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World's Shortest Commercial Flight!  
User currently offline02hilliert From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2007, 527 posts, RR: 0
Posted (8 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 8690 times:

FIrstly, a bit of background about this trip. As a present for my 21st Birthday, which was in April of this year, my Dad had planned to take me on a trip to the Western Isles of Scotland, with the opportunity to fly into the world's only beach airport at Barra. However, as we always travel non-rev, and the GLA-BRR flights were always full at weekends, we ditched that plan, and instead decided to head to the Orkney Islands to fly on the world's shortest commercial flight between Westray and Papa Westray. We ensured we had confirmed bookings on a roundtrip flight from Kirkwall via Westray and Papa Westray, and went up there in the hope of getting on other Island-hopping flights non-rev.

So, onto the weekend's flying:

Date: Friday 13th July 2007
Routing: LHR-ABZ
Flight Number: BA1308
Airline: British Airways
Aircraft: A319 131 (6th flight on the type)
Reg.: G-EUOG
Seat Number: 2F

The flight from Heathrow to Aberdeen was full thanks to an earlier technical problem on a BA A320, and so the flight would now be operated by an A319. Luckily, there was still enough room on the aircraft for my dad and i, and to top it off, i got a window seat in the second row. The flight left a little late due to the loading of a significant amount of hold luggage, but we were soon underway, taxying around Terminal 1, to 27L, where we were met by the impressive Malaysia Airlines logojet.

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The departure run was swift, and allowed an excellent view of the Terminal 5 development. The flight was smooth most of the way, apart from some minor turbulence around Leeds. Service onboard considered of bar service as well as a Cheese Salad, and a Chicken and Bacon sandwich, very nice. There was high cloud over the majority of the UK, so the majority of the time spent in the cruise was with views of just clouds, quite boring really. The flight arrived 10 minutes late into ABZ, and parked in between a BMI Regional ERJ.145, and an Air Europa B737 800, which looked very large on the Aberdeen ramp. The arrivals process was very straightforward, and we were swiftly at the Loganair desk asking about the availability on the connecting flight to Kirkwall.

Unfortunately the flight had only 1 remaining seat, and as my Dad wasn't in uniform he wasn't allowed to travel in the jump seat, so we would have to wait for the next flight, roughly 3hrs later. That flight was fairly light and we were told that we were guaranteed a seat on the flight, so confidently, we went off in search of the observation area we'd used before. However, this is now closed, and so we walked the length of the perimeter road from the terminal to see what we could see. We got good views of the CHC Scotia and Bristow Helicopters fleets, as well as a couple of parked Shorts 360 freighters, including one in Sunshine Express livery belonging to Benair of Denmark. The highlight of the walk though was an Exin Antonov 26.

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After completing the walk, we checked in for the flight to KOI, and headed up to the footbridge by Gate 6 between the main terminal building and the commuter gates, affording us a good view of the airport proceedings, and her we sat until our flight was called. Here are some of the aircraft viewed from our vantage point:

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Date: Friday 13th July 2007
Routing: ABZ-KOI
Flight Number: BA8834
Airline: Loganair
Aircraft: SAAB 340B (2nd flight on the type)
Reg.: G-LGNE
Seat Number: 3A

Our flight was delayed due to the late arrival of the aircraft from the Shetland Islands, but it did allow for more spotting at ABZ, so i didn't complain!

Our aircraft taxying in at ABZ:

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We were given the option of a window seat when we checked in, and i thought 3A would be a good seat, little did i know that the row is level with the props, and so is a windowless "window" seat. Bad news!!! Service on the short 40-minute flight was limited to a quick bar service, and a bag or pretzels. I love flying on the SAAB, very smooth, and while a little noisy, it is thoroughly enjoyable being onboard a comfortable prop aircraft as opposed to the crowded Airbus earlier in the day. Our flight arrived into KOI around 40 minutes late, and there was a crowd of passengers waiting for the aircraft to take them to the Shetlands, the last departure of the day. Our SAAB was the only aircraft on the apron on arrival, and the terminal was deserted once inside, as ours was the only expected arrival at that time, although a flight from Edinburgh would be in later that evening.

Our aircraft on the ramp at KOI after our arrival from Aberdeen:

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We got a taxi into Kirkwall, checked into our hotel, and then went out to enjoy the sights of the town, including the attractive St. Magnus' Cathedral, and the waterfront, including the evening's arrivals at the ferry terminal:

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Due to the Islands being located so far North, it stayed light until well past 11pm, although by that time we were back at the hotel, as we had an early start the next morning.

Our flight to Westray/Papa Westray was scheduled to be the 3rd Islander flight of the day, but we arrived at a very wet Kirkwall Airport first thing saturday morning in the hopes of travelling standby on either of the earlier flights, the first via Sanday and Stronsay, and the second a return trip to North Ronaldsay. The second flight was full, but there was space on the flights to Sanday/Stronsay, and so we booked ourselves on the flight for £30 each, very reasonable. Being at the airport early also allowed us the opportunity to spot the Mail and the Newspaper flights arrive, a Highland Airways J.31, and a Benair Let 410.

Date: Saturday 14th July 2007
Flight Number: LOG361
Airline: Loganair
Aircraft: BN-2B-26 Islander (1st flight on the type)
Reg.: G-BPCA

Our flight was called on time, and we along with the other 2 passengers on the flight ran out to the aircraft through the torrential rain, but not before i managed to get a photo:

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My Dad and I sat in the second row, behind the pilot, so we each had our own window, and could see out of the front, however, with such heavy rain, viewing was almost impossible. The leg room onboard was tiny, and with our bags on our laps, it felt very cramped. The pilot was very friendly, and explained the emergency procedures. After that, we taxied out to the runway for the 12-minute flight to Sanday. The roar of the engines as we sped down the runway was almost heavenly, and it could well be the smoothest take-off i've ever experienced. The cloud level was at just 1000ft, and so we flew the whole sector at just 900ft, fantastic! The views of some of the smaller islands, as well as a shipwreck were fantastic, and it was a very smooth flight all of the way. Unfortunately i couldn't take any pictures through the windows because of the heavy rain that continued, i did however get a photo from within the cabin:

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We arrived at Sanday on a gravel runway, and taxied to the tiny airport hut, which is of a common design used on the islands. The other 2 passengers disembarked, and we were joined by a young girl travelling back to Kirkwall. The hop from Sanday to Stronsay took only 4 minutes, and we taxied across the grass to the runway before blasting off the gravel strip. The brief stop at Stronsay, a very similar airfield to Sanday, was only to drop of the days mail and newspapers, and we were soon on our way back to Kirkwall, still at just 900ft, so as not to go into the clouds above. The arrival into Kirkwall perfectly demonstrated the STOL capabilities of the aircraft as we touched down and slammed on the brakes before taxying to the terminal.

We had an hour-and-a-half wait before our departure to Westray/Papa Westray, so we checked at the check-in desks the loads for the KOI-GLA flight we hoped to catch 30minutes after our second short-hop around the islands. The loads were high and we were told to check back when we arrived back.

Date: Saturday 14th July 2007
Flight Number: LOG363
Airline: Loganair
Aircraft: BN-26-26 Islander (2nd flight on the type)
Reg.: G-BPCA

This time the aircraft was a little more full departing Kirkwall, and I took up a seat in the 4th row, behind what i think was a German couple. Take-off, as experienced in row 4 is considerably louder than what i'd noticed from row 2, and that engines roared as the aircraft left the ground. The flight to Westray took 11 minutes, where 2 passengers disembarked, and 2 boarded the aircraft, at an airfield that was almost an exact copy of the two we'd seen earlier that day. With a swift turnaround, we were quickly moving towards the reason why we'd travelled up to the Orkneys, the World's Shortest Commercial flight. We taxied to the end of the runway, and then we were airborn. Seconds later, 76 to be precise, we were on the ground at Papa Westray! The flight was nothing special, nor would it be in just over a minute's flying, but the experience is something to remember, and it is exciting to think that i've now flown on the route!

The flight back to Kirkwall from Papa Westray was considerably different from the flights earlier in the day, with the pilot putting the aircraft into a very steep climb, through the clouds and up to 1600ft, our cruising level for the flight back. The climb performance of the aircraft surprised me, despite the fact that i see Islander aircraft in operation regularly at my local airport, Northolt. Arriving back at Kirkwall, we were greeted by two Loganair SAABs, one of which we hoped would be our ride to Glasgow in just over half and hour.

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We went straight from our Islander to the check-in desks, and were luckily given our boarding passes for the Glasgow flight.

Date: Saturday 14th July 2007
Routing: KOI-GLA
Flight Number: BA8914
Airline: Loganair
Aircraft: SAAB 340B (3rd flight on the type)
Reg.: G-LGNI
Seat Number: 12A

Our aircraft on the ground at Kirkwall:
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We were lucky that there were 3 empty seats on this busy flight to Glasgow, from where most passengers were connecting to London. We had each been given a window seat in the back row of the plane, with the only empty seat on the flight located between us.

Our Islander as seen from the SAAB:
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The flight was pleasant, with tea and coffee served with locally made biscuits. Arrival into Glasgow was slightly behind schedule although not to bad given the late departure from KOI. We parked alongside a line-up of company SAABs, and behind a couple of Air Contractors ATR72Fs in FedEx Feeder livery. Dad and I preceded straight through arrivals to check in for our final flight of the weekend, the return sector to London.

Date: Saturday 14th July 2007
Routing: GLA-LHR
Flight Number: BA1493
Airline: British Airways
Aircraft: A319 131 (7th flight on the type)
Reg.: G-EUOG
Seat Number: 2C

We couldn't be checked in for our flight straight away, but were given standby passes to get us through security and down to our gate. While we waited to be called, i did a bit of spotting. An Emirates B777 300, Zoom B767 300 and Virgin B747 400 were the widebodied visitors, whilst Flyglobspan B737s, a Canadian-registered Excel B737 800, and an Irish-registered Futura B737 800 made up the more interesting narrow-bodied visitors. Here are some of the shots i took:

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Unfortunately, the aircraft used on our service, -EUOG was the same metal that had carried us to ABZ the day before. The flight down was a little bumpy, but pleasant enough. Snacks and drinks were offered, but no sandwich service to speak of. The flight arrived promptly, and we were soon out of the airport, and on a bus home after a very enjoyable, very wet, and far to short Orkney experience. I will definately return, both for the dramatic beauty of the islands, the quaintness of the towns, and of course, the Islanders!

Hope you enjoyed reading, any comments or questions are most welcome!


Next Up: Back to the US - Charlotte & Kansas City
9 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineTrintocan From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2000, 3297 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (8 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 8512 times:

Great report there Toby, I enjoyed the detail and those great photos. It goes to show how diverse airline operations are here in the UK, from heavy activity at congested LHR to the somewhat calmer scene at regional airports such as ABZ and then the puddle-hoppers linking the Scottish Isles. Yes, that Westray - Papa Westray service is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the shortest scheduled service - and now you can say that you have been on it.

Happy flying in the future.


Hop to it, fly for life!
User currently offlineOsprey88 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 330 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (8 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 8327 times:

Great report 02hilliert, its always nice when people report on something different like this!

I have one question though, how was the noise on the Islander compared with the noise on the Saab 340?

"Reading departure signs in some big airports reminds me of the places I've been"
User currently offlineBritPilot777 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1075 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (8 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 8151 times:

Great stuff buddy, I know you've been looking forward to this trip for a little while!! We gotta get the guys together for another evening out!


Forever Flight
User currently offline02hilliert From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2007, 527 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (8 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 7921 times:

Thanks for the comments.

Osprey88, the noise on the SAAB is much more of a drone, the Islander really roars into the sky before growling all it's way to it's destination! The SAAB is definately more comfortable to sit in for long periods, but the noise from the Islander engines on take-off is something special. Hope the animal noise analogies help!

Evening out sounds good BritPilot! After i get back from the US definately! Got my first flight on an ERJ.135 next week, looking forward to that. Catch you soon mate.

Any more comments welcome guys.


Next Up: Back to the US - Charlotte & Kansas City
User currently offlineDALCE From UK - Scotland, joined Feb 2007, 2019 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (8 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 7695 times:

Great report of my beloved country Scotland!
I love the place! Although I have never been to the orkneys and Shetlands.
Skye, Mull, Harris, Lewis and Iona are on my Scottish Isles list though, perfectly served by the CalMac Ferries  Smile
It makes me feel that I want to go back to Scotland right now!

Thanks for sharing!
Joost ( DALCE )

flown: F50,F70,CR1,CR2,CR9,E75,143,AR8,AR1,733,735,736,73G,738,753,744,77W,788,319,320,321,333,AB6.
User currently offlineAirlineBrat From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 678 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (8 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 6664 times:

Great trip report Toby! Your photographs were brilliant as well. Looks like you got to fly into some pretty interesting airports in the North. 76 seconds of flying between Westray and Papa Westray? According to Great Circle Mapper, the distance between the two airports is 1 mile. You barely have time to blink and it's over. A friend of mine once flew NNK-WSN (Naknek-South Naknek in Alaska). The distance is two miles. Not sure if this is still the case but kids living in South Naknek had to fly to Naknek where the school is located. The flight lasts two minutes and carries the students across a river. Check this out.... http://www.uaf.edu/journal/extreme/meetalaskans/edwinanderson.html

My father used to work for UA. I always wanted to fly the UA flight between SFO and OAK when it used to operate. It isn't much longer but I never got the chance to take it. I think my shortest flight was back when I was a kid. We flew from EWR to JFK (21 miles) on a New York Airways Sikorsky S 61L helicopter. We were connecting to a UA flight to LAX. Looking at this link, we might have stopped in LGA on the way. In that case it would have been EWR-LGA (17 miles) and LGA-JFK (11 miles). I barely remember the trip as I must have been 6 or 7 years old....


I'm leavin on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again....
User currently offlineLevent From France, joined Sep 2004, 1718 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (8 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 6549 times:

How funny, a scheduled flight of only 76 seconds! Great report, and what a nice present to get from your dad. Shame about the bad weather though...

User currently offlineAnsett767 From Australia, joined May 1999, 1021 posts, RR: 2
Reply 8, posted (8 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 6249 times:

How come they operate it as a flight and not a ferry service? Wouldnt it be quicker to take a boat what with all the security checks and such?

Looking fwd to hearing more about it...

User currently offlineTUGMASTER From Northern Mariana Islands, joined Jul 2004, 873 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (8 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 5846 times:


what a great trip report, i too see that bloody Islander circling over NHT all the time,

So your trip report inspired me to do this, yesterday......

BA 1432
LHR 0702-0757 EDI Airbus A320-111 G-BUSC TT O:57

EDI 0959-1053 KOI SAAB 340B G-LGNE TT 0.54

KOI 1220-1234 NRL BN-2B Islander G-BJOP TT 0.14
NRL 1240-1248 PPW BN-2B Islander G-BJOP TT 0.08
PPW 1252-1306 KOI BN-2B Islander G-BJOP TT 0.14

KOI 1455-1510 NRL BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.15
NRL 1517-1523 NDY BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.06
NDY 1528-1543 KOI BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.15

KOI 1612-1620 SOY BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.08
SOY 1625-1634 WRY BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.09
WRY 1642-1657 KOI BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.15

KOI 1713-1723 EOI BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.10
EOI 1726-1734 PPW BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.0
PPW 1742-1757 KOI BN-2B Islander G-BLDV TT 0.15

KOI 1829-1904 ABZ SAAB 340B G-LGNK TT 0.35

ABZ 2107-2215 LHR Airbus A321-231 G-EUXE TT 1.08











all the Islander sectors (12 of them) were flown in the co-pilots seat....

The loganair people could not have been more friendly, and even piled me up with 1/2 a dozen miniture bottles of whiskey, as advertised on the Islander. G-BLDV is also painted in the Highland Whiskey colours.

What a great day.


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