An anniversary of flights between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly was celebrated with a pa
PUBLISHED: 14:10 14 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:21 20 February 2013
On 15 September 1937, Captain D.L. Dustin flew four passengers to St Mary's from Land's End Airport on the inaugural commercial flight between the mainland and the Isles of Scilly.
Piloting a celebration
A special anniversary of flights between Lands End and the Isles of Scilly was celebrated with a party and a pledge for the future as Lesley Double discovered.
Photographs by EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS
On 15 September 1937, Captain D.L. Dustin flew four passengers to St Marys from Lands End Airport on the inaugural commercial flight between the mainland and the Isles of Scilly.
The story of fixed wing flights between the two destinations had begun some two years earlier, when Cobham Air Routes secured landing rights for a commercial service. Cobham sold the rights to Olley Air Services, who created Channel Air Ferries in 1936.
Development of the airport buildings, including bringing a hangar from Squires Gate Aerodrome at Blackpool, now allowed planes to take off safely on the 2,100ft grass runway. On this first flight, Captain Dustin took off in the DH84 Dragon GADCR, leaving Lands End Airport at 9am, and landing on St Marys Golf Course 20 minutes later.
Planes landed on the fifth and seventh fairways of the course until 1939, when the present St Marys Airport with its beautiful views out to sea and over some of the islands came into use.Trips to and from the Isles of Scilly quickly became popular and soon grew from one flight a day to three on a Saturday, with further flights on a Sunday if requested, as well as flights further afield to Bristol and Plymouth.
In 1938, Great Western and Southern Airlines acquired Channel Air Ferries and a scheduled air service was established, though this was reduced during the war years, resuming in 1945. By 1962, 337,500 passengers had travelled in the Rapide aircraft that was used to service the route.
A new airline, Scillonia, began flying from Lands End in 1966 and, as the airport grew in importance, Westward Airways opened a flying school in 1971. The school operated until 2009, teaching more than 100 pilots to fly in Cessnas and Piper Cherokee planes.
Today, Lands End Airport is run by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company (ISSC), which has also run the sea link on the Scillonian ferry between Penzance and St Marys since 1926.
The ISSC Skybus began commercial passenger flights between Lands End Airport and St Marys Airport in 1984 with just one Britten Norman Islander aircraft and one pilot.
Today Skybus has three Islanders and three De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters, and flies from Lands End to the Isles of Scilly, six days a week throughout the year.
To celebrate 75 years of fixed wing flights from Lands End to St Marys, a party for invited guests took place in one of the hangars at Lands End. The current ISSC chairman, Andrew May spoke about the role the airport has played during the last three-quarters of a century.
He said: You have to live on the islands to appreciate fully the value, the importance, the link that has been forged between this airport and the Isles of Scilly a link which has endured for 75 years, remarkable evidence of this airports success and of its value to the communities it serves.Building on the achievements of recent years, extra investment is allowing Lands End to improve and expand, with a new passenger terminal, caf and air traffic control tower currently under construction, which are due to be finished before the start of the 2013 summer season. ISSC also hopes to buy another Twin Otter and, with extra flights, staff and fire cover, will be able to offer more year round employment.
Mr May was followed by a talk from Captain Tim Orchards, a past Senior Concorde pilot and managing director of Wycombe Air Park. Although he had never flown at Lands End, Captain Orchard entertained the party-goers with a brief history of aviation and tales of his own flying life.
Guests had been treated to canaps and champagne and Jeff Marston, ISSC Chief Executive, invited Barneslie Ward to cut the anniversary cake. The first children carried on the Lands End to St Marys flights had been Mr Ward and his sister.
Quite rightly the most suitable person to cut the cake, Mr Ward is also a retired ISSC Chairman, with his nephew, Andrew May, being the current chairman.
The integrated transport system by sea and air is far more sophisticated today than it was 75 years ago, concluded Mr May. We will step up to the plate, as required by our customers and community. We have a can do attitude, and we will find solutions.
At the end of the afternoon, guests flying home to St Marys were joined by some others who had attended the party. Thanks to Skybus chief pilot Richard Ashby, they experienced a wonderful view of the islands from the air and a spent short time at St Marys Airport in the sunshine, before returning to Lands End.
Further information on ISSC, Lands End and St Marys Airports and flight times and cost: www.ios-travel.co.uk