A PILOT has been praised for his quick thinking when a council plane was forced to turn back to Fair Isle after suffering engine failure shortly after take-off.
The Britten-Norman plane, which holds up to seven passengers and is operated by Bedfordshire-based Airtask, landed safely on the Fair Isle airstrip on Wednesday afternoon on one engine.
Firefighters had to clear fuel from the runway after the plane, which was headed to Tingwall Airport, touched down.
A photo seen by Shetland News showed the cylinder head of one of the engine’s six cylinders bulging through the external engine casing. It had been flung off with such force it had partially prised open the two halves of the casing.
Accompanying text mentioned that the engine had gone on fire but this had gone out before the plane had landed.
Passengers and crew were stuck on the remote Fair Isle until the scheduled council ferry the next day because Airtask’s other isles-based aircraft was undergoing maintenance in Tingwall.
Investigations are still ongoing into the cause of the fault and a team of engineers have arrived in Shetland to look at the engine.
It is thought that parts due to be used on the second plane will instead be used on the aircraft in Fair Isle to speed up the process.
Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s transport committee Ryan Thomson said that the officers are “liaising with Airtask on a very regular basis and plans are being made to repair the aircraft and return it to Tingwall as soon as practically possible”.
A vessel was also chartered on Wednesday to take passengers from Foula to the Shetland mainland after their scheduled flight was cancelled as a result.
A relief aircraft had to be taken up from Cumbernauld to cover Shetland’s inter-island flights from Friday onwards, taking over two hours to head north.
Airtask, which operates the inter-island service for Shetland Islands Council, apologised for disruption caused and thanked those in the community who came to assist.
“The welfare of our passengers and crew is our top priority and we shall provide updates as and when these are available,” managing director Julie Simper said in a statement at the time.
Writing later on Airtask’s inter-island Shetland Facebook page, the company said: “Now that we have resumed services it’s time to say a sincere thank you to everyone who has assisted us in recent days.
“That includes our disrupted passengers, the airport staff and fire crew, those that provided food and lodging assistance for stranded passengers and Richard (the pilot), moving the aircraft, passing messages and information, chartered boats etc.
“The list is very very long so please accept our apology if we haven’t included everyone. We very much appreciate the help (and patience) that has been provided by so many within the community.”
A spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch confirmed that the incident had been reported, but that based on the information, no further action was being taken.