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Island Helicopters launch 'is not about competition'

Isles of Scilly Steamship Group chairman Andrew May has insisted that the new Island Helicopters service is not about undercutting any rival service.

Speaking to This is Scilly at yesterday's launch, he said the company had "worked very hard" to persuade Penzance Heliport Ltd to fly its helicopters from Land's End "in competition with us".

He said: "We know a great deal about helicopters. We've been working on this, or the concept at least, for two and a half years. We've talked to very many people. This could have worked out in one of several ways so we had a few false starts which weren't quite announced before we got here but we've been working on the detail of this particular project for probably six to nine months.

"We announced it on February 15th. We didn't start working on it on February 15th because the announcement was all in place and we were confident we were ready to go. The setback we had is regrettable but I've been very proud of my colleagues and everyone with whom we've worked. It's been a fascinating project and this is the culmination of that because the helicopter's landing, which is great."

Asked to respond to detractors' claims that the ISSG has started Island Helicopters in order to undercut the rival service proposed by Penzance Heliport Ltd, Andrew said: "That isn't the case and the evidence of that is that before we announced Island Helicopters we worked very hard to get Tresco to agree to fly their service from Land's End in competition with us. There is still an offer on the table for Tresco to come and talk to us and operate from Land's End.

"Let's not forget, Land's End handled 60,000 passengers last year. It's a modern, fit-for-purpose airport with 10,000 aircraft movements. We believe for lots of reasons that another heliport in Penzance with the costs that would incur is too much for these islands and the passengers to bear. Something else will have to give."

He added: "This isn't about competition, it isn't even about Tresco. It's about the infrastructure these islands can support into the future. And I feel really strongly about that. That's the reason we've taken this step and we're very open to talking to Tresco and anybody else about operating from Land's End but we are not yet convinced that Penzance is viable for these islands in the long term. That's a really clear distinction."

Island Helicopters is still operating on a charter basis while the Council's Stop Notice remains in place.

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