UPDATED: Land’s End Airport Entering Fourth Week Of Closure

Skybus Twin Otters

Original Story Published on: Jan 7, 2013 @ 10:31 

Land’s End airport won’t be open today as had been hoped because the runway remains waterlogged.

Flights were first disrupted by heavy rainfall at the start of December, and after just a few days of operation, more rain forced the airport to close again on the 18th.

It hasn’t reopened since.

The chief executive of the Steamship Company, Jeff Marston, told Radio Scilly in December that he believes they could harden the grass runway surface at Land’s End without going through a lengthy planning process, as they are not creating a new runway but improving the existing one.

The company is set to trial a 900sqm patch of special paving tiles to see if that works.

Isles of Scilly Council economic development staff are investigating European grant funding as a way to support that work, which would complement the refurbishment of St Mary’s airport.

Work on a £1.5m remodelling of passenger facilities and a new air traffic control centre at Land’s End is already underway. That investment by the company was approved before the end of the helicopter service in November.

Land’s End Passengers and freight will be routed through Newquay again today and an inspection later will lead to a decision on tomorrow’s flights.

Updated on: Jan 7, 2013 @ 15:12 

Skybus has confirmed that Land’s End airport will remain shut on Tuesday and Wednesday due to water logging. They will make a decision on Wednesday about services later in the week.

Newquay flights are on time today.



31 Responses to UPDATED: Land’s End Airport Entering Fourth Week Of Closure

  1. kev January 13, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Mr Nobbs objections to the ISSCo receiving european development funding for hardening the runway at Lands End seems somewhat strange. Cornwall has received millions of funding via europe, and european organisations, both public and private sector organisations can bid for it. Why should ISSCo be treated differently? European money comes via our taxes, it’s our money, we are entitled to bid for it and personally I think it would be great if funding could be found to help get the runway improved. Think about it, any form of subsidised transport would also come from taxation, so what’s the difference.

    • Nobby Nobbs January 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      The difference being, that as a tax payer I am subsidising the shareholders of a private company!

      I don’t see why I should subsidise the directors and shareholders of the Steamship company.

      If the government, local or European, is going to give my money away then do it on a tendered basis.

      The trouble with these islands and the transport situation, is too many councillors past and present are either directors or shareholders of the ISSco, so one has to ask, are decisions being made in the interests of the islands or the ISSco, legally it has to be the company.

      Personally I don’t give a monkeys about the Steamship co or its shareholders, I do however care about being able to get on and off this rock when I want to

  2. Heather January 9, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    No scilly billy – not unless someone gave them a huge cash injection!! Highly unlikely methinks!!

  3. Tazbar January 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    The helicopter was always reliable for us in 11 years of going to Tresco. It’s not a misconception it a fact. Unfortunately we have reasons why the Skybus or Scillonian are not suitable to our family and if there are any delays it would cause us more problems than the average family. Also, all the recent posts about delays to the Skybus and Lands End being closed are just making a bad situation even worse.

  4. steveatt January 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Speaking as someone who booked on the helicopter last july to return early August I was very disappointed to be on the boat over and Skybus back – The 2012 stats look optimistic.

  5. scilly billy January 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

    A funny one i know but would b.i.h come back to scilly if thair was somwhere for them to fly from penzance area just a thought

  6. Merryn Smith January 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    None of those figures include weather delays (though I have them as well if you want, away from here) and there was a two week break in service last year whilst the aircraft went off on a contract for the Navy (that’s why I made it 9.5 months instead of 10).

  7. Dick Cliffe January 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Correction to my previous comment. The BIH accounts for 2011 have not be submitted to Companies House (3 months overdue). I was quoting from 2010 accounts. British Internation Helicopter Services paid off 8 mortgages in November 2012 according to documents held Companies House.

    Dick Cliffe

  8. Dick Cliffe January 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    The reason why BIH had to close its service is to be found in their published accounts available from Companies House for a fee of £1 (for each years accounts). The accounts for 2011 (their last full accounting year with the IOS service) records loans and overdrafts of over £10 million. Most of this money was secured on the Heliport and other Company assets. The lenders are/were Bank of Ireland and Matrix Private Equity Partners. The Bank of Ireland has its own financial problems.

    BIH had no other way of paying off these loans. The interest on them in 2010 was £1.8 million. If BIH had refused to sell the site the lenders would not have continued rolling over loans and Company, unable to pay up when the loans fell due, would have been forced into administration. As the lenders had mortages/charges on Penzance Heliport they would have been given control (effectively they would have repossessed the site). It would have been them selling the site and not BIH.

    One can argue about how BIH got itself into the financial hole but after 2009 there was only going to be one way of escaping it.

    Dick Cliffe

  9. Heather January 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Merryn, I don’t think you’re biased – the helicopter service was wonderful, and technical problems are bound to happen from time to time. In 35+ years I have used the helicopter – usually 3 times a year in all 4 seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter – I can only ever recall being inconvenienced a mere handful of times -usually fog in winter. I really will miss the superb service, and hope that Skybus will be as good, if not better. But I have my doubts….

  10. Merryn Smith January 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    We kept a record of days disrupted by fog and technical problems in the BIH office over the years. In 2008 we had an unprecedented 38.5 days of technical disruption. This was due in the main to an aircraft charted in to provide cover and two significant breakdowns which required parts shipped in from across the world, the disruption lasting several days. The helicopter “reputation” took a major knock that year and never fully recovered.
    In the 9.5 months we flew in 2012 we had a total of 10 days disruption.
    2011 was 12.5 days and 2010 7.5 days of disruption.
    Those are the facts, make of them what you will.

    My personal feeling is that the misconception came after the events of 2008. But then, you could call me biased…….

    • Andy Forest January 8, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      Does the 2012 figure include weather disruption or only technical disruption, Merryn? I have to admit that I don’t have the figures to hand, but you would think that Tresco would have before speaking to the Western Morning News. Wasn’t there a two week period when all BIH passengers were transferred to Skybus whilst the helicopter was serviced too?

  11. Heather January 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    I have read the various comments with interest; I have been coming to the islands every year for over 35 years – always by helicopter (first BA, then BIH). I have now been forced to rethink my travel plans, and have booked on Skybus (for the first time!) from Exeter. The upside is that my pre-flight drive is reduced by half – just 2 hours from home; the downside is a 1 hour flight, and that I will miss the lovely drive through beautiful Cornwall , the wonderful sight of St Michael’s Mount after a long drive, and the best thing of all – the helicopter flight. But nothing will ever stop me coming to the Scillies!

  12. Tazbar January 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    We can’t be the only ones who have been put off going on holiday this year to the islands due to the complete unreliable of the Skybus, which incidentally appears to have increased its prices. It people can’t be certain they can get to the islands for their holiday, they aren’t going to go anymore. It’s very sad. The helicopter despite its problems was more reliable.

    • Andy Forest January 8, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      That’s a common misconception. Even Tresco Estate, who (for obvious reasons) were very fond of the helicopter, recently admitted to the press that last year Skybus had less days of disruption than BIH due to the amount of technical problems that the helicopter had.

  13. olive January 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I am no expert so please don’t all shout at me at once, but I was told there was to be investment in new aircraft, if this is so why didn’t they invest in a helicopter for Lands End instead.

    • Andy Forest January 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      Hi Olive. The simple answer is cost. BIH couldn’t make it pay, so they pulled out. The helicopters they used were ancient and were always breaking down (sorry, “going technical”) and maintaining them was becoming extremely expensive and difficult. Newer helicopters are available, but they have a much smaller capacity and the numbers just didn’t add up. From what I’ve read in the press Skybus did look at getting a helicopter, as did Tresco Estate, Castle Air and various other operators, and they all decided that it just wouldn’t work. The ticket prices would have to be in the region of £300-400 return and there simply aren’t enough people who can afford (and are willing) to pay that sort of money.

    • Kev Wright January 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Or maybe even hold off the new aircraft and get a concrete runway down first? It’s very well having all these planes but they’re no use sat in hangers. I’m aware this situation will (hopefully) be better in the summer. So fingers crossed.

  14. Lawrence Upton January 8, 2013 at 11:28 am

    And still there is nothing on the website of the steamship company. If you click on the latest update it takes you to a list that tells you a morning flight from Scilly is overdue – which does not suggest that the airport is closed. It makes sense if you happen to know it is foggy on St Mary’s; and a weather site will do that.
    Click on a link there and you go to a site that says “We’re in USA; so we don’t know.”
    Elsewhere I found a note relating to Newquay: “It is currently later at the departing airport than the expected departure time and the flight is not yet active. Whilst this may indicate a delay or cancellation, it may also be that the departure information is not available or has not yet reached one of our data sources. We do not have the necessary data sources to detect the arrival or departure of this flight. “
    And that, I believe, is that.
    Information on Scilly Today is useful for those who know about it; but the company which originates this information for web publishing does not put it on its own website!
    The one source of transport might be expected to provide timely information itself
    I’ll put it no stronger than that. I want to be read. (I made a post on the situation re Mr Hygate on 19 December 2012 and it’s… not censored; just still awaiting moderation.)
    btw abandoning a community for commercial reasons is still abandonment; and I am quite happy with Lands End as an airport.

  15. Bill Hiner January 8, 2013 at 9:14 am

    So….a lovely new terminal but no runway!

    Horse before the cart?

    • Kev Wright January 8, 2013 at 11:48 am

      A very good point Bill. I’ve praised the IOSSC for their future plans now we have no chopper but I can’t help but think making Land’s End more open to flying in bad weather should have been their priority here. They couldn’t have predicted the amount of rain that we’ve had, but it’s a fact of nature that these things, however infrequently (and maybe mor frequently in the future?) happen.

      • Andy Forest January 8, 2013 at 6:11 pm

        The new facilities at Land’s End were planned and announced well before BIH announced their demise in the summer. BIH only made the announcement in August and the new terminal at Land’s End had already been under construction for a couple of months by that point.

        Since BIH’s announcement Skybus have made a lot of noise about resurfacing the runway at Land’s End and looking in to new technology that will allow them to fly in poor visibility. Let’s hope that things start moving on that front, surely it’s got to be only a matter of time before they do? The closure of Land’s End must be costing them a fortune, so they won’t want this situation to occur again in the future.

  16. Nobby Nobbs January 8, 2013 at 12:44 am

    BIH did not abandon us, they made a commercial decision that the route was no longer financially viable.

    The ISSco is a commercial organisation so why should they receive any funding from the public purse be that from the UK government or Europe.

    If the route is to receive public funding then it should go to tender and the ISSco can bid for it like any other operator. However there may well be other operators who could provide a much better ‘service’.

    As for lands end, why waste money on an airport that is often closed?
    £2m already spent is in my opinion a poor commercial decision.
    I don’t think anyone minds flying to Newquay, what people object to is driving past Newquay to Lands end only to be driven back to Newquay again, or visa versa. Make your minds up.

    As for an airport no one wants to use, no one wants to use Lands end, its only because Skybus fly there that anyone goes there. How many passengers stay in Lands end, none of them! Everyone single one of them uses it as a staging post to travel up country, so why not place the airport where people want to go to. Most businesses base their operations around what the customer wants, not what suits the business.

    Islanders will put up with it because they have no choice, but the mainstay of the islands economy is tourism and tourists do have a choice, they don’t ‘have’ put up with it, and they can choose to spend their money elsewhere.
    The UK economy is flat-lining, footfall is already down and the islands have never been more difficult or expensive to get to. work it out.

    • Adam Morton,St.Martins January 8, 2013 at 10:14 am

      As far as I am concerned no one wants to use Newquay ; it has a rubbish rail link, is to expensive to fly to and has lengthy intrusive check in times due to the international nature of the airport. At least the co use their own money unlike the council who also concentrate exclusivley on the terminals rather than the vehicals of transport.

      • mikeb January 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

        That’s not correct Adam. If you want to hire a car and drive up country then Newquay is by far the best option – cuts at least 90 minutes off the journey and far more convenient than getting a transfer to Penzance to pick up your car.
        I’ve also never had a problem with security at the airport, although I do object to the development tax!

        • Adam Morton,St.Martins January 8, 2013 at 11:42 am

          Obveously you are wealthy enough not to mind the extra flight cost and havn’t experianced what many in scilly did this xmas. I dont tend to drive so prefer a rail link.

  17. Andy Forest January 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Where in the article does it say that the Council are funding anything? They are investigating obtaining European funding to assist Skybus in the cost of hardening the runway for what has become a lifeline service since BIH abandoned Scilly. That’s totally different to the Council funding it themselves.

    As for buying something nearer Truro – Skybus already fly to Newquay all year which is much closer that Land’s End, and in recent weeks it has been the only option. This in itself has led to no end of moaning as nobody wants to fly there. A new airfield would still have to be some distance from Truro and at a rough guess would cost something like £4-5 million to set up. Skybus have already spend up to £2 million on new facilities at Land’s End, so where’s the sense in spending that money again on a new airport that nobody wants to use? And more importantly where is that money going to come from? Maybe you could have a look down the back of your sofa Nobby?

  18. Nobby Nobbs January 7, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Why is the council funding a private company that refuse to invest in their own infrastructure?
    How many councillors are ISSco shareholders.
    Isn’t the chairman of the council an ex chairman of the ISSco

    Why waste their time with Lands end anyway, the money would be better spent buying something near Truro

    • Adam Morton,St.Martins January 7, 2013 at 11:17 pm

      As far as I know the council do not fund the IOSSco far from it ,over the years it would appear to have undermined it whenever possible. Apart from the conveniance of hospital appointments I can’t see that Truro has much to offer. Lands end Is nearer and as flying is expensive ,the shorter the distance the better. Fog usualy affects Scilly as much as lands end. The IOSSco own Lands end so it makes sence to invest in the airfield they do own. If they can get a hard runway it should solve the waterlogging issue they have had this winter and most of the problems with the mail.

  19. Lawrence Upton January 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Nothing to that effect on the steamship co website. Flights from Newquay are said to be departing on time. Well, jolly good; but no mention of the closure of Lands End. Nor is there at the Lands End site

    • al January 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

      There must be many regular visitors, me included, who are looking at all this with great trepidation. The axing of services by Skybus from Southampton and Bristol was bad and the lack of proper drainage/appropriate surface to fly aircraft from Lands End is even more inexcusable. But the point you make about lack of basic (incorrect?) information displays a worryingly sloppy and unprofessional outfit.