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Tingwall Airport celebrates 40th birthday

| Written by Shetland News

The aerial approach to Tingwall Airport from the south. Photo: Peter Scott The aerial approach to Tingwall Airport from the south. Photo: Peter Scott TINGWALL Airport turns 40 this week having provided a base for flights to and from Shetland’s outer isles since October 1976.

Tomorrow (Thursday) marks four decades since the first passenger aircraft landed on the runway. At that time colour television was yet to arrive in the isles, but the oil industry had begun to make its impact on Shetland.

It was in the weeks after the opening of Tingwall Airport that BP submitted the blueprint for the Sullom Voe Terminal to Shetland Islands Council’s planning department.

Oil-related charter flights, for smaller aircraft at least, became a regular sight at Tingwall, known by some as Lerwick Airport.

The first scheduled inter-island flights from Tingwall were operated by Loganair, which also provided the air ambulance service in Shetland at that time.

Scheduled flights from Tingwall to Edinburgh using Twin Otter aircraft began in April 1979 and continued until the early 1990s. Loganair continued to operate from Tingwall for almost 30 years until Direct Flight Ltd was awarded the contract to provide scheduled services in 2006.

Tingwall continues to serve island communities today with regular flights to Fair Isle, Papa Stour and Foula, as well as providing 24-hour availability for air ambulance flights and Shetland Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter. One of the Britten Norman Islander aircraft used to serve the outer isles. Photo: SIC One of the Britten Norman Islander aircraft used to serve the outer isles. Photo: SIC

Around 400 passengers pass through the airport in an average month, most on board the passenger flights operated by AirTask Group on behalf of the SIC.

The nine-seater Britten Norman Islander aircraft is a familiar sight across Shetland, linking the outer isles with the mainland in a shorter time than would be possible on inter-island ferries.

Tingwall is also regularly used by a range of commercial operators including helicopters on contract to the Northern Lighthouse Board and SSE.

During the summer months particularly, a number of private aircraft regularly call in from the UK and further afield.

SIC councillor Michael Stout, chairman of the council’s environment and transport committee and Shetland’s transport partnership ZetTrans, said: “Having lived in Fair Isle, I know how important the flights are for the communities living in Shetland’s outer isles.

“Whether it’s a new infant coming home, ill folk getting away to hospital, school bairns getting to spend time with their families, or the delivery of emergency supplies, the service has been an essential part of island life, and has come to mean much more than simply a way for folk to get in and out.”

Stout added that he wished to thank airport staff, past and present for “their hard work and dedication in managing the airport for the last 40 years, going above and beyond the call of duty on so many occasions.” 

  • The public are invited to attend an open door celebration at Tingwall Airport on Monday (24 October) from 12.30pm until 4.30pm. There will be sandwiches and home bakes as well as a display of historical photos and books on the airport.
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