you've got large large crowds its one of the most exciting events in the history of St Helena one might say since emperor Napoleon died here in the 1800s." The British colony of St Helena sits some 1,200 miles west of the African nation of Angola. For the 4,500 people living here it's unlikely to replace a dependency on British aid. Every year some 53 million pounds are sent here. And the final bill for the new airport has been hard to stomach for Britain's austerity government. Utilizing one of the islands few flat spaces- the runway sits on top of a valley filled in with 8 million cubic metres of rock. Setbacks caused costs to balloon to 285 million pounds- a pricetag of some 60,000 pounds per resident. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIVE BOAT OPERATOR, KEITH YON, SAYING: "Such a phenomenal amount of interest, people showing so much interest, inquiring about our rates, inquiring about what is the best time of the year to come, and yes it has been well received." For islanders now offered an alternative to a five day boat journey, it could prove priceless.

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Remote island gets new airport but at a hefty cost

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 01:42