First commercial flight lands on remote St Helena

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As seen from inside the cabin, the first ever commercial flight lands at St Helena AirportImage copyright
AFP

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As seen from inside the cabin, the first ever commercial flight lands at St Helena Airport

The first scheduled commercial airline service to the remote British island of St Helena in the south Atlantic has touched down safely.

The virgin flight, an SA Airlink service from South Africa, ends the island’s long-standing reliance on a ship which sailed every three weeks.

It is hoped that the service, funded by the UK, will boost tourism and help make St Helena more self-sufficient.

But British media have dubbed it “the most useless airport in the world”.

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PA

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The opening of the airport was delayed by problems with wind

Built with £285m ($380m) of funding from the UK Department for International Development (Dfid), the airport should have opened in 2016, but dangerous wind conditions delayed the launch.

After further trials this summer, the weekly service between Johannesburg and St Helena was passed as safe.

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AFP

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One observer said the aircraft made a “perfect landing”

St Helena had for decades been one of the world’s most inaccessible locations, served only by a rare ship service from South Africa.

It is chiefly known as the island to which French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled after his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and where died.

The Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft took off from Johannesburg on Saturday morning, carrying 78 passengers. It reached St Helena in the afternoon after stopping in the Namibian capital, Windhoek.

“I for one am getting really excited about the new chapter in St Helena’s history,” said St Helena governor Lisa Phillips.

  • Population 4,255

  • Area 122 sq km (47 sq miles)

  • Major language English

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Currency St Helena Pound (equal to British pound)

  • Economy Agriculture, fishing concessions and tourism

BBC

Previously travel to and from the tiny island, with its population of just 4,255, was only possible on the RMS St Helena, which took around six days to complete the journey from South Africa.

The ship’s final voyage is scheduled for February.

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Media captionA one-off commercial flight makes a wobbly landing in 2016

St Helena relies on British aid of £52m a year and officials hope increased tourism will make it more self-sufficient.

“This is an important moment in St Helena’s route to self-sufficiency,” a Dfid spokeswoman said.

“It will boost its tourism industry, creating the opportunity to increase its revenues, and will bring other benefits such as quicker access to healthcare for those living on the island.”

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, the island’s diverse geology and wildlife, such as the whales that gather off its coast, may appeal to visitors.

But “more flights will have to be added if the airport is to be deemed a success – and not an expensive white elephant”, the report said.

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Border Wars: The Great DIY Remote Control Car Race

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Minesh Bacrania was at a race track in White Rock, New Mexico last summer when he accidentally wandered into the path of a speeding car. Anywhere else, the impact might have killed him. But this was no ordinary race track. The car weighed just 10 pounds—and thanks to being remote-controlled, it barely nicked him.

Bacrania was at “Border Wars,” an annual event where participants steer miniature sports cars and trucks around a dirt track at speeds up to 40 miles per hour with all the focus and intensity of actual race car drivers. “I imagine if you went to a NASCAR race or something, you would find the same passion, just bigger cars,” Bacrania says.

Remote-control car racing has been around since the toy was invented in the 1960s. Enthusiasts buy a basic frame and DIY from there, adding suspension, a transponder, and a motor powered by batteries or gas. By the time they snazz up the plastic shell with orange flames or colorful wheels, drivers can spend hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars, but it’s still more affordable than the real deal. “A lot of us would race real cars if we could, but this is a lot cheaper,” says Tony Hinojosa, president of the Northern New Mexico Remote Control Car Club. “You can do it on a weekend warrior basis.”

Bacrania, who lives in Los Alamos, knew nothing about remote control cars until July 2016, when he stumbled on Hinojosa’s maze-like dirt track at Overlook Park. He started chatting with a few drivers testing out their cars for an upcoming regional tournament, and they invited him to come back in a few weeks for Border Wars. The race pits drivers from New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado against each other on a 1/8 scale track for state bragging rights. Bacrania couldn’t resist. “You could tell people were really passionate about what they were doing, and I like photographing people who are passionate,” he says.

About 100 people converged on the track over a three-day weekend in August for the race. They arrived as early as Thursday night, setting up RVs, trailers, and barbecue grills in the parking lot. On Friday morning, drivers tested and tweaked their cars, geeking out over engine temperatures, fuel necks, and tire tread. The parking lot transformed into a body shop. “People wash their cars, clean them, baby them,” Bacrania says. “It’s not a toy. It’s like a regular car.”

Races began early on Saturday, classified according to the type of car (buggy or truck) and the driver’s skill. Before the start of each race, the pit crew scurried out onto the track to position the cars and top off the tanks. Drivers controlled the cars from six feet up in a stand, trying to get more laps in a given amount of time than anyone else, a wire underground registering each pass. Marshalls stood out on the track during the race, ready to rescue any car that stalled out or flipped on a jump. The cars took a beating, but it was all worth it in the end for the prize: “Pride,” Bacrania says. And a $2 styrofoam plaque.

Bacrania’s sun-drenched photographs capture the quirky intensity of the event and the love these people have for their cars. He shot them with a couple of Canon DSLRs, braving heat and sun and often crawling through the mud, trying his best not to get hit by one. He failed. But hey, the thing only weighed 10 pounds.

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