British International - helicopter

British International
the helicopter success story


 

The Isles of Scilly’s unique air service

If asked, how many people could readily identify the location of what was the world's longest established scheduled passenger helicopter service? S-61NM

Most would probably look to the USA, but the answer lay just off the Cornish coast.

British International's helicopter operation from Penzance in Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly was probably the most individual scheduled air service in the UK.

1964 was the year of the Tokyo Olympics, when the Beatles took the USA by storm, when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister for the first time - and when the Sikorsky S-61N replaced the de Havilland Dragon Rapide on the route to Scilly.

The selection of an advanced twin turbine helicopter as a replacement for the low-tech Rapide biplane was bold and imaginative, but the decision to go for a helicopter solution went further than simply selecting a replacement for the Rapides.

Through the 1950s helicopter passenger experience had been built up by BEA, and by the early 1960s BEA had identified Scilly as the route on its network to exploit the enhanced performance of the new generation of helicopters becoming available.

The 1,000,000th passenger was flown in 1979, the 2,000,000th passenger in 1991, the 3,000,000th passenger in 2001, and the 4,000,000th passenger in 2010. More than 1,000 passengers could be flown in a single day, and more than 133,000 in a year. By the time the service closed in October 2012 some 4,250,000 passengers had been carried on the route.

40 years 3 Million 21 years
4 Million

S-61N on St Mary's

From 1964 the service demonstrated that helicopters can maintain reliable scheduled services in an area of exacting commercial and operational conditions, and serve a small community without substantial expenditure on large-scale airport facilities.

To achieve this the service met the essential criteria for success in a commercial helicopter operation -

 

Notable Anniversaries
1947 10 10th anniversary of the first scheduled air service to Scilly
and formation of BEA Helicopter Experimental Unit
1987 50 50th anniversary of the first scheduled air service to Scilly
[air day held in Scilly]
1989 25 25th anniversary of the helicopter service to Scilly
[G-BCEB named Isles of Scilly]
1997 50 50th anniversary of the formation of
BEA Helicopter Experimental Unit
1997 60 60th anniversary of the first scheduled air service to Scilly
1999 35 35th anniversary of the world's longest established
scheduled passenger helicopter service
2000 25 25th anniversary of G-BCEB on station at Penzance
2000 50 50th anniversary of the world's first sustained
scheduled passenger helicopter service [BEA]
2004 40 40th anniversary of the world's longest established
scheduled passenger helicopter service
2007 60 60th anniversary of the formation of
BEA Helicopter Experimental Unit
2008 25 25th anniversary of the helicopter service to Tresco
2009 45 45th anniversary of the world's longest established
scheduled passenger helicopter service
2010 35 35th anniversary of G-BCEB on station at Penzance
2010 60 60th anniversary of the world's first sustained
scheduled passenger helicopter service [BEA]
2010 100 100th anniversary of the first aeroplane flight in Cornwall
[from Poniou Meadow, adjacent to Penzance heliport site]
2012 50 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Sikorsky S-61N
2012 65 65th anniversary of the formation of
BEA Helicopter Experimental Unit
2012 75 75th anniversary of the first scheduled air service to Scilly

 

S-61N

British International was the direct descendant
of the first airline to Scilly

 

text, 40 year logo, 21 year logo, and 3 million logo © Mike Ingham
S-61NM heading photograph © C Moore
other S-61N photographs © T J Ingham
helicopter logo and 4 Million logo © British International


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this page last updated 10 November 2012

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