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WATCH: A new helicopter link for Cornwall and Scilly

WATCH: A new helicopter link for Cornwall and Scilly

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:50am 21st May 2018. (Updated at 4:29pm 21st May 2018)

First new helicopters to Isles of Scilly to take-off

  • New helicopter service to link Cornwall and Scilly launches on 21st May
  • Isles of Scilly Steamship will run year round flights to and from Land's End from May
  • These are the first helicopters to fly to Scilly since the old service stopped in 2012
  • In the last two days, the new service was suspended then given the green light again
  • Penzance Heliport insists its bid for a heliport at Penzance still stands

island helicopters 1

It is launch day for a new helicopter service to link Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The Isles of Scilly Steampship Group will run flights from Land's End to the islands from 21st May 2018.

Island Helicopters will operate for up to six days a week, all year round, with up to eight return flights a day.

The fares will start from £215 for a return and the flight time will be around 15 minutes.

Scilly helicopter - IOS steamship group

However, launch day for Island Helicopters has not arrived without complicated legal wrangling behind the scenes.

The helicopter company was told its permit to land at St Mary’s had been suspended on Friday.

However on Saturday, the firm announced it would be flying following last-minute talks with the authorities.

The company said: "“Anyone due to fly is asked to proceed with the travel arrangements they have made and present themselves at Land’s End and St Mary’s Airports as planned.

“Discussions with the relevant authorities will continue, but these will not affect the helicopter’s flights on Monday.”

Steamship Company Chairman Andrew May added: “I would like to thank everyone on our first flights for their patience and understanding and I am sorry they were subjected to unnecessary uncertainty, which was for reasons that were outside our control. We very much look forward to welcoming them on Monday".

Scilly helicopter - IOS steamship group

What do we know about Island Helicopters?

Specialist Aviation Services will operatie Island Helicopters in partnership with the Steamship Group, using a new 10-seater AW169 aircraft.

SAS is no stranger to Cornwall and already operates the Cornwall Air Ambulance from Cornwall Airport Newquay.

Speaking when the announcement was made, Andrew May, chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said: "We're thrilled to welcome Island Helicopters to Land's End Airport and look forward to sharing our modern facilities, which already handle more than 60,000 passengers a year.

"We know there is demand from thousands of people who have really missed the helicopter since it stopped in 2012.

"We've listened to that demand, investigated what we believe can work, and have partnered with SAS to make it happen.

"This gives visitors and islanders more choice over how they travel and makes the transport network more resilient, which is exactly what our customers say they want".

He added: "We plan to fly to St Mary's Airport and Tresco, subject to agreement with both. We know how important a direct high quality helicopter link is to Tresco's customers and we are renewing our offer to Tresco to work with us to make the service a success for all of the islands".

Henk Schaeken, managing director of SAS, said: "We are delighted to be partnering with the Steamship Group to provide the aircraft and crews for these new helicopter flights from Land's End Airport.

"The AW169 is a state-of-the-art helicopter and we'll be providing a brand new aircraft straight off the production line, offering passengers a speedy and comfortable service. We look forward to expanding our operations in Cornwall".

What do we know about Land's End Airport?

It handles over 60,000 passengers and more than 10,000 aircraft movements a year, and is just over a mile from the A30 and only seven miles from Penzance.

In recent years the Steamship Group has completely upgraded Land's End Airport to include a new £1 million terminal building, extra car parking and a £2.6m project to replace the main grass runways with asphalt.

The company has recently completed a £260,000 investment in equipping all eight of its Skybus aircraft with a new GPS-based landing system to improve resilience and reliability.

Passengers will be able to park at Land's End Airport or use a new park and ride service, that will shuttle them from Penzance station or their accomodation.

What about Penzance Heliport?

In a statement, Penzance Heliport said: "Penzance Heliport Ltd is disappointed that the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company has chosen to ignore rules put in place to protect the islands’ environment; rules with which Penzance Heliport has fully complied.

"Working with the Council of the Isles of Scilly and Natural England, we have devised flight paths to avoid the Eastern Isles during the bird breeding season and reduced the number of flights to Tresco Heliport. We believe it is important to protect Scilly’s environment, and it is vital the Council and Natural England ensure all operators carry out equally rigorous assessments. It is not for one Company to ride rough-shod over the rules at the expense of these islands.

"We remain concerned that Island Helicopters is distracting the Steamship Company from the challenges facing its sea services, as recently highlighted by the Transport and Maritime Minister. The replacement of the islands’ freight and passenger vessels are the issues islanders and businesses want and deserve to be resolved urgently

"We are also concerned that Island Helicopters will put the Steamship Company at serious financial risk for the sake of a vanity project aimed solely at preventing competition. Island Helicopters is not the service islanders, businesses and friends of the Isles of Scilly want to see, as demonstrated by the fact only around 10% of seats for this season have been sold to date. Many of these tickets represent displacement from the Steamship Company’s fixed wing services, not real growth for the islands.

"If a service from Land’s End aboard a small 8 passenger helicopter was the right answer, we would have welcomed it. However, the Isles of Scilly needs a helicopter service that provides real resilience, real growth and real competition. This is what Penzance Heliport will provide, and is the reason more than 11,600 people have now signed a petition in favour of it, with over 3,000 people showing their support to Cornwall Council.

"We remain as committed to the Penzance Heliport project as ever, and look forward to providing the service the islands deserve in due course.

The bid company added: "The Penzance Heliport project was launched in August 2016. In February 2017, the project was given unanimous support by Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee, who resolved to grant planning consent.

"Arguing the islands did not need a helicopter service, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company launched a series of legal attacks on the project, culminating in an application for a Judicial Review against Cornwall Council.

"Penzance Heliport Ltd agreed to submit an amended planning application, rather than fight a lengthy and costly legal battle.

"The amended planning application was submitted in January 2018 and we await the planning meeting where the application will be determined".

They said: "It is anticipated the service will commence in 2019, subject to planning consent expected in the coming weeks".

Scilly helicopter - IOS steamship group

What do you think of the newly announced helicopter service?

The announcement generated a lot of interest on Pirate FM's Facebook page and listeners been emailing in.

Among them, Jenson Keen who said: "A £215 for a 15 minute flight is outrageous. We can travel on an aircraft to pretty much anywhere in Europe for a similar price.

"Cornwall Council should have blocked the move and allowed another company to operate that route in the interests of the paying public".

Leigh said: "This is great news all round. I've been lucky enough to have flown by helicopter to the isles of scilly twice before. The price is a bit steep for me but think it will be a huge success".

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