A sea-level heliport in Penzance would make almost no difference to transport resilience to the Isles of Scilly, according to a detailed analysis of weather data.
Comparative data from Island Helicopters, the new passenger helicopter service from Land’s End Airport which started in May, shows that only half a day’s flying would have potentially been gained by a heliport in Penzance in the last two months when compared to nearby Land’s End Airport.
This is equivalent to a few extra hours of flying a month.
And a detailed analysis of a sample year, 2016, shows that a sea level operation would add just four extra flyable days across the entire year when compared to Land’s End Airport.
Land’s End handles 60,000 passengers and 10,000 aircraft movements a year.
Meanwhile opposition in Penzance to the controversial heliport has been growing, with 166 objections now lodged on Cornwall Council’s planning portal, many in relation to noise, impact on public health and the environment – an increase of more than 100 in the last three weeks.
Penzance Heliport, which does not yet have planning permission, has claimed that it would “dramatically improve weather resilience” of air travel to the Isles of Scilly.
A spokesman for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, which operates Island Helicopters, said: “With our scheduled helicopter service up and running from Land’s End our experienced pilots – whose experience spans North Sea, air ambulance, police and VIP operations – have been able to do a comparative study using real-time data and flying conditions. They have concluded that the weather benefits of Penzance Heliport are borderline at best.
“Snatching a few hours of extra flying here and there is hardly a dramatic improvement to resilience and it’s no surprise that people in Penzance are questioning whether the noise, health and environmental impacts they fear from a new heliport are a price worth paying for just a handful of extra flights per year.”
It is not the first time that claims made by the heliport’s backers have been questioned. An analysis of a petition sent to Cornwall Council in May with more than 11,000 signatures found that just 3.2% of residents local to Penzance had signed it. This is despite ongoing claims from supporters that the heliport “has the support of the vast majority of Penzance residents”.
Recent claims (Western Morning News, 30th June) by heliport backer Robert Dorrien-Smith that “almost everybody on Scilly has signed it [the petition]” have been similarly debunked. An analysis of postcodes against every signature on the petition shows that 833 people with valid postcodes from the Isles of Scilly signed it. The population of Scilly is 2,203, meaning that little over a third (38%) registered their support.
And most recently an analysis of Cornwall Council’s planning portal data revealed that the location of nearly three quarters (2,355) of Penzance Heliport supporters registered on the site cannot be determined, raising fresh questions about the levels of local support for the controversial project.
Cornwall Council is holding a public meeting at 6pm at St John’s Hall in Penzance on Monday 23rd July to hear views from local people.
Notes to editors
Island Helicopters has examined real-time weather records over the last two months and conducted a comparative study of Land’s End Airport versus a sea-level operation, concluding that only half a day’s flying would have potentially been gained by a heliport in Penzance when compared to Land’s End Airport.
This finding is consistent with a parallel study of historic weather data by Island Helicopters from 2016 which concluded that a sea-level operation would have achieved just four extra flying days in the entire year compared to a fully GPS-enabled operation from Land’s End. Island Helicopters and the fixed-wing Skybus fleet are all fitted with a state-of-the-art satellite-based navigation system which is being introduced on a phased basis (to allow for pilot training outside operational requirements) and will be fully operational in 2019.