Carlisle Airport is located in the North of England, six miles to the east of the city of Carlisle. It originally opened in the 1930s as RAF Crosby-on-Eden, and with the exception of brief cargo flights and a short spell of passenger flights in the 1980s, has been predominantly a general aviation airport.
The road haulage company, and owner of Stobart Air, Stobart Group, purchased the site in 2008 with plans to commence passenger services from a new terminal that was to be built. After numerous delays, the opening date was set for 4th July 2019, with the Scottish airline Loganair scheduled to operate three flights a day to Dublin, Belfast and Southend Airports.
I took a trip to Carlisle Airport to fly on the airport’s inaugural flight. As yet there are no public transport links to the airport from the Carlisle, however there is a minibus service provided by Loganair that departs the rail station in Carlisle 90 minutes before scheduled departures.
I arrived at Carlisle Airport around an hour before departure. Entering vehicles were checked for boarding passes or media accreditation before being allowed access – this was apparently in light of recent climate change protests.
The terminal building at Carlisle Airport is absolutely tiny. It consists of a cafe, a check in desk, and a VIP Lounge that was today being used as the Media Centre.
Departing passengers were given a glass of Bucks Fizz, tea/coffee and of course the trademark Loganair Tunnocks Caramel Wafer!
Around 20 minutes before departure, we were called to go through security and to the gate.
Once airside, there was even less space than in the departure lounge. It’s perfect for the current operations of three flights a day at different times, but should they go to any more flights I have the feeling they will soon run out of space.
Out on the apron, our aircraft was waiting to take us to Dublin.
Outside, the media were lined up ready to catch their scoop. ITV, the BBC and numerous radio stations were here.
Boarding was started a few minutes before departure time and we walked across the apron to the waiting aircraft – being thanked personally by senior management at Carlisle Airport and Loganair as we went.
The aircraft Loganair are using on the flights from Carlisle are operated by the Estonian carrier Nyxair under a damp lease arrangement. They are on the Estonian register, and have Estonian crews, but are painted in the Loganair livery.
Today’s aircraft was first delivered to the Dutch airline Air Exel in 1989, and has served as far away as Kenya in its 30 year lifetime.
Once onboard, you wouldn’t know the aircraft wasn’t owned by Loganair. Loganair’s trademark tartan headrest covers adorned every seat.
The only indication that the aircraft was owned by Nyxair was on the safety cards – which surprised me slightly, as Loganair operate a huge fleet of Saab 340s in the same configuration so could easily swap them out.
The rest of the passengers boarded, including a TV news crew from ITV Borders.
Outside everyone had turned out to wave us off.
We were treated to a water cannon salute by the fire brigade as we taxied out to the runway.
A quick taxi and backtrack to runway 24, and we were on our way as the first commercial flight to leave Carlisle in over 25 years.
It was a beautiful day for flying, and we got some stunning views across Cumbria as we headed towards the coast.
The flight attendant came around handing out presents for all of the passengers. We got a small bottle of Scotch whisky and a beautiful Loganair shot glass.
Next it was time for the standard Loganair service, with tea, coffee and of course Tunnocks Caramel Wafers!
I moved forward a row into one of the three empty seats on the flight. The loads were surprisingly high on this flight – and many passengers hadn’t even realised this was the inaugural trip. The overall opinion was that it was far more convenient for passengers to go from their local airport rather than taking the two hour drive to Edinburgh, Glasgow or Manchester Airports.
I had to chuckle at the oxygen supply overhead – indicating that we weren’t allowed to smoke while it was in use. I wondered if it may be OK the rest of the time!
We crossed the Irish Sea just to the south of the Isle of Man and began our approach down to Dublin’s runway 28.
We touched down a few minutes ahead of schedule after a flight time of just 47 minutes, at a cruising altitude of 14,000ft.
Once we pulled on stand we disembarked, the very first passengers to arrive from Carlisle.
It was great to be a part of history on the inaugural flight from Carlisle. There are now routes from Carlisle to Belfast, Southend and Dublin, five days a week. Whilst Belfast and Dublin are obvious routes for business passengers, I’m not sure whether Southend will be quite as successful, unless flights are timed to connect with the existing leisure flights out of Southend.
Loganair continue to offer an excellent product – and are the perfect fit for this route. It will be interesting to see if other airlines commence flights from Carlisle, in particular Stobart Air’s flights for Aer Lingus, or potentially Flybe.
But for now, and most importantly – Carlisle Airport is open for business.