Helicopter Chairman Says Route Discussions Will Continue After Election

Chairman of AgustaWestland, Graham Cole.

Chairman of AgustaWestland, Graham Cole.

The Chairman of AgustaWestland hopes that plans to reintroduce a helicopter service to Scilly will gather pace after the election.

Graham Cole says he won’t get involved in party politics but says he acknowledges that Lib Dem MP Andrew George has committed much time and effort to the proposal, which is based on the aircraft manufacturer’s offer to provide two of their new aircraft AW189 to a future Scilly route operator.

Mr Cole says it is important for his company to get their new helicopters on the route and he still believes it’s a “serious option.”

He says the project doesn’t depend on any particular political party being in office as it is a private enterprise and talks continue with several potential operators.

It could go ahead even if the government wasn’t that interested in it, he says, but added that a supportive administration would be preferable.

Mr Cole says the company had hoped to bring one of the 16-seater aircraft to Scilly recently as part of their European tour but they were unable to slot in a trip over into a tight schedule.

Andrew George has been a keen supporter of the reintroduction of a rotary service.

Other election candidates have differing views.

Conservative candidate Derek Thomas has backed the helicopter plans. Last year he revealed that a retailer, later identified as the Coop, had discussed underwriting the route but they’ve since decided not to take that further.

UKIP’s Graham Calderwood said that he would lobby to get a helicopter route back to Scilly if elected, and believes the government should underwrite the service.

But Labour candidate Cornelius Olivier says he thinks a new helicopter service is unlikely to take off and that the government should fund a replacement for the Scillonian.

The Green candidate Tim Andrewes wants to focus on an all-year-round boat service rather than a new helicopter link.

Mebyon Kernow’s Rob Simmons hasn’t responded to our offer of an interview yet.

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