On this Day 15th September 1937

Take a Dragon to the Scilly Isles

At 9am on Wednesday 15th September 1937 a De Havilland Dragon aircraft took off from Land's End Airport for Scilly, where it landed at about 9.20am on the St Mary's golf links. The following day the Cornishman reported that four passengers had made the outward trip while five made the return journey. First to book the trip had been Mr Minchie, described as the first and last man in England, being the landlord of the Land's End Hotel. On the return trip was Mr John Mumford of Newford, St Mary's, at 85 years old the oldest inhabitant of the islands. “It was a lovely trip”, commented Mr Mumford before being whisked off in a car to spend time with family if St Just.

De Havilland Dragon fuelling at Ronaldsway Airport in 1934 (picture courtesy of B3A

The service to Scilly was scheduled to run daily, except for Sundays, and was provided by Channel Air Ferries, a subsidiary of Olley Air Services and was being provided in co-operation with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company.

On 28 October the Cornishman reported that the service had now been running for 5 weeks and was a boon to many. The long term future of the service was still not certain but further alteration were nevertheless being made to St Mary's golf links in order to “improve the landing ground.” Scilly, commented the Cornishman, is losing its remoteness and, indeed, telephones may also soon be a reality. Something else was also on the horizon, on the 23 December 1937 the Cornishman was advising swift action to obtain tickets for Christmas morning joyrides with the Dragon!

There had been an initial search for a suitable location for an airfield at Land's End but when this came to nought Olley Air Services identified and acquired the site near Kelynack in 1936. A hangar was acquired from Squires Gate Airport in Blackpool. On Scilly, the golf links remained in use until 1939 when St Mary's opened its own airport.

The initial moves to link Scilly to the mainland by air had been in 1935 by Cobham Air Routes, who were subsequently acquired by Olley. At The Penzance Chamber of Trade dinner, reported by the Cornishman on 31 January 1935, Mr Filson Young told his listeners that he had recently taken a flight from Rosevidney to Croydon, three hours there and three hours back. He was a convert and had now made his first solo flight and was trying to persuade Provincial Airways to extend their service to Scilly. The horrible sea passage, he said, closes the Scilly Isles to many who would otherwise go and air access would open it up as an easy day trip. Provincial clearly wasn't interested but Mr Young's wish was, nevertheless, soon granted.

In 1938 Olley Air Services were taken over by Great Western and Southern Airlines (GWSA). In 1947 the route was taken over by BEA who continued to use the Dragon Rapides introduced by GWSA until switching to helicopters in 1964 (see On This Day 1 May 1964). The switch to helicopters and the opening of the Penzance Heliport left an opening at Land's End Airport which was filled for a few years by Scillonia Airways but by 1970 Scillonia, following a number of problems, had gone out of business and there was now no fixed-wing air route to Scilly. A matter not rectified until the opening of the Skybus service by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company in August 1964.

Sources

Cornishman 31 January 1935

Cornishman Thursday 16 September 1937

Cornishman 28 October 1937

Cornishman 23 December 1937

Cornishman 21 May 1936




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