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New Contract Sees Fisheries Flights Move to Inverness 10 February 04

The Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency is set to relocate its reconnaissance aircraft from Prestwick to Inverness Airport following a contract award with Highland Airways.

The Agency has signed a five-year deal with the regional air operator to maintain and crew its two Cessna F406 reconnaissance aircraft, which will operate out of Inverness. The contract will commence on 1st April 2004.

The aircraft will be based in Inverness and carry out patrols over Scottish waters. The contract will see Highland Airways employ 12 new members of staff.

The SFPA is responsible for the enforcement of UK, EU and international fisheries law and regulations in the 127,000 square miles of sea around Scotland and, when required, in international waters. This work assists in the conservation of fish stocks and in helping to create the conditions necessary for the existence of a modern and sustainable sea fishing industry.

The Cessna aircraft are part of the SFPA’s inspection assets which include patrol vessels and land-based Fisheries inspectors.

Cessna F406  - A Scottish Fisheries Protection Reconnaissance Aircraft  -  Photographer - John Roddin

The Cessnas are manned by two pilots and one systems operator, and are equipped with a comprehensive suite of remote-sensing equipment to increase their effectiveness in both daylight and darkness. The airborne patrols involve extended low-level precision flying over the sea. The aircraft will often be away from base for several days at a time to minimise transit times to and from the patrol areas. Stornoway and Sumburgh Airports are regular overnight stops.

Six pilots and three operators will be employed to ensure year round crew coverage. It is anticipated that many of the crew will transfer over from the current contractor from 1st April. Highland Airways will also employ additional operations and engineering staff to support the new contract.

The contract win follows Highland Airways’ development of new aero-engineering facilities at its Inverness headquarters with support from Inverness and Nairn Enterprise. The move followed the airline’s success in achieving the latest European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Part 145 approval and enables its engineering department to maintain both its own and other customer aircraft at its 15,000 square feet hangar.

Highland Airways’ own fleet comprises three Jetsream 31 aircraft and a Cessna F406 that is used for reconnaissance and freight contracts.

Highland Airways’ managing director Alan Mossman said: “We are delighted to have been successful in this keenly contested and important aviation contract. We are building upon our existing reconnaissance credentials and look forward to demonstrating the professionalism and expertise that such contracts demand.

“Our Inverness location and our in-house engineering capability were key elements in attracting the SFPA. We feel vindicated in the faith that we have demonstrated in the future of aviation in the Highlands, and the significant investments we have made over the last decade in developing our expertise and infrastructure at Inverness Airport.”

Commercial director Basil O’Fee added: “The SFPA contract provides a further important element in our growing business portfolio, which includes the fulfillment of two longstanding maritime pollution control contracts. We also service freight contracts involving the daily delivery of newspapers to the Northern and Western Isles and mail to the Western Isles.

“Our portfolio also includes a buoyant air charter market for both airfreight and passengers, most notably serving the oil industry out of Aberdeen. The company currently employs 54 staff at facilities in Inverness, Glasgow, Stornoway and Benbecula. The SFPA contract will result in the employment of an additional 12 staff,” said Mr O’Fee.

James Walton, Inverness Airport manager at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited added: “This is excellent news and we are delighted to see the SFPA aircraft locate to Inverness. We have worked closely with both the SFPA and Highland Airways to bring this operation to Inverness. The contract creates more high-value employment at the airport and recognises both the skills of Highland Airways and the strategic importance of the airport. Inverness supports a range of freight, charter and general aviation business in addition to scheduled passenger services and this new contract is another feather in the region’s cap.”

Highland Airways
Highland Airways operate a range of freight and passenger services in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. From its Inverness base the company provides scheduled passenger services to Glasgow, the Western and Northern Isles. The company also offers ad hoc and contract air charter solutions, most notably to the oil industry in Aberdeen. Currently Highland Airways operate three 18-seater Jetstream 31 aircraft and a nine-seater Cessna F406.

The engineering maintenance division of Highland Airways was until December 2003 operating under the JAR 145 approval of Atlantic Aeroengineering Ltd based at Coventry. On the 10th December 2003, Highland Airways was granted its EASA Part 145 approval by the Civil Aviation Authority. EASA stands for the European Aviation Safety Agency and has replaced the Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) as of 20th November 2003. This means that Highland Airways now has its own independent engineering maintenance department with the ability to carry out line and base maintenance on Jetstream 31, Reims Cessna F406 and Cessna 400 Series aircraft, and line maintenance on ATR42-300 aircraft at their Inverness Airport hangar.

The new regulations only came into force on 20th November 2003 and Highland Airways was in the first batch of companies to have an EASA Part 145 approval issued. EASA is responsible for producing common technical and administrative procedures to ensure the continuing airworthiness of aeronautical products, parts and appliances subject to the European Commission (EC) Regulation No. 2042/2003.

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