The Shetland Islands are an archipelago situated to the northeast of mainland Scotland. They are served by several airports, which facilitate traffic both within the archipelago and further afield to the mainland and even Europe. Let’s take a closer look at the nature of the airports on the Shetland Islands that presently have scheduled commercial services.
The Shetland Islands’ main airport is situated in Sumburgh (LSI), at the southern tip of the archipelago’s largest island, known as the Mainland. Formerly an RAF base, Sumburgh has three runways. 09/27 and 15/33 are similar in length (1,500 and 1,426 meters respectively) and are used by fixed-wing aircraft. Meanwhile, the 550-meter 06/24 is for helicopters.
Runway 09/27 intersects with the A970 road. Traffic between the two is controlled by barriers that function like a railway level crossing. This prevents cars from coming onto the asphalt strip when an aircraft is taking off or landing. Gibraltar (GIB) has a similar system.
Sumburgh is Shetland’s gateway to mainland UK and Europe. Loganair operates all fixed-wing passenger flights, serving Scottish destinations like Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kirkwall, and Inverness. International flights come in the form of a seasonal service to Bergen, Norway. June 2022 will see Dundee and London City added as seasonal destinations. Meanwhile, Royal Mail operates cargo flights from Sumburgh to Aberdeen and Kirkwall.
While Sumburgh is home to Shetland’s largest airport, the archipelago’s most populous settlement is, in fact, located in Lerwick. This is Shetland’s main town and port, with a population of around 7,000. In terms of scheduled commercial air travel, it is served by the nearby Tingwall Airport (LWK). This has an important but rather different role to play.
Tingwall Airport opened in 1976, and has a single 764-meter runway with the headings 02/20. While it doesn’t serve a wide variety of mainland and international destinations like Sumburgh, it is a crucial hub for inter-island travel within the archipelago. In fact, it is reportedly the most-used airport in Shetland when it comes to inter-island travel.
This market is a valuable way of connecting remote communities on the smaller islands with the archipelago’s main center of population. Passengers departing Tingwall can fly with DirectFlight flights to Fair Isle and Foula. Let’s have a closer look at these airports.
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One of the two inter-island destinations that Directflight serves from Tingwall is Fair Isle (FIE). This airport has a single 537-meter runway with the headings 06/24, and is located on the island of the same name, which has just 65 permanent residents. The Britten-Norman Islander-operated services there receive funding from the Shetland Islands Council.
These flights run on a Public Service Obligation basis, as is also the case for Tingwall’s flights to Foula (FOA). This island is even smaller, housing just 30 inhabitants. Correspondingly, the airfield has a short runway (18/36) measuring just 382 meters. Nonetheless, Directflight’s inter-island services are vital in keeping it connected to the rest of Shetland.
How many airports on the Shetland Islands have you flown to or from? Do you have a particular favorite? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!