Northern Isles politicians have joined the campaign to have the Coastguard helicopter pilot who was suspended after the crew picked up meat from an Orkney butcher re-instated.
People have been signing a petition urging operator CHC Helicopter to allow Sumburgh-based Steve Gladstone back to work after the detour last Monday following a training flight to collect £400-worth of premium quality meat from Thorfinn Craigie.
An investigation was launched by CHC – at the behest of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency – on Friday and concluded in Shetland yesterday. A decision on any punishment is due later this week. The company has claimed taxpayer funds were not wasted on the “non-revenue” part of the training flight.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and his Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur have signed the petition.
Mr McArthur said: “There is a growing feeling in Orkney and Shetland that CHC Helicopter have been heavy-handed in their response to this incident. There was no cost to the taxpayer and no obvious risk to the public or those involved. The right thing to do now would be for CHC and the coastguard agency to confirm that the pilot is being re-instated without delay. The longer this drags on, the greater the damage to the reputation of CHC and the coastguard agency.”
Mr Scott added: “Oscar Charlie’s crew put their lives on the line in rescue after rescue in the worst of the weather. So collecting Orkney beef from an Orkney butcher is in no way a hanging offence. I want the coastguard agency and CHC Helicopter to recognise the intense bravery and commitment that Oscar Charlie’s crew shows all the time. That is more important than this particular incident. The coastguard agency wasted millions trying to close the Lerwick Coastguard station. If anyone should be suspended it is the people who came up with that bad and dangerous idea.”