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Scotland’s home win

There was a gratifying feeling of Scottish pride at ERA’s big annual gathering in October, with local carrier Loganair winning Gold. Stan Abbott reports from Edinburgh

With the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) hosting its annual General Assembly in Edinburgh, it was a successful night for the British, with Titan Airways justly recognised for its mammoth Monarch Airlines repatriation exercise with the Bronze Award.

Having only recently joined the association, Loganair then chose the ERA venue to unveil fleet renewal plans that include the ‘near certain’ acquisition of ATRs as well as a possible move to electric traction on inter-island services, with a target launch date as soon as 2021.

The Silver Award was lifted by Binter Canarias, while Shannon Airport notched Airport of the Year for no less than the third time, as aviation and airports stalwart John Horne received the association’s Personal Excellence Award.

In valedictory remarks to delegates at the National Museum of Scotland awards dinner, outgoing chair of the judging panel, Malcolm Hart, reminded members that the Scottish hosts of the Assembly had not voted to leave the European Union, and nor had many others across the UK.

Nonetheless, Brexit continued to cast gloom among delegates, as Director General Montserrat Barriga chose her first assembly address to highlight shared concerns, and call for an open and unrestricted bilateral agreement between the EU and the UK.

“An early and favourable resolution of Brexit negotiations is urgently needed,” she said, while adding, rhetorically: “Do we really think aircraft will be grounded because of the lack of a political agreement?”

Loganair was commended by judges for rebuilding its commercial infrastructure since its franchise agreement with Flybe ended in 2017 – and for serving its community in tough and challenging conditions, which included a competitive challenge from Flybe on some of the former franchise routes.

On the very day it received its award, Loganair had been rolling out its first Embraer 135 at East Midlands Airport, and – at a press conference the following day – Managing Director Jonathan Hinkles told journalists an Embraer 145 would join the fleet in late November, to operate longer Inverness-Manchester and Glasgow-Sumburgh sectors, some of which are currently operated by sister company, bmi regional.

Hinkles suggested a 15-month timetable to replace the airline’s Saab 2000s and Dornier 328s, the latter acquired with the takeover of Suckling Airways in 2013. The gradual replacement for the workhorse Saab 340 fleet would follow, he said, and this would ‘almost certainly’ be with the ATR 42.

Inter-island services would continue to operate with Twin Otters and Britten-Norman Islanders, but with the rising cost and availability of Avgas a growing issue, Hinkles said the latter was also a test-bed for an electric traction unit in joint venture with Cranfield Aerospace, with commercial flights anticipated “late in 2021 or early in 2022”.

Binter’s Silver Award, in the airline’s 30th year, reflected its consolidation as market leader in the Canary Islands, as well as growth in new areas, such as the design and production of aeronautical parts. >>


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