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Final Helicopter Flight to Islands

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11:47am 31st October 2012
(Updated 11:47am 31st October 2012)

It is the end of an era in Penzance.

Helicopter flights to the Isles of Scilly stop for the final time on Wednesday, after fifty years service.

British International is shutting the route, after a legal challenge over the sale of its Long Rock site held up badly needed cash.

The government has refusing to stump up funding to help keep it going, despite hopes of a last ditch deal to save it.

Linda Lloyd-Davies from Perranwell has been using it for twenty years. She said: "I'm in the medical field. There are a lot of patients who come from the islands to Treliske hospital on the helicopter and they're not going to be able to do that at all. I think trade to the islands will go down."

Ann Oyler lives on Tresco and is one of two thousand residents who rely on the service. She said: "I'm in my seventies now so it's sad, very sad. We all know each other and we will learn to live without it but for the youngsters, I feel sorry for them.

The route between Penzance and St Mary's or Tresco is the oldest passenger route in the world, running since the 1960s.

Costs have been rising and passenger numbers falling on the route.

British International had planned to move their base, selling their site at Long Rock to Sainsbury's to raise badly needed funding. But the company said a legal challenge would delay the deal too long for them to continue.

Speaking to Pirate FM when the announcement was first made in the summer, MD Tony Jones said: "It is a fundamental disappointment to me and all my colleagues here because it's a business but it's more than that. It's almost a family run concern. We are part of farbic of the island infrastructure."

It means that the only year round service to the islands will be Skybus, but the planes are sometimes grounded in bad weather.

Some are worried about how patients will be able to attend medical appointments on the mainland.

Chief Executive of Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, Paula Martin, said: “It is difficult to predict the impact of the closure of the BIH service on the demand for the air ambulance from the islands.

“We will work closely with the ambulance service and hospital authorities to ensure that we continue to provide a service to those patients who need emergency and urgent transfer to the Royal Cornwall Hospital or beyond, in order to receive essential and lifesaving treatment.”

The air ambulance response time to Scilly is under 28 minutes, including the 8 minutes it takes to cross the stretch of sea between Lands End and St Marys. Already this year, the Cornwall Air Ambulance has responded to 64 calls on the islands, attending an average of 3 missions per week in the busy summer months.

See one family's journey on the helicopter here...

11:47am 31st October 2012

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