Trial air service for Skye is proposed

The airstrip at Ashaig, Skye. Pic, Willie Urquhart

An air service between Skye and the central belt could be delivered at a capital cost of under £1.4 million, according to a new study proposing the re-introduction of flights on a trial basis.

A working group, led regional transport partnership group HITRANS, has been investigating the feasibility of a scheduled air service linking Skye with either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

The group say a trial is a more realistic and proportionate way forward for the proposed service. It is predicted that the air service would attract 15,000 passengers each year, and deliver economic benefits for Skye and Lochalsh.

The group’s preferred option involves deployment of a 19-seat aircraft – a Twin Otter – to operate 12 flights per week from the existing airstrip at Ashaig, near Broadford, to Glasgow.

It is estimated that two years is the shortest realistic timescale needed to obtain licences and approvals, construct new facilities, set up an aerodrome operating team, sign agreements with airline operators and commence scheduled air services.

The capital investment required to make the airport ready for a scheduled service is estimated at between £1.15 million and £1.36 million and the annual running costs of supporting the air service and running the airport is estimated at between £880,000 – £980,000.

Members of HITRANS were given an update on progress being made on the project at their meeting at Stornoway today (Friday).

HITRANS are represented on the working group along with representatives of Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Transport Scotland and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.    

An outline layout for the introduction of a trial service at Broadford has been prepared, which identifies provision of a 200 square metre modular building terminal situated, 30 public car parking as well as space for bus, taxi and drop off.

Ranald Robertson, HITRANS partnership director, said: “The research undertaken by the working group clearly demonstrates a demand for the service but we must be realistic in what we can achieve with the funds likely to be available.  Operating a service on a trial basis is clearly going to be more affordable and our focus now must be to identify the funding to get the trial service off the ground. If this funding can be secured, the working group will set out future steps including airport and airspace licensing which would include stakeholder and community engagement.” 

No commercial services have operated from Skye since 1988 and the airfield is unlicensed under CAA regulations.