Following yesterday’s announcement of a new helicopter service between the UK mainland and the Scilly Isles, the team behind the operation from a new heliport at Penzance have put out a press release – detailed below in italics. While it was clearly aimed as a spoiler, the Penzance team have pointed to what they believe are flaws in those plans which count against the monopoly position being taken by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. For example, having one company controlling the sea ferry, the cargo ferry, the fixed wing schedule (using Twin Otters) and now a rotary wing component, it is feasible that the lack of choice could lead to the islands’ residents and visitors being asked to pay more than they need to.
The proposed AW169 operation from Lands End Airport would appear to have a number of factors against its success, none the least the poor fog record of that particular airfield – 25% of flying days lost, the Penzance team suggest. Located approx 20 minutes drive west of the Penzance Heliport site, the overall journey time is likely to be longer due to the poor roads in the southwesterly tip of the UK mainland, and it would likely be quicker to fly from Penzance.
Whether an AW169 is an economically viable aircraft for a scheduled service would be another consideration – and it will be pitted against the larger AW139, which is still not as large as the Sikorsky 61s which flew the route for 48 years between 1964 and 2012. An AW169 would be the smallest helicopter used on a scheduled route with eight passengers, possibly worldwide from our quick analysis, and there would need to be a careful fuel/weight calculation for eight passengers and their luggage – many tourists will bring big bags on an island holiday, of course. The next nearest helicopter (by size) on a regularly used scheduled service is the Sikorsky S76 in the Vancouver area with Helijet – kitted out for 12 passengers and more often used by commuters with a laptop bag rather than tourists with suitcases.
The Steamship Company have done their very best at every stage to squash their competition. After Cornwall Council approved the plans for the new Penzance Heliport, the Steamship Company launched a judicial review which has delayed the final approval to build, despite having enjoyed unprecedented public support. The planning application had just 27 objections out of 2682 responses, with three Steamship Company documents counting as three out of the 27. No planning application in the history of Cornwall Council has attracted this much support.
Local radio station Pirate FM yesterday reported the CEO of Scilly Steamship with some very telling words – “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….“. This clearly is not true after they have gone to great lengths over the last 18-24 months to scupper the competition’s plans after concern for their own monopoly.
Here is the response press release issued by Tresco Estate, the principal behind Penzance Heliport
Dear Friend of Tresco,
We wanted to provide an update on the Penzance Heliport project, to clarify any confusion over today’s announcement by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company.
Penzance Heliport Ltd is not involved in the Steamship Company project, and today’s announcement changes nothing.
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.
Thank you for your continued support,
Tresco Island & The Penzance Heliport Team
We look forward to further details on the Penzance Heliport proposal being announced in due course.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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