A thick blanket of fog over Shetland has disrupted air transport in and out of the isles all week, with flights to and from oil installations particularly badly affected.
Yesterday the disruption at Scatsta Airport persisted into a fourth day and Bristow Helicopters base manager Colin Jones said: “There has not been so much disruption since the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland in 2010. There were limited flights on Monday but no flights at all, helicopter or fixed wing, on Tuesday.”
On Wednesday morning he said the forecast predicted clearance in the afternoon and flights did start operating after lunch. Yesterday followed a similar pattern, with no flying in the early morning but resuming later on.
Mr Jones said it had been a frustrating few days – the weather was running contrary to models from the Met Office, although it is set to improve this weekend.
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.
“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.
Flights in and out of Sumburgh Airport have been subject to delays or cancellations since Monday, when some planes were unable to land. On Tuesday afternoon flights managed to land and take off during gaps in the low cloud, and by Wednesday morning the schedule was operating normally.
However yesterday there was more disruption –the early morning mail plane, due in at 8.30am, was cancelled, with other incoming flights up to an hour late. The 7.35am flight to Kirkwall was cancelled, the 7.40am flight to Edinburgh was delayed until 1.15pm and other flights had short delays.
Early morning flights to Sumburgh were delayed on Friday, but several were able to land either side of 11am.
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 a 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, which 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.
However two Shetland-bound passengers had an even worse experience. When they attempted to board the flight from Dundee which eventually arrived in Shetland, they were told it was full. They were then taken by taxi to Aberdeen and put on the boat that night, getting home on Wednesday morning.