History has been made on the isle of Auskerry following the first ever successful take off in fixed wing aircraft.
A friend of mine who is a qualified pilot managed to land and more importantly take off again in his two seat Zenair 710 aircraft. This type of plane is so small and light is is actually classed as a microlite and only has room for two people and no luggage. It’s pretty cosy!
It was the second landing made on the island by a pilot in a fixed wing aircraft after a young Canadian named Donald Franco crash landed there during a storm in 1943. He had run out of fuel while on a night time training flight in a twin engined Oxford trainer and Auskerry was the only piece of land he could find to land on. As the picture below shows, his was a much bigger aircraft and due to the landing being made with the wheels retracted, the props were badly bend. The pilot, Don Franko went on to fly many successful bombing missions in WW2 and he survived the war. He later came to stay with us on Auskerry with his wife and daughter.
Craig Taylor, a local journalist for the Orcadian newspaper in Orkney wrote this article about the original crash in 1943, and the recent successful landing and take off from the island.
The pilot who made the successful landing and takeoff, Tommy Sinclair had previously taken me up for a flight in the aircraft when I was at home in Orkney last December and he’d explained to me then what he hoped to do. I agreed to show him where the best potential landing site is on the island so we flew out to Auskerry and had did a couple of low fly pasts to have a look at the field which I had identified. The pictures below show our approach from a SSW direction and just how close we came to landing that day in December 2012.
Tommy returned to Auskerry with another friend of his in March 2013 to attempt a landing and takeoff. The weather was perfect and they were able to shut the plane down on the island and go for a walk. After taking a couple of pictures to prove that they had managed to touch down on the island they flew back to the Lamb Holm air strip in South Rolandsay, where Tommy keeps his aeroplane. Tommy is pictured below, standing with his plane.
I spent a large part of my childhood watching the Northern Lighthouse Board helicopter as it flew men and equipment to and from Auskerry during periods of maintenance on the Lighthouse Tower. I’d often wondered if a fixed wing aircraft would ever be able to come and go from the island. Perhaps I should think about setting up a scheduled air service to attract more visitors…