The first consideration of an airport on St Helena was made in 1943 by the South African Air Force, which undertook a survey on Prosperous Bay Plain from October 1943 until January 1944, but concluded that, while technically feasible, an airport was not a practical proposition. In 1999, this was taken up by the island government.
After a long period of rumour and consultation, the British government in March 2005 announced plans to construct an airport in St Helena, that was expected to be completed by 2010.
The first large passenger jet landed on 18 April 2016, a Boeing 737-800 operated by Comair for British Airways.
It was an implementation flight to test the route, ground operations and handling, ahead of commencement of scheduled services.
The airport will be the largest single investment ever made in the island.Embraer Commercial Aviation have also landed its Embraer E190 (flying fro Recife) and reported there are no problem for the aircraft to land onto the airport and the aircraft also have sufficient range capability to fly from Cape Town to the airport.At 70% passenger load factor a B737-800 operating, on an average day, into St Helena would have a spare payload capacity of some 4,000 kilograms (8,800 lb).However, on 17 July 2012 the St Helena Government and Basil Read agreed to a change to the runway design which includes widening the embankment over an additional 40 metres (130 ft) at the southern end, paving an additional 100 metres (330 ft) of the runway with concrete, providing larger turning circles at the runway ends, and increasing the size of the apron.In contrast to the 2011 reference design for the airport it would now have a full 240-metre (790 ft) runway end safety area (RESA) at the southern end of the runway instead of the planned engineered materials arresting system (EMAS).
Approximately £202 million was funded for design and construction by South African engineering group Basil Read (Pty) Ltd.