Foula flights halted over lack of fire cover

The Foula community has been left without a plane service this week – because the isle’s airstrip service cannot provide a fire crew.

In order to run flights the airstrip must have a fire service in attendance. But insurance for the Foula fire crew has lapsed, meaning they are not allowed to work.

Michael Craigie
Michael Craigie: The council has an interest in making sure the flights operate as soon as possible.

The issue came to light on Saturday morning, according to SIC transport chief Michael Craigie, after the last scheduled flight of the week in and out of the isle last Friday. Since then there have been no plane movements – normally there are flights on four days a week. Extra ferry runs are being laid on meantime.

Mr Craigie said insurance was arranged by the Foula Airstrip Trust, which is grant-funded by the council, and he was working with them to sort the issue out. He added that the council has an interest in making sure the flights operate as soon as possible.

Chairman and spokesman for Foula Airstrip Trust Magnus Gear issued the following statement: “Foula Airstrip Trust operates and maintains Foula Airstrip on behalf of and for the benefit of the Foula community.

During the annual renewal process for the trust’s insurance policy, it became apparent that the level of insurance held by the trust was not adequate for the fire cover provided at Foula Airstrip for aircraft movements.

“Foula Airstrip Trust is working closely with and under the guidance of SIC’s transport department to resolve the issue, to ensure the lifeline air link to Foula can be re-instated as quickly as possible. The trust is very grateful to the SIC’s transport and infrastructure departments for the invaluable assistance in this matter.

“Foula ferry operators BK Marine are assisting the community, local business and infrastructure by providing extra boat trips to the island to fill the transport gap left by the lack of aircraft movements.”

In spite of the extra runs, residents are already finding the lack of flights frustrating and limiting. Resident Magnus Holbourn, who is also an airstrip trustee, said the insurance was a “complicated” issue.

He said: “I hope the situation will be resolved as quickly as possible, planes are something the Foula community relies on very heavily. When they ceased coming inon Monday there was an immediate effect on the island.”

Some freight comes in by air, he said, but also small essential items such as prescriptions, which have now had to be re-routed to the ferry.

The situation also could affect the tourist trade. Mr Holbourn said most tourists opt to fly, being unwilling
to undertake the boat trip of several hours, weather permitting. Workmen also travel to the island by air.
This could affect the progress of the civil work going on in the island, upgrading the electricity and water schemes.

Marjorie Williamson of BK Marine said the Foula vessel New Advance would continue its schedule of three round trips a week, with their stand-by vessel Koada standing in on other days if required.

Mrs Williamson said: “The council asked us to do extra runs and these are being co-ordinated by Foula. We are quite happy to help out.” She added she had no idea how long the situation would last.

The lack of fire crews would not affect helicopter landings for medical emergencies, Shetland Coastguard said.


Add Your Comment
  • David Spence

    • June 20th, 2014 14:34

    The SIC must spent more money per head per population on the people of Foula than anywhere else in the Shetland Islands, and yet the people of Foula cannot be bothered (more than likely if they are not getting an over-paid wage for doing nothing, literally) to provide the island with a service which is needed (more than likely not needed…..but health and safety and all that). I have visited the island, and to say there is a community would be a joke…..because there most certainly is not……….look after number one or your own is the moto there…community spirit there is none at all…………unless the tax payer has to pay for it.

    • John Tulloch

      • June 20th, 2014 20:02

      What’s this, David, advocating the ‘Big Society’?

      You’ll be wanting us to vote for the “vile Tories”, next?

  • Jim Leask

    • June 21st, 2014 10:16

    Your usual rants about the “vile Tory government” and your rant here about Foula would, suggest to me that you have a slightly confused political stance.

    I’m not sure what your point is here? Is the under current that Foula should be ‘closed’ down? Or maybe you are suggesting Foula residents need to be educated as how to be better citizens? Please let us know what you hoped to gain by the fairly nasty comment you have written. I am sure the folk of Foula would welcome you with open arms to lead a cultural reform on their beautiful island. Or maybe not!

    A peerie visit to Foula does not make you an expert on the community so I cannot claim to be so. I have only been once but have several friends from Foula, who are hard working, fine folk and committed to making their island a good community. On my only visit to the island, they were maintaining the electricity supply, working on the ferry, operating the airstrip and fire engine, helping out at the school when a small cruise liner came in to the isle, crofting and leading tours about the isle. I was impressed by their efforts. Like all communities I’m sure improvements can be made, show me a community that is perfect.

  • David Spence

    • June 21st, 2014 16:04

    Jim, I can say from personal experience as well as speaking to 3 people who used to reside on the island of Foula, from their perspective, got the impression there was no community spirit amongst the people of Foula……as said, most people on Foula very much kept themselves to themselves, and any inter-action, if any, only usually involved alcohol……..apart from this, there was no other community involvement. One person to whom I conversed with said they tried to get the community more involved in promoting the island by organising trips around the island to look at the cliffs as well as sea bird life, especially this of the bonxie, which Foula has one of the largest populations of in the whole of the UK, but as per usual, enthusiasm was very much lacking and the project was dead before it even started. This was not just one project they tried to organise, but a few……..all falling on deaf ears……want for a better description. Even although the population of Foula maybe less than 40, they most certainly seem to lack, compared to, say, Fair Isle, any community spirit in which to promote the island for the better of the people living there or even this of Shetland. Fair Isle, by comparison, is very much leagues ahead of Foula in all aspects of community life, hospitality and doing the best for the island.

  • Joe Johnson

    • June 21st, 2014 16:09

    David Spence, you always come on here ranting about “vile tories”. You sound very bitter. what difference would it make if it was a labour, lib dem, SNP, UK independence party etc government. the last labour government nearly bankrupted this country and dragged us into an illegal War in Iraq. I’m not a tory voter myself and have seen worse governments this lib dem/tory coalition.

  • David Spence

    • June 22nd, 2014 14:46

    Joe, you only have to look at history to realise that the vile Tories do not represent the people of this country, but a small minority (including themselves) where they are significantly better off. The vile Tories agenda is to privatise all state run services and give those services to their business associates. Since David Cameron has been in power, he has given £1.4 billion pounds worth of NHS Contracts to his business associates, given £400 million to private schools, given £1.6 billion to private contractors to build 150 new private academies (private schools). The Tories are in it for themselves and what they can gain from it……….’ look after number one and screw everybody else in the process ‘ is their moto.

    By the way, the Tories fully backed the illegal war in Iraq and Afghanistan (without Labour and the Lib Dems – the vile Tories were supporting Bush not the British people) even although Tony Blair tried to get a second UN Resolution, which Bush completely ignored as he was going to go to war with Iraq with or without an second UN Resolution or support.

    As for the so-called national debt (at the time £1.4 trillion) that Labour have been accused of, most of the debt (around 71%) was done by the banks and this of property and the banks self interest investments, a small percentage of this national debt was Government borrowing. Since then however Joe, our national debt has increased to £1.6 trillion, and the vile Tories have borrowed more money than what the previous Labour Party borrowed. As far as I am aware, the vile Tories have borrowed over £330 billion, and, I suspect, much of this borrowed money is going onto towards the Tories Business Associates and private building works……as previously mentioned.

    As for the Lib Dems, well you know as well as I do, they have committed political suicide since going into bed with the vile Tories lol

  • Stephen Shirmer

    • June 22nd, 2014 18:28

    Torries,labour, and liberals, whatever the rights and wrongs of them all, evil ,vile or just horrid the reality of the Foula is that they are not sustainable, who ever is in power.
    Yes I know island culture and heritage etc etc, we have all heard it before, but the reality of the modern world ,is that in many other rural locations a place like this would slowly become depopulated and local authorities would stop throwing good money after bad.

    Having spent half a life time visiting out of the way places the evidence is everywhere of depopulation due lack economic resouces, yes I know the SIC is loaded with oil money ready to throw away millions over the years just for a few folk, but it not an argument for good economic sense.

    This ditty being written with the use of WIFI from a empty almost abondoned french village 70 kilometers from Geneva in the french Jurra mountains.
    I rest my case.

    PS no disrespect to the people of foula a personal point of view.

  • Jim Leask

    • June 22nd, 2014 21:01

    The community dynamics may be different from Fair Isle but then the history, geography and traditions of all the islands and communities in Shetland vary, and Foula has a very different history, geography and tradition to all the other islands in Shetland. It has been historically the hardest of all Shetland’s islands to eke out a living from and was (and still is) the most isolated of all our island communities. Fair Isle is without a doubt a fantastic community, but it has a different history, geography and tradition to Foula. I do not feel it is fair to publicly slate a community on your limited understanding of a situation in such an unabashed manner. You have your and your friend’s views to form an opinion, is this enough to validate your statements (or accusations)? I cannot claim to be enough of an expert on life in Foula to make statements such as you have made (or even if I was, I wouldn’t see any point in doing so in such a negative and unconstructive manner). Many Foula residents, exiles and descendents would disagree with your points or have a counter argument. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between? I don’t know but I am at least wise enough to admit to not knowing a definitive answer to that question. Perhaps you should think more along those lines before you produce such definitive opinions on here.
    I’m not sure why you feel a community should be slated because some of its members are accused of preferring to keep themselves to themselves? Plenty of communities throughout Shetland and beyond will have elements of this. Rightly or wrongly, alcohol is a lubricant for many social and community gatherings all throughout Shetland. To use this as a part of the justification for your, in my opinion, unjustified attack on a community, seems grossly unfair.
    Many people try to set up different activities, events or trips, throughout Shetland. Many of these may not fit in with the people that live in the communities, who often have many other commitments that they do not feel can be ‘dropped’ or made to fit in with ‘outsiders’ requests. Sometimes people may also like to have a day off or get on with some of their own odds and ends. If you have had as many jobs/voluntary positions/personal commitments as the people that I know that are involved with Airstrip/community that you are insulting in this thread, then I would be surprised.
    Like so many posts on the Shetland Time’s Comments Section or Facebook, the people that would be best placed to out their case across here, probably can’t. If they are employed by the ( in this case) the Airstrip, the SIC or Fire Service, they will be unable to comment and get the chance to defend, not only their community and themselves as community members, but also their professional integrity , their companies and their employers from accusations or misinformation. This is often the case and I have had many conversations with people who have felt frustrated that due to their professional commitments, they are unable to put their viewpoints and the facts out there, to counter the many slanderous or wide of the mark statements that are made.
    I probably shouldn’t letyour comments on this story bother me, but to see people or communities slated on these forms of social media, when they ‘cases’ against them come from such a personal and often ill informed or unjustified viewpoint, really annoys me. On that note, I shall make these my last words on the situation and will maybe give this comments section a miss for a while and go and get on with some sense!


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