Known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles, the Isle of Skye is the largest island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. But since the closure of Broadford Airfield in 1988, and with the nearest airport now a 5-6 hour drive away in Glasgow, islanders were facing a loss of connection with the UK mainland. It was estimated that the reintroduction of scheduled flights could attract up to 15,000 passengers every year and provide a significant boost to the local economy. However, before any plans could be made, the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) needed to establish how feasible it would be to reinstate the airfield as the main gateway to the Isle of Skye.
Arcadis was appointed by HITRANS to undertake a detailed study of Broadford Airfield, to demonstrate the feasibility of cost-effectively reopening the airfield to commercial flights. We also needed to test business, tourism and community appetite for the plans.
The work was part of a three year trial, with a view to permanent airport operations. As part of the study, our role included reviewing previous works to establish what would be the minimum required to recommence commercial flights. We did this by assessing what would be required of any airfield facilities, as well as benchmarking airport planning needs and liaising with numerous stakeholders, including HITRANS, the local council and the Scottish government.
Although the trial was set for three years it was important that our report looked at options that would survive beyond this point. This meant that if planning should go ahead permanently, there wouldn’t need to be a drastic amount of additional work and money fed back into the project. We also looked further than the original two flights a day, instead encompassing the maximum travel the airport could operate under.
With a detailed knowledge of the sector, our team were able to focus on innovative ways of interpreting aviation regulations and developing phased plans leading towards a successful reopening. For example, according to the Skye Air Services Business Case 2016, the airport would be required to have a single Cat 3a standard Rescue and Fire Fighting Services vehicle with garaging facility, storage, and basic non-residential staff facilities. However, as the airfield was not required to host the fire and rescue team on site, it was decided that sharing the local squad facilities at a nearby shipping yard would help to reduce costs when it came to staffing and residential maintenance.
Getting ready for take-off
Thanks to our highly experienced team, the original development costs associated with re-opening the airfield have been reduced by 76%. Our recommendation to follow one of the mid-range cost options has been further developed, and has proved a cost-effective means of providing the required facilities and infrastructure, in a way that would suit the landscape.
The return of day flights between the Isle of Skye and either Edinburgh or Glasgow will make business trips and hospital visits easier and more accessible for the residents of Skye. It will enable economic growth, connectivity and social cohesion across the Islands and mainland. Extending flights to remote communities across the UK will be integral to bringing growth and innovation to these harder to reach regions.