New Helicopter Link To Scilly More Likely Than Ever

helicopter agusta westland 189It’s now more likely than ever that passenger helicopters will serve Scilly again.

MP Andrew George has led a delegation of senior executives from aircraft manufacturer AgustaWestland and consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers to meet Transport Minister Baroness Kramer, to seek government support for the return of the rotary service.

Andrew says the accountants have done more market assessment and the figures stack up. The service appears viable and doesn’t need an ongoing subsidy.

And the MP has quashed rumours that the service would be expensive or just operating to Tresco.

Parts of PwC’s report will be shared with the interested operators of the AW189 aircraft, one or two of which will be available from 2016.

From Radio Scilly

MP Andrew George tells Radio Scilly about progress on the new helicopter service

The accountants claim the restarting of a helicopter service would be “significantly beneficial” to the economy of Scilly and Penzance, would grow our tourism market and “bring confidence to the travelling public.”

MP Mr George says he can’t give an exact figure on the financial boosts but it would be worth “millions.”

And he says the report identified a significant number of people who no longer come to Scilly because of the lack of a helicopter service.

As the financials look healthy, government cash wouldn’t be needed for underwriting the service. If government cash was on offer, it would be to support setting up a heliport in the Penzance area, which he says is “only right and fair.”

Andrew accepts that a new helicopter route could take away some of Skybus’ business but he says they started an airline, which gained some business from the original helicopter operation.

The Steamship Company will also benefit from millions of pounds of infrastructure improvements at the St Mary’s and Penzance Quays and they’ve had state aid for Land’s End airport runway hardening.

Andrew says that if they lost trade to a newcomer that would be market forces at work. And he says there’s nothing to stop Skybus approaching AgustaWestland to operate the route.

The MP says the business model is based on ticket prices in line with Skybus’ current fares.

Mr George says that although the new helicopters accommodate up to 16 people, which is fewer passengers than the old BIH aircraft, the reduced numbers means they can trim back the flight crew staffing levels and costs. And the more efficient aircraft means the fuel costs are lower too.

Andrew rejects islands’ rumours that the new service will just link the mainland with Tresco. The plan is to operate to both St Mary’s and Tresco.

Based on BIH’s last operational year, that could mean 35,000 single trips to or from Tresco. That, of course, could impact on the income and finances of St Mary’s Airport.

Andrew says there are still contractual discussions to be had with the interested operators and he can’t give a date for the next announcement, but he expects it by the summer.

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