New use for Ashaig – maybe!

Ashaig/Broadford air strip.

The Ashaig Air Strip.

Marine Harvest are about to start construction of a fish meal plant in the old Allt Anavig quarry at Kyleakin, having listened to local concerns the workers camp will probably not be in the village of Kyleakin.

However it would seem that active consideration is being given to housing the 100+ workers at the quarry site, or possibly at the Ashaig air strip site.

There could be a number of benefits in the longer term if the workers camp was built on the site of the air strip, at a minimum these would have to include an improvement to the basic site infrastructure. There would surely have to be improvements in a number of areas, not least water, sewerage and power provisioning. With the remote possibility that there would be a building left that may be suitable for airport infrastructure such as a terminal building.

At the moment the main use for the Ashaig air strip would seem to be storing turbine parts for the burgeoning population of windfarms. So anyting which would improve the utilisation of the air strip would be good, even if it means that in the short term the facility was not available.

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The Long and busy road to Glasgow.

Look how handy Skye is for every where else.

Look how handy Skye is for every where else.

 Yet an other month has passed, the only commercial traffic at the local airstrip is still provided by Skye Seaplanes. It would seem that this will be the way of things for the foreseeable future, with no more real news on the service front.

It is not surprising that there is no more news, the whole area seems to be off the radar as far as the Scottish Government goes. Even although there were the massive gains made by the SNP, there doesn’t seem to be any incentive for them to push for a PSO for the local area.

But then we have only a limited volume of local comment on the lack of an air facility in the area. This is likely to always come back to the lack of infrastructure and vociferous local support, where there is a short term gain or a financial gain for local interests it can be accomplished even if it takes a bit of time. The SKAT campaign was a good example, but without a more obvious incentive for the local populace it is unlikely that there will be any significant progress on the air service front in the short term.

I recently read an article about business flying around the Great Lakes area in North America, where the businessman and pilot maintained that the level of service from the smaller airfield operator was much higher and more professional than those provided by mainstream commercial airport operations. I wonder what he would make of our local strip, the local council is allowing it to fall into a more dilapidated state than it should be.

During the good weather last week I watched a number of movement at the Plockton air strip, with the Plocktom Hotel benefiting from at least two bookings of around a dozen or so people.

So I guess that for the rest of the year it will be the long and busy road to Glasgow, well for those of us who would like to travel that far.

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With a new MP, what chance change?

The new MP for Skye Ian Blackford.

The new MP for Skye Ian Blackford.

Well we have a new member of parliament, will this new MP come on board and increase the visibility of the campaign for the air link to Skye. I have to say that given the past SNP stance on Ashaig, it would seem unlikely that he will deliver any more than token support. But it would be reasonable to ask him the question, you never know there could be an unequivocal maybe. You can’t be elected if you know what Yes or No means, I’m sure you’ve seen politicians being interviewed. Still I suppose that there is a chance that the change in political climate in the area may make a difference. The only thing that you can be sure of with politicians, is that you can’t be sure of them.

Over the last month there has been some movements at Ashaig, with Skye Seaplanes having been in at least once and an air ambulance movement – and the locally based Icarus having made a couple of flights. Today there were two RAF Griffins that made low passes, but the crews carried on to Plockton. Where they parked up for lunch, before returning to Prestwick.

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The Student Design.

The Ashaig Air Strip.

The Ashaig Air Strip.

I have watched the campaign for the improvement of the facilities and the introduction of a regular service to Ashaig with some interest. Here are the drawings as done by the Inverness Students, the designs are not out of keeping with the traditional styles used around the island.

I’ve included a screen grab of the three images that I found online, they cover just some of the core infrastructure of the airfield. And I must say that I think them to be quite pleasing and easy on the eye, having obviously been created with consideration for context and location.

The suggestion is a 900 sqm terminal building, along with the hanger – which seems to be around 600 sqm. With the other improvements that will be require, it would seem that the cost will be pretty significant. It is unlikely that we will see the upgrade in the short term, but it may be on the cards for the future. Only time will tell on that front, at the moment there may be sufficient business to support a sight seeing flight for the tourist traffic. But longer term supporting scheduled services may be a bit more challenging.

The survey results are now pretty well known, at the time of the survey there was demand for the service. But the requirements can change quite a lot in five years, it might be worth an other push just to see how much things have changed.

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And then there was one!

Look how handy Skye is for every where else.

Look how handy Skye is for every where else.

Well over the past few days I’ve been enjoying the great weather, I’ve been out taking some photographs and just enjoying the area in general. I haven’t had cause to go past Ashaig so other than the new arrival and a visit from the Coast Guard Merlin not really that much to report. Unless of course you are interested in the disappearance of flyskye.co.uk a campaign web site which seems to have vanished into the ether, although the facebook and twitter side of things still seems to be active.

Anyway as I said there doesn’t seem to be anything happening on the Ashaig front, I did note with some interest that there seems to now be an issue with the runway lighting at Ashaig as there were emergency lights deployed. Whether this was just a good opportunity to test them or not I don’t know. I does seem a bit strange to think that they would test them during a medical evacuation, so there is likely a problem with the lights. Which is just another step in the deterioration of the Airstrip, one more issue that won’t be resolved. Given the need for the Airstrip to be at least maintained at it’s current standard, I would hope that there will be consideration given to instigating a repair.

On a more positive note, over the past few days there has been some increased activity in Plockton. There is a new resident in the shape of a 1975 Rheims Cessna 172, I understand that the owner of the aircraft intends to operate pleasure flights on an adhoc basis.

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Oh look a plane!

This gallery contains 3 photos.

So driving past Ashaig on Wednesday the 11th of March, this nice little Ikarus C42 was sitting on the pan. Nice little addition to the local airstrip, even if it was only evident for the day. Bringing general aviation to … Continue reading

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Bumper year, not for Skye!

Look how handy Skye is for every where else.

Look how handy Skye is for every where else.

It seem like most of the Scottish Airports had a fairly good year, passenger figures in general were up. But here in Skye we are still without the service that we should have and no real signs of any change on that front. The question has to be how to engender the drive to change that situation, what has to happen to make Ashaig a viable operational airfield serving the needs of the local people.

It’s been done at many other smaller rural airfields in Scotland, so I’m sure that it could be done in Skye. Enlisting the support of as many people as possible would be a good start, but ensuring that the service is available and the passenger figures and aircraft loadings are a kind of chicken and egg situation. I look at the Inverness to London City route, which is scheduled to cease operating in a couple of months. Potentially this was a great service, two flights a day from Inverness to London City. It made it possible to fly a return to London, take in a show and have a night in a hotel for not a great deal of money. The round trip on Flybe was from £125 if booked well in advance.

The general consensus was that the cancellation of the service on the 22nd of February was disappointing, but there have been rumours circulating in the plane spotter fraternity for at least six months. So I’m pretty sure that other people “in the know”, have been aware for much longer. I know this doesn’t really have a bearing on the reopening of Ashaig, but with the demise of a service like this the task of persuading some one to start a service becomes that much more difficult. The bottom line for this, is the bottom line for the service. Unless a service can be run at a profit – or a potential profit, the chances of the service getting started are zero.

I know that there has been talk of the Public Service Obligation (PSO) in respect of the service, but with the terminal building comprising a container and the total lack of facilities and safety. How can you expect an air operator to be happy with being associated with a service to Skye, these companies are more image conscious than that. As I’ve said before, this will have to start at a more basic level than “we want an air service for Skye”.

 

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Skye Seaplanes

Sky Seaplanes Cessna 208 at Ashaig.

Sky Seaplanes Cessna 208 at Ashaig.

So driving past Ashaig the other day, this was in – I’ve seen it around a few times it seems to have been quite busy for the past couple of weeks.

A quick chat with one of the people looking after the aircraft on the day shows up some interesting information, which I’ll add to and put in the post for information.

The aircraft has quite an interesting history, having been built in 2001 it has been around the block a bit. It’s US history is as follows, with a manufacturers serial (Construction) number of 20800340 to start the trace with we can find the following information. Please note that the dates are the last date that the entry appears in my database, so as an example Boothbay had the aircraft from the 4th 0f June 2001 until the 8th of August 2008.

| N985SC | CESSNA AIRCRAFT COMPANY | Historic | 2001-06-04 |
| N985SC | BOOTHBAY REGION BOAT YARD | Historic | 2008-09-08 |
| N985SC | REGISTRATION PENDING | Historic | 2008-09-15 |
| N985SC | WELLS FARGO BANK NORTHWEST NA TRUSTEE | Dereg | 2008-09-17 |

As can be seen from the time line above, the aircraft really only had one operator in the United States, before it was sold on to Dubai owners – it was probably retro fitted with Air Conditioning at this point. After leaving the US, the aircraft operated in Dubai and around the Persian Gulf for a number of years as A6-TDA, where it was operated by TDIC (Tourist Development and Investment Company) before arriving in the UK after being purchased by – Aerodynamics Ltd of the Isle-of-Man. Now dry leased to Loch Lomond Seaplanes and operated under the Skye Seaplanes banner.

This aircraft will probably operate out of Ashaig from Monday to Thursday for most of the summer, although if there is demand it may operate more frequently. This is really good news for the air field, there is now a manned office for much of the time that the aircraft is there so hopefully the word will spread and more general aviation will be attracted to the strip.

During the conversation that I had with the person at the strip, who was at the time cleaning the aircraft. I was surprised to find out that there are some 300 plus booked seats and that good weather increases that dramatically, so maybe the passenger figures for the strip will be a good number this year. Although the figures could probably be a lot better, the person that I was talking to was lamenting the lack of landline or mobile signal at the airfield – still one thing at a time eh?

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Still no real news for Skye Air Services.

The Ashaig Air Strip.

The Ashaig Air Strip.

Well from what I can see there is still no real news on the Ashaig front, I’ve been past the strip many times since the last post. But there has been precious little activity on the flying front and even less on the development front, so I’m going to guess that there wont be any significant progress in 2014 either. There is quite a lot of interest in the re-establishment of an air service to the central belt, but it does seem to be mostly verbal support. So for the moment we don’t have an air service to any where, the strip at Plockton is used much more – even although it’s 170m shorter. It does have the advantage of some local facilities, you can even walk from there to the village in around 15 minutes.

Given the location of Ashaig it would seem likely that the money for the expansion is likely to have to come from a private source, I’d think that the exposure to political risk would prove to be more than the council would tolerate in the current climate.

Still a run past the airstrip today show’s that there is still a chance, there was a new floated Cessna Caravan sitting on the strip waiting for business. I’m sure that they’ll get some passing trade, but it would be better if they had more presence than just a sign at the top of the approach road to the airstrip. I’ll post the photographs when I get the chance.

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Island Aviation or not!

The Ashaig Air Strip.

The Ashaig Air Strip.

There has been a news announcement, covering the £2.5 million investment that HIAL is making in Inverness – ensuring the facility will survive into the forceable future. This is great news for the Highlands of Scotland and will ensure that there is an air link to the outside world for many years into the future. There has not been any significant news linked to the Skye Air Strip for the past couple of months, but I’m sure that there will be some in the not to far off future. There are several people working on promoting the existing facilities, while trying to secure funding that will enable the required improvements.

The air strip like any other facility has to be promoted, as a keen aviation enthusiast I’ve had more than a passing interest in the Ashaig strip. But I do have to say that there does seem to be a certain lack of awareness about what’s on offer at the only runway on Skye, I’m aware that it’s only 770m in length, it hasn’t been that well maintained and there are almost no facilities. But in reality these shortcomings don’t matter as so few people are even aware that there is an airstrip, after all it is listed in Abandoned & Little Known Airfields

I do wonder how to put this facility back on the aviation charts, even to manage to increase the general aviation usage would be a start. Possibly there are people out there in the aviation fraternity that could contribute to this debate, or maybe not – perhaps we should just wait for someone to hand out the money to subsidise it.

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