Nicola Sturgeon praises Scots airline as island links hailed as ‘lifeline’ amid ferry disruption

It operates the shortest passenger flight, just under one minute, from Westray to Papa Westray and the world’s only scheduled beach landing on the isle of Barra.

From its early days of carrying Tay Road Bridge workers on flights to Dundee, Loganair is now marking a milestone 60th anniversary on Tuesday, February 1. 

While it has grown to become an airline with more than 40 destinations its links with Scotland’s island communities remain strong as well as Loganair’s future commitment to them during a time when links have some come under scrutiny with ferry travel disruption due to cancellations and fleet delays.

Read more: Parrots, seals and hedgehogs – meet some of the bizarre Loganair travellers

Jonathan Hinkles, chief executive of Loganair, said: “Our heartlands will always be in the Scottish islands. They are an important part of our business but by no means the only part of our business today. Look at Loganair operating aircraft into Heathrow on a daily basis now, London City and Stansted. 

“I think the importance of those lifeline routes for the islands is never understated or overlooked by us. We know very clearly what happens if we don’t deliver. We do also see the impact with what is happening with ferries and the level of disruption that has been going on there of late and the effect on those communities. So we have to deliver and we have to continue to do so.”

HeraldScotland: Loganair is marking its 60th anniversaryLoganair is marking its 60th anniversary

It all began when construction company boss Willie Logan bought air taxi firm Capital Services in 1962 which he had used to travel the country between building sites. Following the takeover, the renamed Loganair was based in Renfrew with a Piper Aztec as the sole aircraft.

The following year its first scheduled flight took off between Dundee and Turnhouse Airport, Edinburgh.

Today First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Loganair has made an “exceptional contribution” to the Scottish economy.

Ms Sturgeon said: “For six decades now, Loganair, the oldest name in UK airlines, has made an exceptional contribution to the Scottish economy. Since 1962, the airline has helped keep the country moving, ensuring that people across Scotland are connected – particularly those living in and visiting our most remote communities. The importance of that has never been clearer than during the pandemic as the airline continued to operate, transporting patients, tests and equipment across Scotland and beyond.”

“Loganair’s leadership in the net zero transition is also hugely appreciated and it should help ensure a very bright future for Scotland’s airline.”

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And 60 years on it is proud of its continuity. Loganair was one of only three major airlines to keep flying during the height of lockdown. While some airlines stopped flying, it was never an option for Loganair.

Mr Hinkles added: “We flew every day during the pandemic and increased the flying we were doing for Royal Mail because of the volumes going through the mail network during lockdown. With people ordering things online, sending things through the post sky-rocketed.

“We converted aircraft into air ambulances to support the Scottish Air Ambulance and did those very quickly. We had them online by April 2020. We said we had a job to do and a level of infrastructure in Scotland to deliver and how could we use that in the country’s efforts to handle the pandemic.”

HeraldScotland: Loganair operates the world's only scheduled beach landing at BarraLoganair operates the world’s only scheduled beach landing at Barra

Surviving in the airline industry is no mean feat and Loganair has seen many names come and go.

“I think it is an incredible milestone for any airline to reach, not least that given more than 50 airlines have come and gone in Scotland in the time that Loganair has been here,” added Mr Hinkles.

“While we have been busy focusing on what will be a busy summer ahead I am absolutely confident that the anniversary will be a good boost to everyone throughout the team.

“I think it is fair to say if the founding forefathers of Loganair had any idea 60 years ago that it was going to be the UK’s largest regional airline, they wouldn’t have believed you.

Even 10 years ago to say that we would have been in that position today is something that is unusual and welcome.

“From a company set up to allow people from Glasgow to Dundee to be able go to go and build the new Tay Road Bridge to be an airline flying right the way across the UK, the lifeline services of the Highlands and Islands, or keeping places like Southampton, Exeter and the Isle of Man all well connected, I think it is an extraordinary rate of progress and we are very proud indeed.”

HeraldScotland: Loganair have had a few surprise guests including Margaret ThatcherLoganair have had a few surprise guests including Margaret Thatcher

Over the years the airline has had some unusual passengers including a seal, hedgehogs and a parrot who required psychiatric treatment.

And during celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the Orkney Islands flight, a Prime Minister in the making gatecrashed proceedings.

Margaret Thatcher, who was leader of the opposition the time, wasn’t supposed to be there and was meant to be landing in Shetland, but due to fog her aeroplane was diverted and she landed in Kirkwall. In the middle of the celebration, proceedings were handed over to her and she stood up to say: “I wonder how anything ever arrives on schedule in these islands.”

HeraldScotland: Seal pup making an entrance as it arrived at Glasgow AirportSeal pup making an entrance as it arrived at Glasgow Airport

Despite reflecting on the past, Loganair is not standing still and is looking to the future.

Mr Hinkles added: “There are so many things we have done and I hope there will be many ahead particularly with the transition to electrical and hydrogen-powered aeroplanes. We expect firmly to be at the forefront of those developments as well.

“In the next month we have Loganair pilots and engineers going on test flying with one of the project teams in California on an electrically-powered aeroplane. Our pilots are taking part in the road testing of that technology as it is being developed.”

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