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Runway problems put paid to Papa Stour flights

The Islander plane taking off from Papa Stour's airstrip. Photo courtesy of Jane Puckey. The Islander plane taking off from Papa Stour's airstrip. Photo courtesy of Jane Puckey.

PAPA Stour looks set to be without an air service for three months or more due to problems with the surface of the island's airstrip.

Shetland Islands Council said it had suspended all flights after the airstrip's condition deteriorated as a result of “prolonged periods of very wet weather”.

There have been no flights in and out of the island, which lies to the west of the Shetland Mainland and has a population of around 13, since before Christmas.

The local authority anticipates that it could be “well through April” before the air service can be resumed – unless there is a sufficient period of dry weather to improve the airstrip's condition.

Use of the air service has been steady in recent months, and the SIC will lay on an additional ferry run on Saturdays to maintain links with the Mainland.

Transport planning manager Michael Craigie said it essentially meant the summer ferry timetable for Papa Stour was being brought forward “with immediate effect” as a temporary measure.

“The airstrip [in] Papa Stour is constructed of mortar with a high clay content,” Craigie said, “and on inspection early in January it was found to be waterlogged in parts, making it temporarily unusable for the Islander aircraft.

“The surface needs to dry out before maintenance can take place. We've been in consultation with the community on this matter and they have been very understanding and helpful while we put in place the temporary alternative to their air service, and we thank them for their patience.”

Community councillor Jane Puckey said that, while it was undoubtedly an inconvenience, islanders felt the council had dealt with the situation “extremely well”.

“There's nothing they can do about it until we get the better weather,” she said. “The water cannot drain out because [the airstrip] sits on clay and it will hold the water.

“When the better weather comes, it will dry out and they can put in extra drains, or whatever they decide to do, and bring the surface back up to scratch again. Once all that's done they can reinstate the service.”

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