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Shetland's airports (and parking)


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Sudden Stop or Rasmie I was only asking those questions because you two seem to have a better understanding of the facts and points.


Or are the questions harder to answer? also any news of how Scatsta's operations faired out of Sumburgh on Tuesday? did the operation cope?

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imo Scatsta was reopened for offshore flts after a certain big ex-airport manager told a Big oil comPany to p*** off when they asked to do ramp transfers. Unst became expensive because of limited aircraft types and they pulled in that ops. the said Big oil company then made big promises on cost savings to the dutch company. All pals together sharing the costs. However cos of the astronomic costs of upgrading they did the minimum at their new airfield resulting in it being like putting a quart in a pint pot. To the contrary of previous thinking there has been more investment on the NSea and the workload has increased rather than decreased!

In the current climate I can't see anyone wanting to invest any capital in new infrastructure, anywhere, specially when there is an alternative elsewhere and the old airport management have been soundly kicked into touch. They have basically two viable alternatives Sumburgh or Aberdeen direct. Kirkwall doesn't have the infrastructure. Wick is too far and has poor onward connections and Norway is further away and twice the price. Unst would make a nice fuel diversion for any other airport, but I guess it would be just too expensive to set up... but someone should do a business plan especially if the SIC or UDC are considering any investment there.

However Sumburgh is doing fine on non-oil aviation and the future looks good whatever.


Fine day a Tuesday

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Unst would cost next to nothing to set up as a fuel stop/nominated diversion for helicopters - Brintel ran it on that basis for a year in support of their Sumburgh S-61 operation until that contract was lost.


If you want a fixed wing diversion thats a different story. It's 600m runway can take the Dash 7 but nothing currently operating into Shetland can use it apart from the odd puddle jumper. Incidentally the aforementioned Dutch boys would have made the whole thing fit for purpose back in the 80's if it hadn't been for the SIC. It's part of North Sea aviation lore that this rebuff was partly responsible for their ultimate decamping to Aberdeen, but who knows.


As far as the costs of the aircraft operating into Unst goes, its an ironic detail that Brymon - having effectively shut Unst by refusing to negotiate their costs had to cut them substantially to get the Scatsta contract.

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Hmmm, where to start? Yeah, the situation has been pretty well covered. The history of helicopter movements in the north sea has involved quite a few airports. Shetland has provided a good half way point for the northen most fields and geographically is always going to be. Going direct from aberdeen, whilst technical easier now than ever, is not great. It's a long trip in a noisy helicopter, but doing half the trip in a comfortable jet plane is far more attractive. This is where shetland comes in.


The question is (as far as I'm concerned), where do WE (the shetland people) want the oil planes to land and transfer the passengers to helicopters for the last portion of the trip?


The canidates:


Unst - Isn't in the frame, great though it would be for Unst to be able to create that much employment, this particular contract is not within the airport's grasp (rumours of a private company starting VIP retreats, flying in and out of Unst in private planes sounds more realistic, whoever unrealistic is sounds!!).


Tingwall - Again isn't being considered. Too small, sitting in potentially foggy valley.


Sumburgh - No brainer for an accountant. Would make, and has in the past made, a good stopping off point for oil traffic. Good facilites and could cope with the increase in traffic if given extra staff.


Scatsta - Operates and holds the current contract. Suffers slightly in unfavorable wind directions due to a lack of a crosswind runway and the seems are creeking due to increased aircraft movements. JUST big enough for the current level of traffic.


If Sumburgh takes the contract, Scatsta closes and we lose our summer fog diversion (so too does the oil air traffic). If Scatsta retains the contract, as Rasmie points out, Sumburgh is doing fine on non-oil avaition and the future looks good whatever.


It seems to me, and this has been my point all along, that Scatsta operating the oil traffic is the best thing (overall) for Shetland. There would be a net lose of jobs if the oil companies went to Sumburgh, there would be no alternative to fly too in the event of poor weather or un-serviceablity. I'm not just talking about Loganair and the mail plane but also the air ambulance. It has made a few trips to Scatsta this year after not being able to land at Sumburgh or Tingwall.


That's where i stand. Shetland needs Scatsta to stay open. Anybody disagree? If so, why? How do we get around covering our own behinds in Shetland's trademark summer weather????

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Thanks for that Sudden stop,


If as you state that Scatsta is just able to cope with the present traffic asked of it, do you think a compromise would be if Sumburgh takes the contract, and Unst isnt viable as a multi-use eg fixed and rotary wing diversion, that Scatsa could be used as the "poor weather" diversion for air traffic into Shetland?


If this is the case Unst could be developed by a private company possibly using it as a direct destination for its proposed developments?


If as seems the case just now there is no political will to invest in Scatsta by the Local council and the Oil companies dont seem interested would that not be a more feasable arguement to pursue?


Also at the end of the day it doesnt matter what we the people of Shetland say it ultimately comes down to the fact that if the oil companies are going to see a perceived saving they will move, and the days of us dictating to them what we want in Shetland are a far and distant memory im afraid.


It has been an eye opener to read all your views Sudden Stop, New Magnie and Rasmie, and I can see that really our councillors dont have much of a clue when it comes to airports and aviation.

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Jeems, I see what your saying, but it would be prohibitly expensive to retain Scatsta purely for a diversionary airport and have no traffic of it's own. I don't know if some kind of split operation could be set up, so that everthing is still ticking over at Scatsta but Sumburgh gets some traffic to justify the runway extention?


Unst could be used for Heli diversions but the runway is far too short for the fixed wing aircraft currently in use. It's barely long enough for the car club to do their thing during the summer :lol:


I hope that the council are looking at investing some money in Scatsta. If they were to put some money towards improving the airport for diversion/emergency purposes, the oil company might see Scatsta as a better facility. But as you say and as it's been said in several previous posts, we don't get to pick which airport the consortium are going to use. I just hope they keep scatsta.


As for the council, sumburgh would like to see an increase in traffic which can be attributed and therefore justify it's runway extention. The council may have PR problems putting money into Scatsta if it contributes to oil traffic not moving to Sumburgh.


Having said that, public relations will not be at an all time high if Scatsta closes, 80+ people are made unemployeed and Shetlanders/tourists/hospital patients can fly anywhere in poor weather. :?

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It was just a suggestion Sudden Stop, obivously their would be a net loss of jobs if the work left Scatsta for Sumburgh or Shetland altoghether, but what im trying to say is that some of the arguements used by people on here are not going to keep the jobs in Scatsta.


You have stated that the airfield at Scatsta is not able to cope with anymore traffic? so therefore you could have a situation where for instance you have a day in the summer when Sumburgh is fog bound, and Scatsta is available, but it seems what you and certain councillors are trying to say is that Sumburgh's traffic can divert to Scatsta yes?


Where does all this traffic park? are the present users of the airfield (the oil companies) going to be happy when their helicopters and jets cant get parked or manouvered?


Not only would the airfield need to be greatly increased in size in regards to manouvering area's and stands the terminal would have to be increased in size too yes? all this investment to keep the airfield open as an weather diversion?


The flights flying to Scatsta are according to rumour never full and if as you state the wind is in the wrong direction then do they more often as not stop at Sumburgh to offload a helicopter load of passengers and then fly on to Scatsta?, thus having to pay two sets of landing charges just to reach Scatsta, this does'nt make sense logistically or finacially.


None of this is the fault of the staff at Scatsta who I have no doubt do their job with the utmost professionalism, but as you have stated it cant cope with anymore traffic how can it be a suitable weather diversion for Sumburgh when there is no capacity to take the traffic, the council wont invest nor will the oil companies to make it fit for that dual porpose.

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to give us some comparison I have a couple of questions for you.


1. How many days per year are Sumburgh and Scatsta each normally open for business?

2. How many Sumburgh aircraft have diverted to Scatsta in the last year?

How many Scatsta aircraft have diverted to Sumburgh in the same period?

those answers might give a better indication of an airports usefulness as a diversion?


1. How many passengers can a 146 carry into Scatsta and Sumburgh in still air conditions?

2. Similarly how many passengers can a Saab340 carry out of each airport in still conditions?

These answers might give a good indication of an airports suitability for the type of aircraft the travelling public have to actually use.


Do both airports meet the full CAA criteria for public service runway size and equipment levels, or is there any dispensation for extraordinary locations/requirements?

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Jeems, the question of space for diversions IS a potential problem. The oil traffic gets first dibs for parking doesn't it? If the transport partnership does want to formalize arrangements for diversions during foggy days and they aren't going to be able to take the spaces needed for oil aircraft some investment (for more apron space) will be needed. There is space for expansion there without any big problem and a big toughened carpark (effectively what an apron is) isn't going to cost the earth.


I better clarify myself a little, Scatsta is coping with it's current traffic levels and as far as I know managed admirable during the summer when it was taking diversions as well. Increasing the traffic poses the parking problems already identified by the council/transport partnership. The terminal building: I'm not sure about. Anybody have any idea what space for an extra 50 odd (a saab or two) seats would cost?



That's a lot of precise questions. Precise answers are difficult without sitting down with the figures. HIAL publish almost everything and the Shetland times is usually quick to fill column inches by copying them straight in. The oil consortium doesn't. And to be fair they don't have to, but it makes proper comparsion difficult.

We do know that Sumburgh does take oil traffic whenever needed. Scatsta took diversions this summer and in previous years have taken things like the mail plane when needed. But I think the Saabs have only landed there this year after some kind of policy change (training related on Loganairs behalf i think - I'm sure someone will correct me).

Still air conditions eh? Shetland? Apparently, the 146s don't land at Scatsta full but can take off full. I don't think they can land full on the shorter of the two runways at sumburgh either. Again i stand to be corrected on either airport's abilities. Either way, if one airport closes you can't divert from the other.

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I think I get it now what you are saying is at the moment the planes that operate into Scatsta on the oil work are not able to land full? Its kind of like hiring a 8 seat taxi and the driver telling you that you can only use 4?


So Consortium looks at the Sumburgh extension as a way to get value for money from their supplier? eg they can fill the planes up more both ways instead of less than half full? thus saving money on planes? and then they wont have to lobby the Council or the Scottish exectutive and europe for funds to exentend Scatsta?


Does the work you stated you thought would help Scatsta and subsequently Shetland included putting in better naviagation aids for approaching aircraft up to the standard of say Kirkwall or Sumburgh?

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Sticking with your comparsion to the taxi: it's gonna be tricky for them. They could probably guarentee getting six seats of the eight used. Which would be better value for money, but then you have to compare the money saved on the plane to the extra cost of running helicopters the extra distance to the rigs. Helicopter hours cost considerably more than fixed wing hours and there are a lot more heli flights which would have to cover the extra distance. It's not an easy decision.


I think extra navigation aids would turn out to be too expensive for not a lot of gain. If Scatsta's weather is so bad that the a diverting flight would need some kind of nav aid like those used in the HIAL airports (ie ILS), then it probably won't even be attempted. During some of those foggy days this year Scatsta was completely clear at times. It's just Shetland weather isn't it? If the whole island is covered in the same type of weather then Sumburgh is going to be first choice, due to the ILS. Copying the system at Scatsta isn't nessary.

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The arguement for the status quo is pretty compelling but there is a political element to consider as well - and I don't just mean Drew hopping up and down about North Mainland jobs.


With the current levels of investment at Sumburgh from the public purse, I'd be surprised if the SIC didn't run afoul of the Scottish Exec if it attempted to award any of the ratepayers pennies to Scatsta - given that the principle beneficiaries, regardless of intent, would be private business. I'm a little out of date on the application of structural funds since I left Shetland, but I'm fairly certain that expenditure of this kind would have to come from the transport budget.


Also as far as the issue of cost goes, Sumburgh is a whoppingly expensive airport to use as an out of hours diversion. CAA regs dictate that when an airport opens, it offers the services applicable to its rating. Sumburgh is rated at least Cat 9 (from memory, with the new developments I'm sure it's higher by now) which means that large fire, ATC and fuelling crews have to be kept on standby when all a half empty Tiger needs is Heli 2 which is little more than a moderately level surface manned by a couple of blokes with a bucket of sand.


Perversely, one of the cheapest and straightforward ways to make operations at Scatsta cheaper might be to offer an out of hours service at Unst - which would mean some lost invisible revenue to sumburgh, but would make Scatsta a cheaper operation and could mitigate against closure. Sumburgh, with the current level of public money tied up in it isn't going anywhere and Scatsta is retained as a fixed wing diversion on a pot luck basis. (Incidentally, its operational problems owe more to the surrounding high hills which prevent aircraft dropping below low cloud to make visual contact with the runway - but thats another story)


On the other hand, falling numbers offshore and newer helicopters using Norwegian diversions could make the whole debate a moot point. Bumpy ride or no, that's how most of the North Sea is currently serviced and oil companies don't have much of a track record for overconcern about their personnel's comfort.

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