“ Scotland's Airline providing services to destinations throughout the UK and Ireland. „
I originally asked Dooyoo to list for me what I believe to be one of the most amazing flights you can take anywhere in the UK, but they have actually listed the company which runs these flights so I will tell you something about them and then go on to talk about this special flight operating by Loganair.
Loganair is an airline based in Glasgow and dates back to 1962. It is responsible for flights to and from some of the most remote parts of the UK, and it has a fleet of 14 Saab 340 aircraft, 2 Britten Norman Islander planes and my favourite 2 Twin Otters.
The aircraft are small and carry passengers to locations such as Shetland, Orkney, and Benbecula and are regularly serviced in hangars in Kirkwall in Orkney with the main one being at Glasgow.
In the past Loganair has been involved with the Scottish Air Ambulance Service as well as running flights to Ireland and the UK, but it now concentrates mainly on services to and from the Outer Isles which it runs as a Flybe franchise partner.
The flights are as enjoyable as the destinations. The views on all of them are spectacular. The customer service is excellent. We have had cause to speak to them recently when a flight we were booked on was delayed due to bad weather for 24 hours, and we needed to make a claim on our insurance. This was dealt with professionally and they were extremely helpful.
The planes are always clean and are either staffed by one stewardess, or in the case of smaller planes are operated by the pilots alone.
They have the place in the Guinness book of Records for running the quickest flight in the world in the Orkneys between Papa Westray and Westray which is only 2 minutes in length. Recently this route has been in the news as it is now being used for children from Papa Westray who attend school in Westray, during the time when their normal means of transport, the ferry, is being serviced.
The price structure is geared towards early booking securing the best prices, and what I like about them is that they have recently abolished charges for using a debit card which many airlines still insist on doing. Since this is the only way to pay unless you wish to use a credit card (and to be charged even more heavily) charging seems unfair.
So now to my favourite flight which is the trip to Barra.
You board the flight at Glasgow and from this moment the excitement begins.
Barra is an island in the Outer Hebrides which is one of my favourites but getting there involves either taking this flight or boarding a ferry from Oban which is a 5 hour experience. In 2001 the popluation was 1,078 people and it is a wildlife paradise.
The first officer helps you choose a seat on the 16 seater Twin Otter depending on weight and cargo so that the plane is evenly balanced.
He then takes you through a safety briefing which is straightforward and takes his place in the cockpit. Your fellow passengers will be a mix of holiday makers and locals depending on the time of year. I have sat with ladies carrying their new born babies home for the first time, teenagers returning from university, and eager photographers poised with cameras at the ready.
Take off is quick -its such a small plane it needs no runway at all to get airborne, but you will feel like you are having your own personal flying lesson as you watch the pilots pull on the throttle and talk to the control tower.
Landing on Barra is dependant on the tides as there is no runway just a glorious beach.
The first half an hour of the 50 minute flight is over the areas of the Clyde and the Inner islands of the chain. The flight goes low so no need for worrying about oxygen masks if the air supply fails. The views are out of this world.
After 50 minutes I can't even begin to describe what hits you as the pilot turns left.
There out of the turquoise blue layers of the sea peeps a view which is probably my favourite in the world. I have been to places like The Maldives and yet this view right on our doorstep rivals these amazing and unspoilt places like no other. Strangely enough the planes which are used in the Maldives are also Twin Otters which have been adapted for landing on water and they are all made in Canada where they are extensively used to connect remote communities to each other.
You see cocklers picking up their daily catch, below you the sand ahead is bright yellow if the sun is shining, and between the sandy banks a few brave camper vans sit on an almost deserted landscape.
Ahead the terminal building just a small hut really and a few plane enthusiasts with cameras and binoculars watch as you descend towards the ground. As you drop ever lower the wet sand and shells below glisten until you hear the wheels touch down and the deafening sound of the propellers change tone and you taxi to the terminal.
The door is opened and you walk down the steps into another world. You walk to the hut not on tarmac but on golden sand. The shells crunch as you walk on them-they are so perfect you wish you had a bucket!
We have been on this flight in blizzards in February when we dropped down to a white wonderland and we walked through snow to the baggage reclaim, and on sunny days when the surrounding banks of hills are covered in carpets of flowers called machair.
There is a lovely little cafe in the terminal and the food is excellent. What hits you is the overwhelming friendliness of the people there, it is simply incredible.
The plane then takes off again to Benbecula which is an island north to refuel and to take some passengers there on a sightseeing trip. It also collects some from there who wish to return to Barra.
One of the pilots who flies this plane is actually from Barra and she grew up watching the plane land and knew that one day she would fly it, her name is Annag Macleod. If you are interested there is an excellent book written about Barra Airport which you can read called
"Times Subject to Tides: The Story of Barra Airport" by Roy Calderwood. It is actually online if you Google it.
Yes thanks to Loganair this is one of my most treasured memories and one which I think few know even exists.
Also posted on Ciao under my user name Violet1278.