A NEW aircraft is set to arrive at Land's End Airport from Canada this week to service the 28-mile route to the Isles of Scilly.
Skybus, which has operated year-round flights from the UK mainland to the Isles of Scilly since 1984, is taking delivery of a fourth 19-seat De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.
The aircraft left Calgary in Alberta at 10.25pm on Thursday to start the 4,500 mile journey to Cornwall.
The journey to the UK will take five or six days in total, involve 26 hours of flying and include stops in Greenland and Iceland.
Because the aircraft has a normal operational range of around 650 miles, it has been fitted with a giant fuel tank holding 1,576 lbs of fuel and taking up half the space inside the 19-seat passenger cabin.
The last two legs will see it fly from Iceland to Prestwick Airport in the UK (855 miles) before the final 325 mile leg to Land's End Airport.
It is being flown by Canada-based Doug Cochrane, a veteran Twin Otter pilot of British Antarctic Survey expeditions, accompanied by Mick Yould, engineering manager at Skybus.
Mick, who is normally based at Land's End Airport and is more used to making the 28 mile hop to St Mary's Airport on the Isles of Scilly, said: "This sounds a bit like the pioneering days of aviation but the Twin Otter is actually a really tough piece of kit renowned for its ability to operate all over the world.
"We've planned the trip meticulously and made sure we've plenty of fuel to divert to alternative airports if the weather deteriorates, and Doug is hugely experienced having flown extensively in the Antarctic, which will stand us in good stead.
"I'm looking forward to the journey, especially the bit when we touch down at Land's End."
Jeff Marston, chief executive of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, which owns and operates Skybus and Land's End Airport, said: "We already operate three Twin Otters and having a fourth will give us more flexibility on our routes from Exeter, Newquay and Land's End to St Mary's. It's a great aircraft for us because of its short take off and landing capability but they are not easy to get hold of because they are so popular, which is why we had to go to Canada."