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Helicopter deal to Scilly a step closer

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 19, 2014

By JEFF WELLS

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A Somerset helicopter manufacturer could provide a aircraft to reinstate a helicopter service to the Scilly Isles.

The return of a helicopter service connecting the Scilly Isles to mainland Britain has taken a step closer after advisers PwC delivered a report into the viability of reinstating the air link which closed in 2012.

Yeovil-based helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland is offering two of its 14-seater AW189 aircraft to potential operators keen to run the service flying islanders and tourists the 20-plus miles across the water from Cornwall.

With the deal progressing flights to the popular tourist destination could begin as early as spring 2016.

Discussions into the new service first began last year.

Since British International Helicopters ended flights in October 2012 the island has been served by a ferry for seven months of the year and a daily Skybus aeroplane from Land's End, Newquay and Exeter airports.

But the helicopter has been missed by many residents and local medical services.

When they were still operating the flights were used to transfer patients, samples and other items to hospitals across south west England.

AgustaWestland is already building AW189s for Bristow helicopters to use once it takes over the UK's air sea rescue service from the RAF and Royal Navy, a deal which was confirmed last year.

A decision as to whether there is a business case for re-establishing the helicopter service will be made by local authorities within the next few weeks.

Operators interested in taking on the work will then be selected and potential sites for a heliport identified.

It is thought Bristow, Bond and CHC are among those thought to be bidding for the service.

AugustaWestland is keen to offer two of its aircraft for the route.

The Scilly Island need for the helicopters would act as a showcase for the AW189 as the company looks to protect its business from military budget cuts.

Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, who represents West Cornwall, has been a vocal supporter of the plan to reinstate helicopter flights to the isles of Scilly.

AugustaWestland have been building aircraft for 99 years at Yeovil and helicopters since the 1950s.

Yeovil is AgustaWestland's main facility in the UK and is where the company undertakes design, development and manufacture of helicopters for military and commercial customers.

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