The Isles of Scilly Steamship Company (“Steamship”) is reported saying that it will not be restarting its helicopter operation after its self-enforced winter break, leaving the route wide open for the new operator. Led by the tenant of the island of Tresco, the new operation will fly a Leonardo AW139 helicopter between the new Penzance Heliport and the Scilly Islands. This will be the re-start of the operation linking the Cornish town of Penzance with the islands of St Mary’s and Tresco.
Penzance Heliport issued the following statement “Penzance Heliport Ltd notes the decision by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company to refocus on its core lifeline maritime services to the Isles of Scilly. We look forward to launching helicopter services from Penzance to Tresco and St Mary’s in spring 2020 and working with the Steamship Company to build a stronger transport network for the future of the Isles of Scilly.”
Shortly after Tresco went public with its proposals, and well before planning permission for the new Penzance Heliport was granted, Steamship decided to start a spoiler operation under the name of Island Helicopters in an attempt to maintain a monopoly stranglehold on transport links between the islands and the mainland. The company already operates fixed wing services, a daily boat service in summer months and a transport/freight ship link. Steamship had partnered with Specialist Aviation Services, who operated a Leonardo AW169 in their corporate dark green colours, and later announced that a brand new helicopter would be delivered in April 2019 in Steamship colours to restart the route after their winter break. The AW169 had operated from Land’s End Airport, also operated by Steamship, although it is a location prone to fog which led to the cancellation of a number of services. We understand that low load factors lead to a number of services being cancelled, and services terminated on 3rd November a few days ahead of the planned winter hibernation. Evidently the new helicopter will not materialise now.
Central to the spoiler tactic was Steamship Chairman Andrew May, who went to significant lengths to block the planning application for the new Penzance Heliport, fearing loss of his monopoly position. However, his tactics drew widespread criticism and ended up with an announcement in September 2018 that he wanted to relinquish his role.
In March 2018, Sloane Helicopters was named as the operator for the new link, using a larger AW139 helicopter. We wish them well when the new helicopter link takes to the air.
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