Scilly’s MP Reasserts His Commitment To New Helicopter Service

andrew george 2014Scilly’s MP is “optimistic” that a helicopter service linking Scilly to the mainland can restart.

Andrew George told a public meeting at the Old Wesleyan Chapel on Friday that progress has been slow but “the boulder is going up the hill.”

He’s been in talks with helicopter manufacturers AgustaWestland and last met with their Chairman Graham Cole two week ago.

They’ve offered the use of one of more of their AW189 aircraft for the route. The MP says they want to showcase their new, fast and efficient helicopters on a working passenger route.

Mr George says management consultancy Price Waterhouse Cooper visited Scilly in April to prepare a report into the potential for a rotary service.

Hoteliers Robert Dorrien Smith and Robert Francis spoke with representatives of the firm during their visit to Tresco.

Tim Guthrie, who chaired Friday’s public meeting, also met the group. He told them that islanders had lost a lifeline and visitors were missing an experience with the end of the old BIH helicopter route.

Andrew has seen the final report from PWC and says the accountants don’t reject the proposals as being unviable. He says some of the figures are “actually quite encouraging.”

Andrew says there are two companies interested in operating a route.

But he said there would need to be government subsidy in the form of a public service obligation to underwrite the winter operations, in the same way that the underused Newquay to London air route was recently subsidised.

The MP says the business interests will now need to decide what they want in terms of support from government.

Garrison resident Alan Davis asked the MP whether the 16-seater aircraft would offer enough capacity. Mr George says more than one helicopter could be on offer and these new models would have a faster turnaround, making the Penzance to Scilly crossing in around 12 minutes.

Andrew rejected that he’s bringing this idea up again because there’s an election coming next year. He said if he’s going to have egg on his face, it would be better for that to happen now rather than closer to the vote.

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