New helicopter service for Scilly

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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.

Starting in May, Island Helicopters 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 for a return. The flight time will be approximately 15 minutes.

Island Helicopters will be operated by Gloucester-based Specialist Aviation Services (SAS) in partnership with the Steamship Group using a new ten-seater AW169 aircraft. SAS is no stranger to Cornwall and already operates the Cornwall Air Ambulance from Cornwall Airport Newquay.

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.

Andrew May, chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said: “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. 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.”

May added: “We plan to fly to St Mary’s Airport and Tresco, subject to agreement with both. 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.”

The announcement has been welcomed by business leaders in Cornwall. Kim Conchie, chief executive of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The visitor economy is crucial to the Isles of Scilly and any sustainable development that strengthens transport links has got to be welcomed. This new service will offer more choice year-round, and that’s great news.”

Chris Pomfret, former chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: “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.

“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.”

After several years without a helicopter service to Scilly, it raises the posibility that there might be two rival operations.

The people behind the proposed Penzance Heliport, which resubmitted its plans to Cornwall Council last month, say they are undeterred by today’s news.

In a statement, it said: “Penzance Heliport Ltd remains committed to reinstating genuine choice and reliability to the Isles of Scilly transport system through a helicopter service from Penzance.

“The near sea-level location of the Penzance Heliport site is the keystone to reinstating a reliable, weather-resilient helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly. Land’s End Airport – which suffers disruption on one in every four days each year – is the problem, not the solution.

“Today’s announcement sadly signals no more than one company tightening its stranglehold further on these islands. It is a blatant attempt to retain a monopoly that is not working in the interests of these islands.

“The public reaction to today’s announcement has shown that people want genuine choice and real resilience in the Isles of Scilly transport system. That has always been our vision, and today we reaffirm that commitment.”