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Sumburgh airport memorial

A model of the horseshoe shaped memorial.

A MEMORIAL to 79 people who lost their lives in four separate aircraft accidents associated with Sumburgh airport is to be unveiled in May.

On Tuesday a small group of volunteers gathered on land east of the airport to cut the turf for the stone horseshoe-shaped structure, which will also feature two benches made of teak and carry the names of all those who died.

The idea is the brainchild of Pauline Nixon, widow of Neville Nixon, the co-pilot on the Chinook helicopter that plunged into the sea 2.5 miles east of Sumburgh airport on 6 November 1986, killing 45 people.

The other three tragedies being commemorated are:

  • the Dan Air accident involving a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 turboprop aircraft on an oil industry charter flight from Sumburgh to Aberdeen. The crash occurred on 31 July 1979 following the aircraft’s failure to take off, resulting in 17 deaths;

  • the Brent Spar accident – a Sikorsky S61 helicopter transferring oil workers in the Brent oil field, 112 miles north east of Sumburgh airport, crashed whilst landing on the Brent Spar installation on the 25 July 1990 with six fatalities;

  • the Cormorant Alpha accident – a Eurocopter Super Puma helicopter crashed alongside the Cormorant Alpha platform on the 14 March 1992, with the loss of eleven lives.

Dave Ellis, the winchman who helped rescue the only two survivors from the Chinook, said Nixon came up with the idea when she visited Shetland in November 2011 to mark the 25th anniversary of tragedy.

“We took her for a flight to lay a wreath at the spot of the disaster. It was after that flight, which was quite emotional, that she said, ‘Don’t you think there should be a memorial to it?’, and I said, ‘Actually, I do’,” Ellis recalled.

Nixon put £100 on the table and Ellis, now the search and rescue chief crewman, matched that sum.

Support quickly flowed in from airport operator HIAL and businesses connected to the airport, and now the £15,000 target has almost been met.

The memorial will be unveiled during a ceremony on 25 May. Nixon, who is now a priest, will conduct part of the service.

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