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The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group has announced the start of a new helicopter service from Land’s End Airport to the Isles of Scilly from May this year.
Called Island Helicopters, it will operate year-round up to six days a week from Land’s End Airport, with up to eight return flights a day. Fares start from £215 (US$300) for a return. The flight time will be approximately 15 minutes.
Tickets will go on sale in April and passengers can register their interest now on the Isles of Scilly Travel website or by calling the Isles of Scilly Travel Center at 0173-633-4240.
Island Helicopters will be operated by Gloucester-based Specialist Aviation Services (SAS) in partnership with the Steamship Group using a brand-new, 10-seater AW169 aircraft. SAS is no stranger to Cornwall.
Passengers can park at Land’s End Airport, or a new park and ride service will chauffeur them from Penzance train station or their accommodation to and from Land’s End Airport in just 15 minutes.
Island Helicopters will complement and integrate with the existing Skybus fixed-wing flights from Land’s End, Newquay and Exeter Airports, and the seasonal Scillonian III ferry which sails from Penzance. Together they carried 214,000 passengers last year.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Island Helicopters to Land’s End Airport and look forward to sharing our modern facilities, which already handle more than 60,000 passengers a year,” said Andrew May, chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group. “We know there is demand from thousands of people who have really missed the helicopter since it stopped in 2012.
“We’ve listened to that demand, investigated what we believe can work, and have partnered with SAS to make it happen. This gives visitors and islanders more choice over how they travel and makes the transport network more resilient, which is exactly what our customers say they want.”
“We plan to fly to St Mary’s Airport and Tresco, subject to agreement with both,” he added. “We know how important a direct, high-quality helicopter link is to Tresco’s customers, and we are renewing our offer to Tresco to work with us to make the service a success for all of the islands.”
“We are delighted to be partnering with the Steamship Group to provide the aircraft and crews for these new helicopter flights from Land’s End Airport,” said Henk Schaeken, managing director of SAS. “The AW169 is a state-of-the-art helicopter, and we’ll be providing a brand-new aircraft straight off the production line, offering passengers a speedy and comfortable service. We look forward to expanding our operations in Cornwall.”
The announcement has been welcomed by business leaders in Cornwall. “The visitor economy is crucial to the Isles of Scilly and any sustainable development that strengthens transport links has got to be welcomed,” said Kim Conchie, chief executive of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “This new service will offer more choice year-round, and that’s great news.”
“When the previous helicopter service to Scilly ceased for financial reasons, I was chair of the LEP and know only too well what a blow that was,” said business leader Chris Pomfret, former chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). “I am therefore delighted for those who love the islands – whether residents, visitors or local businesses – that a new service is being put in place using a latest generation helicopter. I am sure this will be welcomed by everyone involved with the Islands and hope it proves a commercial success.”
Land’s End Airport handles over 60,000 passengers and more than 10,000 aircraft movements a year, and is just over a mile from the A30 and only seven miles from Penzance.
In recent years the Steamship Group has completely upgraded Land’s End Airport to include a new £1 million (US$1.4 million) terminal building, extra car parking and a £2.6 million (US$3.6 million) project to replace the main grass runways with asphalt, which was part-funded by the European Union.
The company has recently completed a £260,000 (US$362,572) investment in equipping all eight of its Skybus aircraft with a new GPS-based landing system to improve resilience and reliability.
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group was founded by islanders almost 100 years ago to provide lifeline passenger and freight services to the Isles of Scilly.
The £17-million (US$23.7 million) turnover business employs 228 staff and returns more than £1.1 million (US$1.5 million) a year to local communities through subsidized travel, freight, sponsorships and grants.