Final flight marks end of Penzance to Scilly helicopters
THE FINAL flight took off today from the Isles of Scilly heading back to Penzance and marking the end of the world's oldest scheduled helicopter service.
On a cold, damp and dark evening, a small group of people gathered to watch as the familiar whirring rotor blades rose into the sky for the last time.
The end of the service, after 49 years, is seen as a sad loss to those on both ends of the link and is likely to have a dramatic effect on islanders, particularly during the winter months.
"It is the end of a very significant era and one which has made a very significant contribution to the economy of the area, not only the Isles of Scilly but also Penzance," said St Ives MP Andrew George. "And of course it has employed a huge number of people in skilled jobs."
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British International Helicopters, which runs the service to both St Mary's and Tresco, announced several months ago that the last flight would take off on October 31.
They blamed delays in the sale of the heliport at Eastern Green to Sainsbury's, which they said meant they did not have the money to continue the loss-making service.
Managing director Tony Jones said he wanted to thank all those involved for all they had done to keep the service going in times of uncertainty.
"I have been with British International Helicopters since we took over the service in 2000 and so naturally October 31 will be a day of many emotions," he said.
"I have been immensely proud to lead a great team of people providing the only helicopter link between the mainland and the Isles of Scilly for the last 49 years, the longest-serving helicopter passenger service in the world.
"The last flight does indeed mark the end of an era, not least for those in the company for whom it will also be their last day of employment with BIH.
"Over the past three months since we announced the closure of the service, we have been consulting with staff and fortunately we have managed to redeploy a handful of people to other parts of the business.
"However, for the majority, this is not just an ending but the start of the search for new employment.
"Many have been here far longer than me. In all the discussions and debates around the future of the helicopter service, little has been said about the people who have done their best for it to remain 'business as usual' in the final months of the service, despite the uncertainty ahead .
"I would like to thank everyone publicly for their dedication to the service and the dignified way in which they have gone about their work and to wish everyone the very best for the future."