NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Final trip for Orkney shortest flight pilot

A pilot who has completed the world's shortest scheduled flight more than 12,000 times is to take to the skies over Orkney for the last time.

Stuart Linklater, 59, will retire after making his final trip on the route between Westray and Papa Westray.

It takes just two minutes - including taxiing - to complete the 1.7 mile flight, which is about the same length as the runway at Edinburgh Airport.

Mr Linklater, a pilot with Loganair, has spent 24 years in the job.

During his time on the inter-isle routes - which also includes flights to Stronsay, Sanday, North Ronaldsay and Eday - the Orkney-based pilot has chalked up more than 1.3 million miles in the single-manned, eight-seater Britten-Norman Islander aircraft used on the service.

Mr Linklater, who will continue working part-time for Loganair operating aircraft out of Glasgow, said: "I've thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Orkney inter-isle service and have worked with and carried so many interesting people over the 24 years I've spent piloting the Islander.

"There's nothing quite like the experience of taking the Islander up and I will look back fondly on my years spent flying between the islands over the years.

"Flying the Islander in some of the most challenging weather conditions in Scotland means I've had my fair share of turbulence over the years, but I've enjoyed every minute of it.

"Although I have other interests I'll still continue flying, albeit on a part-time basis, on the Glasgow services to Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown."

Mr Linklater joined Loganair after gaining his private pilot licence in 1982 and his commercial pilot's licence in 1988, and has worked with the airline for 25 years, 16 of them as part of the company's then air ambulance service contract.

He has flown enough miles to circumnavigate the globe 50 times.

'Ambulance missions'

Loganair said he can also lay claim to the record for the number of times he has flown the world's shortest scheduled flight and holds the record for the time taken to travel between the two islands - 53 seconds.

The pilot, who will turn 60 on Monday, became a grandfather for the first time in December.

His final day of flights will include trips from Kirkwall to Papa Westray and North Ronaldsay. He will also pilot a service from Kirkwall to Westray, then Papa Westray, before returning to Kirkwall.

Loganair president Scott Grier said: "Those of us based at Loganair's headquarters in Glasgow always had peace of mind knowing that Stuart Linklater was very much in control of the specialist flying operations in Orkney, whether North Isles scheduled services, or the many years of ambulance missions."

Councillor Steven Heddle, convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: "It's the end of an era for the North Isles with Stuart's retirement.

"He has served them fantastically well on countless regular flights, and on ambulance flights in the past, and his skill and relaxed approach always made travelling on the Islanders very enjoyable on all the times I have flown on them."

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