On Friday 14 September, Land’s End Airport marked the 75th anniversary of fixed wing flights from the mainland to the Isles of Scilly with a celebration event and announcement about the future air and sea links to the islands and the redevelopment of Land’s End Airport.
The history of fixed wing flights starts in 1935 when Cobham Air Routes secured landing rights for a commercial service between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly. In 1936 the rights were sold to Olley Air Services, who founded Channel Air Ferries on 8th May 1936.
After the development of the current airport building and aerodrome the inaugural flight took place on 15 September 1937 with Captain D L Dustin flying four passengers in a DH84 Dragon GADCR to the Isles of Scilly.
Land’s End Airport has been a popular base from which to travel to the Isles of Scilly since this time with a regular passenger service being established from that point onwards. The airport owners, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, recognises that Land’s End Airport has sustained flights for 75 years and is currently investing in a new terminal building and improved passenger facilities. The new terminal will be completed in time for the 2013 season.
During the event on Friday 14 September, invited guests were addressed by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company’s Chairman, Andrew May. Mr May talked about the role the airport has played during the past 75 years, both as a vital lifeline link for islanders and also as a gateway to the Isles of Scilly for many visitors from across the world. He discussed the loss of the helicopter service and highlighted actions the Steamship Company is taking to ensure people travelling to and from the islands are still able to do so during the winter months and into the future.
Andrew May said, “As a company we have been serving the islands for more than 90 years. Scillonian III celebrated her 35th anniversary earlier this year and our airline, Skybus has been flying passengers for almost 30 years.
“You have to live on the islands to appreciate fully the value, the importance, of the link that has been forged between this airport and the Isles of Scilly – a link which has endured for 75 years, remarkable evidence of this airport’s success and of its value to the communities it serves. As a company we have been working tirelessly during these past six weeks to reassure people of our ongoing commitment through our fixed wing aircraft, passenger ferry and freight services.
“We are aware of the increase in the number of people who need to use our services and have created a schedule for Skybus which enables us to increase capacity considerably. We are looking at acquiring a new aircraft and will also be looking at recruiting additional pilots and crew. In addition to this, Scillonian III will be undergoing a schedule of works this winter which will improve the passenger experience on board. We are reviewing the option to operate the ship for seven days a week during the peak summer months next year.”
The Skybus schedule for 2013 has now been finalised with flights operating from Land’s End, Newquay and Exeter. The seasonal service from Bristol and Southampton will not operate in 2013 and this will enable Skybus to offer more frequent flights from the other three airports as well holding fares.
There will be at least three flights a day from Exeter, four from Newquay and two from Land’s End on the Twin Otter aircraft, which can seat up to up to 19 people, and up to 17 flights from Land’s End on the Islander aircraft which can accommodate up to eight people. This can easily be increased to five flights from Exeter, four from Newquay and five from Land’s End with up to 24 flights from Land’s End on Islander aircraft to meet demand.
The average prices for flights from Land’s End and Newquay have been held at the 2012 prices, which range from £70 - £80 per person each way from Land’s End and £85 - 95 per person each way from Newquay. The average price from Exeter will be lower than in 2012 due to the expected increased popularity of this route. The one way fare form Exeter will be between £120.00 and £130.00.
Prices on Scillonian III will start from £75 per person return. The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company has also promised that when Scillonian III returns to service there will be no charge for dogs.
Andrew May added, “We have listened to the concerns of people on the islands and have tried to find ways to accommodate their requests. We are working hard to implement changes and improvements so that people are still able to do all they have done before. We have already put a number of changes in place and will continue to do so during the coming months.”
Skybus is currently finalising details with the NHS Commissioning Team for the launch of a stretcher service to enable people with limited mobility to access their aircraft. The company has also secured the contract with the Royal Mail to deliver post to the islands and will soon be launching a same day small parcel delivery service.
Andrew concluded, “The integrated transport system by sea and by air is far more sophisticated today than it was 75 years ago. And this system will continue to evolve. We will step up to the plate, as required by our customers and the community, as we have done for the past 90 years. We have a can do attitude, and we will find solutions.”
Full detail of the Skybus schedule will be available from the website, www.ios-travel.co.uk