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Final goodbye as Scillies helicopter makes its last flight across the sea

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

End of an era... the last scheduled daily helicopter flight between the Isles of Scilly and Penzance Picture: Jordan Stephens

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It was the end of an era last night as crowds gathered to watch the last helicopter to serve the Isles of Scilly to Cornwall route touch down for the final time.

Tickets for the journey, which had clocked up nearly 50 years continuous service, had long been sold out.

But for Derek and Linda Winn the price of getting on board was immaterial.

"This has been part of the fabric of Penzance for 50 years and we wanted to be a part of it," said Mr Winn, from Penzance.

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"Money didn't come into it. It could have cost £500 and we still would have done it."

But the memorable journey was tinged with bitterness for the Winns.

"Harold Wilson is buried on the Isles of Scilly and I think he would be turning in his grave to see it come to this."

Gillian and Graham Gosling, who have visited the Scillies for 30 years from their home in Norfolk, booked their holiday to coincide with the last helicopter trip.

"It was very nostalgic to be on board and very sad," said Mr Gosling.

And "sad" was the word used time and time again by more than 100 people who gathered at the heliport in Penzance to witness the occasion.

It had been a similar picture on Scilly when the very last flight from St Mary's attracted hundreds of islanders to form a farewell guard of honour.

British International Helicopters (BIH) announced the end of their service back in August, blaming a series of high court challenges to the future use of its heliport site for the decision.

Three potential blocks had initially been submitted; a first was quickly withdrawn, followed by a second from Tesco. A third challenge from former Isles of Scilly Steamship Company joint-managing director Charlie Cartwright has now also been withdrawn, it has been confirmed.

But it didn't make a difference.

After landing at Penzance to unload passengers and luggage, the helicopter took one last flight to its hangar at Newquay Airport with some of the 60 people who will lose their jobs and some former members of staff.

One, Ron Rogers, worked on the service for a total of 46 years and was on staff when the first helicopters were brought in to replace small biplanes which used to carry passengers from the islands.

"It very sad that this is happening," he said.

"Over the period of the service we have carried 4.16 million passengers.

"I don't really think that people will realise what they have lost until its gone."

David Langsworthy, who lived on Scilly and now lives in Sennen, remembered the joy of taking one of the first helicopter flights back in 1964.

After turning up to wave a final farewell, he also managed to nab himself a souvenir in the form of a BIH safety notice.

"I'm going to put it up in my conservatory to remind me of the helicopters."

Overall the mood was one of quiet resignation as the distinctive blue, white and red livered aircraft lifted off and performed a brief fly-past before heading to Newquay.

The islands will still be served by a year-round fixed wing plane and a seasonal ferry, but, said Marian Bennett, a councillor on the Isles of Scilly and member of the Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport, who was on the last flight from the island of Tresco, it wasn't quite the same. "Nobody wanted it to come to this," she said.

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