Flight disruption worst since volcanic ash cloud
The thick blanket of fog over Shetland has disrupted air transport in and out of the isles, with flights to and from oil installations particularly affected.
Fixed wing flights in and out of Sumburgh Airport were disrupted early in the week. On Monday some flights were unable to land there, but on Tuesday most flights managed to land or take off during gaps in the low cloud, and by Wednesday morning the schedule was operating normally.
At Scatsta Airport the disruption persisted. Bristow Helicopters base manager Colin Jones said: “There were limited flights on Monday but no flights at all, helicopter or fixed wing, on Tuesday.”
On Wednesday morning he said the forecast was for clearance in the afternoon and he was hopeful that flights would start operating then.
He said it had been a frustrating few days – there had not been so much disruption since the volcanic ash from Iceland in 2010. The weather was running contrary to models from the met office, although it was set to improve.
He said: “This [fog] has been caused by the jet stream moving a lot further south than we’d expect at this time of year. High pressure will encompass Shetland at the end of the week so we should be getting back to normal conditions. We have not had a run of weather like this for a good few years.”
Mr Jones said: “It’s very frustrating, we want to provide that service offshore and will begin operations as soon as it is safe.” There was now a backlog to work through, and he added: “There is fog in the east Shetland basin as well so the guys know the problems.”
He said there are normally 18 helicopter flights out 18 back per day, flown in three rotations of six, with each rotation fed by three fixed wing flights.
Passengers affected by fog at Sumburgh included SIC political leader Gary Robinson, who was stuck in Orkney on Tuesday. He was joined in the airport by Lerwick resident Michael Mackay, who had had an even more frustrating time.
Returning from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on Monday, his flight circled round Sumburgh but returned to Aberdeen. The passengers were accommodated at a hotel in the city, but not provided with food and had to get up at 5am to be bussed to Dundee. Then they had to wait for a flight, but took off at 11am – but after another failed landing attempt only got as far as Orkney.
Mr Mackay is now home, although his one-hour journey took more than 24 hours.