Tribute has been paid to the men who flew Shetland’s air ambulance plane, sometimes breaking the rules and risking their own lives to save those of others.
Commemorative plaques marking 50 years of service in the Northern Isles were unveiled at Sumburgh and Kirkwall airports this week in the presence of most of the senior pilots who served.
Although medical emergencies were flown from Shetland in the 1930s and early 1940s the service which came to be so valued from Unst to Fair Isle and Foula to Skerries started in 1969 under Loganair using the trusty Britten-Norman Islander, which still buzzes round the islands today, although not on emergencies. The service in Orkney began two years earlier.
At the unveiling ceremony on Wednesday, Loganair president Scott Grier, the airline’s founder, said the air ambulance pilots’ dedication, professional airmanship and courage had earned them the respect and gratitude of people in the isles. Their presence and willingness to fly in appalling weather day or night had provided reassurance for people in remote communities that if something was to go wrong the hospital was only a short flight away.
The late Isobel Holbourn in Foula had told him of her community’s concerns that its diminishing population was going to result in residents being evacuated. But once the air ambulance service began it had provided the reassurance needed to keep going.
One of the pilots, David Edmondston from Unst, paid tribute to Loganair for its support to him and others at times when the Civil Aviation Authority came down on pilots for breaking the rules. The airline always insisted that the regulations did not count when the flight was a matter of life and death.
Five of Loganair’s seven senior pilots were present at the ceremony in the airport building, organised by the Fresson Trust. Those missing were Malcolm Bray, who died in 2006, and Ian Potten who is believed to be flying in Antarctica.