Celebrations are being held at Land’s End Airport this week to mark the 80th anniversary of flights from Land’s End to the Isles of Scilly.

The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, which owns and operates the airport in Cornwall, is hosting an anniversary party on October 4th which will feature a flyby involving the two current Skybus aircraft – a Twin Otter and an Islander plane – along with a special guest: a DH89a Dragon Rapide ‘Bryher’ from 1946, which regularly flew the route during the 1960s.

The Dragon Rapide was used to fly passengers when Scillonia Airways operated the service from 1966 to 1970, and will be on show at Land’s End Airport during the daytime event. There will also be a mini exhibition of 80 years of flying, and guests will be given tours of the Air Traffic Control tower.

The first flight from Land’s End to the Isles of Scilly took place on September 15th, 1937, landing on St Mary’s Golf Course because Scilly had no airport until 1939.

Numerous companies operated the service over the years including Olley Air Service, Great Western & Southern Airlines, Scillonia Airways, BEA and Westward Airways, until the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group began services in the 1980s.

As well as the 80th anniversary of flights from Land’s End to Scilly, this autumn is also the 30th anniversary of scheduled Skybus services to the islands. Skybus began in 1984, with scheduled passenger services implemented three years later in 1987.

The Steamship Group now operates Skybus flight services from Exeter, Newquay and Land’s End Airports to the Isles of Scilly, in addition to the Scillonian III passenger ferry which sails from Penzance.

The Group has invested heavily in developing Land’s End Airport in recent years, with a £1million new passenger terminal opened in 2013 to expand and upgrade facilities on site, as well as a new air traffic control tower, improved baggage handling facilities, and major runway resurfacing and lighting.

Chris Pearson, Airport Manager of Land’s End Airport, said: “This anniversary is a major milestone and we are delighted to be welcoming back to Land’s End Airport a Dragon Rapide which actually flew the route to Scilly back in the 1960s; the sight of this beautifully kept vintage aircraft flying past in sequence with a modern Twin Otter and Islander Skybus aircraft is sure to be a very special sight.

“Land’s End Airport has changed beyond recognition over the last 80 years, from a very basic grass airfield with a small building to the modern, £1million passenger terminal we have today, and the Skybus aircraft are unrecognisable from their predecessors as well.

“We are proud to be maintaining this vital air link to the Isles of Scilly 80 years on, and continuing a tradition of flying to Scilly from Land’s End which has proven to be a lifeline for islanders and visitors alike for the last eight decades.”

Andrew May, Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said: “We are enormously proud of our heritage and our company’s contribution to developing and improving air services to the Isles of Scilly, as well as the substantive, and ongoing, investment in Land’s End Airport, which has seen the terminal transformed in recent years, and the runways improved beyond recognition.

“This special anniversary provides a great opportunity to reflect on the history of the air link from Land’s End and to celebrate its development, as well as that of Skybus, which is now in its 30th year of scheduled passenger services.”

The Steamship Group is also celebrating the 80th anniversary with the community by giving away 8 return flights from Land’s End to Scilly in a social media giveaway asking people to post messages which explain, in 80 characters or less (around 15-25 words), why they would like to visit the Isles of Scilly.

Messages should be left, along with the hashtag #FlyScilly, on the Isles of Scilly Travel Facebook page competition post, Tweeted to @IOSTravel, or posted on an Instagram post at the IOST account https://www.instagram.com/islesofscillytravel/, before the closing date of October 5th 2017.

The 8 most creative messages chosen by the Isles of Scilly Travel team will win a return flight; for full terms and conditions, see the website at https://www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk/win-a-ticket-to-isles-of-scilly-2/