MP ‘More Optimistic’ On New Helicopter Service For Scilly

An AgustaWestland 189 Helicopter

An AgustaWestland 189 Helicopter

Both the Council and the islands’ MP are warning islanders not to raise their expectations that a helicopter service will start again.

It’s two weeks since Radio Scilly revealed that Andrew George was brokering discussions between parties interested in reviving a rotary service.

Now, an aviation company has offered the use of its aircraft for a route, but in a statement issued yesterday, the Council advises that there’s, “a long way to go,“ and they point out that there’s still no operator for the route identified.

The MP says he’s, “moderately more optimistic” about the prospect of some kind of service in 2014 than he was a fortnight ago, but adds he hasn’t got proposals, “over a line that means it’s a business that makes sense yet.”

Andrew said people should, “keep the champagne on ice,” for the moment.

An AgustaWestland 189 helicopter, a new model currently undergoing certification, will be made available to any operators. The aircraft is expected to be in service from 2014 and eleven have been ordered for the new UK search and rescue contract operated by Bristow.

But the aircraft will accommodate 16 to 18 passengers, just over half the capacity of the BIH Sikorskys. And that’s brought concerns over ticket costs.

Andrew says suggestions that fares could reach £400 return are not correct. He says there are psychological barriers that the operator wouldn’t wish to break through and they are working towards a pricing guide similar to the former operator.

The Council point out that no mainland site has been identified but Mr George says the heliport would be based, “near Penzance.” AgustaWestland recently moved their Flight Training Centre to Newquay airport.

He wouldn’t confirm whether he’d had discussions over flying into Tresco although he confirmed they would fly into St Mary’s to make the service viable. The Council say there’s been no formal discussion or approach from the MP’s group.

There are concerns within the Town Hall that the introduction of any new direct Tresco flights could jeopardize the future of St Mary’s airport.

No one from the Council would go on record because of ‘purdah’ restrictions in the run-up to an election. But we’re told current breakeven costings require 108,000 passengers to fly through St Mary’s each year. Around 30,000 rotary passengers went directly to Tresco last year.

If St Mary’s airport lost that many fixed wing passengers and the associated landing charges, the airport’s future could be uncertain. But Andrew says he didn’t think the electorate would wish to jeopardize a helicopter service on those grounds.

All the Council would say on record is that they continue to seek potential operators to fly to and from St Mary’s airport and remain committed to developing the airport improvement plans.

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