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Transport / Passenger flights back at Tingwall after replacement fire engine drafted in

However a consultation event on future harbour works in Fair Isle this week was cancelled

An islander aircraft in front of the hangar at Tingwall Airport. Photo: SIC

INTER-island passenger flights have returned to Tingwall Airport after an issue with fire cover was temporarily sorted.

A replacement fire appliance has now been brought in on hire after the existing one at the airport developed a fault back in November.

During this time passenger flights had to fly to and from Fair Isle and Foula via Sumburgh.

Meanwhile a consultation event planned for Monday (5 December) in Fair Isle on the island’s proposed future harbour works was cancelled due to weather constraints affecting flights.

It is understood the consultation team were advised they might not have been able to fly back out to the Shetland mainland after the event due to the weather forecast.

However, Shetland Islands Council’s marine engineering team leader Lee Coutts said the local authority is committed to visiting the community to discuss the project and receive feedback.

In the meantime people can view the consultation material on the internet and ask questions, while anyone can complete an online survey too.

The problem with Tingwall’s fire engine closed the airport on Friday 21 November.

While freight flights could run from Tingwall, passenger flights were re-routed through Sumburgh Airport.

While the air service is operated by Airtask, the airstrip itself is run by Shetland Islands Council.

A council spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that Tingwall Airport was fully operational again after the replacement fire appliance was brought in.

They said: “We have hired a vehicle for three months to allow us to assess the status of our own, and the potential need for replacement.

“The hire vehicle has been accepted by the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] for use, with some additional short term controls for additional equipment put in place.”

Back in 2019 councillors ruled that Tingwall Airport should remain the base for inter-island flights in Shetland amid suggestions that Sumburgh Airport could be a better location.

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Councillors were told at the time that the “socio-economic case overwhelmingly favours” Tingwall as the base for services despite Sumburgh potentially being a slightly cheaper option in the long run.

It is understood that the increased travel time between Sumburgh and Lerwick compared to from Tingwall meant that some Fair Isle residents had to cancel recent medical and dental appointments on mainland Shetland.

Meanwhile there is still a hope that Fair Isle residents will get a chance to discuss the potential harbour improvements to their island at least partly in person after Monday’s consultation event was called off.

The Good Shepherd in Lerwick in September 2022. Photo: Jim Mullay

The improvements are being planned at Fair Isle’s North Haven harbour as well as at Grutness in Shetland’s South Mainland to cater for a proposed new Fair Isle ferry.

A funding bid of more than £25 million for this package is currently sitting with the UK Government, and there is hope that a verdict may be reached by the end of the year.

A key feature of the proposed harbour work is linkspans being installed in Fair Isle and Grutness to enable access for a ro-ro ferry.

Ground investigations could take place in Fair Isle and Grutness from February next year, with main construction expected to be carried out in 2024/25.

Another consultation event was planned for Tuesday (6 December) in Sumburgh.

Speaking about the Fair Isle event, SIC’s marine engineering team leader Coutts said: “There are difficulties in arranging another event at this time of year, especially including consultants from the  Scottish mainland.

“My intention is to travel into Fair Isle as soon as possible, with the intention of bringing consultants into the conversation remotely using MS Teams or similar software.

“We have been in regular contact with individuals on the island who’ve been very kind in assisting us with planning and arrangements, and we will continue to do so to arrange a visit as soon as we can.”

People can view the consultation material and respond to the survey here.

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