Oban Airport to close: staff on 90 days notice

(Updated below) A meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s Executive Committee on 16th December had the following item on its agenda:

‘E1 15. ARGYLL AIR SERVICES
‘Report by Executive Director – Development and Infrastructure Services (to follow)

‘The Committee will be asked to pass a resolution in terms of Section 50(A)(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 to exclude the public for items of business with an “E” on the grounds that it is likely to involve the disclosure of exempt information as defined in the appropriate paragraph of Part 1 of Schedule 7a to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

‘The appropriate paragraphs are:-

‘E1 Paragraph 1  Information relating to a particular employee, former employee or applicant to become an employee of, or a particular office-holder, former office-holder or applicant to become an office-holder under the authority.

-Paragraph 6  Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (other than the authority).’

This will not be unconnected to the fact that Oban Airport is to close, with all 13 staff employed there now on 90 days notice.

The Council is understood to be seeking a third party to take it over.

Update 31st December 2010:

The challenge everyone concerned with Oban Airport faces just now from the council to the staff, is finding a way to keep it open that removes the current drain on the council’s straightened budget and saves as many jobs as possible.

The council did bring this situation upon itself by refusing to take informed advice on the development of the facility – but the key matter now is to find new management.

By refusing to listen to expert advice in the first instance, the council pressed ahead with what was effectively a vanity project with an airport classified at a level which legally required specific support and staffing.

This was never going to be able to return on investment but critically, with the services and staffing required by its classification, it was never going to cover its running costs – and it has not done so.

This loss making position was aggravated by the failure to market and promote the airport.

Had the council actively participated in this with the various airlines operating the Argyll Air Services to the islands of Colonsay, Coll and Tiree, the operation could have built a strong tourist season market. This would have been a USP (unique selling point) for Argyll as well a for the airport.

The Coucil never fully grasped the nature of its new acquisition, nor did it integrate it into its overall infrastructural planning – even conceptually. A couple of years ago it announced the commissioning of a report into creating an integrated transport hub for Oban.

This focused on roads, rail and ferries. It did not even mention Oban Airport.

For Argyll got on to the Transport Department at once, saying: ‘Hello. You have an airport. How does that figure in an integrated transport hub?’

Red faces all around, a lot of umming and errring, an admission that it was too late to include it in the study but that they might commission an extension to the study to cover it.

How can you forget you own an airport – and an expensive one? Finding ways to promote and integrate this costly facility and to get it earning as much as possible should have been a transport priority.

Argyll’s problem, as always – and aggravated by unenterprising management with no strategy for economic development – is that it is not tuned up to create change or to respond constructively and opportunistically to change.

Transport was traditionally about ferries, rail and roads and that’s all they could envisage. An Airport? ‘Oh golly. So we have. But it’s out of town’. So? What’s a transport hub?

It was generally accepted by industry insiders that the current operator, Hebridean Airways, should have had the service contract from the outset. Certainly, following the collapse of Highland Airways and the arrival of Hebridean, we saw real efforts made to develop and extend the service, with some runs to Islay.

Whatever the successful formula, this facility is vitally important for Oban and for Argyll. At the moment, unless new management can be found, its future is under threat.

Either way, it is naive to imagine that jobs will not be lost.

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124 Responses to Oban Airport to close: staff on 90 days notice

  1. Dont think we should jump in here. Its a big blow, and im sure the principle was very honourable.I cant comment on the reasons for demise but i know the councillors were right behind it in a positive manner.
    Seemed a bit grand and top heavy for the size of it, but im a layman and not an expert. As i say a big blow. Hope something can be continued out there.

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  2. The chances are “anyone” could run the airport better than ABC, and there are certainly a number of potential options out there, so maybe this is a GOOD thing in the long run.

    Whoever takes on running the airport will need staff; maybe not as many as sit around the teapot just now, but a well run airport may build up to being able to offer a good core of local employment.

    It would be good to see a constructive dialogue as to who really wants to use the airport, what the practical issues are now, how to solve them in the future, and the best way to drive the promotion and development of this potentially useful and viable local asset.

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  3. For linnhe: A local authority – never mind Argyll and Bute – running an airport was always a joke and so it has proved. The trouble is that it’s been yet another such joke at poor Argyll’s expense.

    We too see this as bringing the situation to a point where good may eventually come of it.

    The council insisted on going for a vanity project with an airport classification whose requirements were expensive to meet, were way above what was necessary and way beyond what could return on investment.

    In experienced, knowledgeable and inventive hands, with real flair and business expertise, of course this airport can be a success and a powerful draw to Oban and the Argyll islands.

    But this combination of abilities is rare, in businesses, let alone in individuals.

    We have said before and repeat it on this occasion when change will happen and must be change for the better: Argyll needs Paul Keegan with room to make Oban Airport the buzz place it can be.

    Can he put a deal together? If he can, we’d put our shirt on this being the most exciting game in town.

    (And have you noticed that ‘Simon’ is again very well informed in a particular way? We picked up a clue from a contributor earlier today (expenses warrior) on who ‘Simon’ and ‘Jim’ may be. We’ve looked at the evidence and … it all fits. We’ve always been in the zone but – thank you ‘expenses warrior’ – you’ve nailed it.)

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  4. Newsroom – although I fully appreciate that Simon, Jim et al, are probably posing under psuedynoms, I do not personally think it is appropriate to try and ‘out’ them. Unless of course you feel they are either Council employees masquerading as members of the public or Councillors who want to act as cowards!

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  5. Just to show Jim that I do have opinions on other matters. I would be very sad if Oban Airport were to close for commercial traffic. On the other hand, I would be delighted if it was taken over by a commercial operator. I think the airport has a lot of potential (offshore energy developments might encourage links to the central belt) but the Council was never going to be the best operator to develop these and certainly not now that cash is so tight.

    Mixed blessing.

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  6. Pingback: Oban/Glenforsa News - Page 39 - PPRuNe Forums

  7. in response to kintyre1.. apart from the airfield at machrihanish what else does the area have to offer, what transport links does the area have,what ferry terminal does it have,what tourist attractions does the area have… why waste millions there aswell !!!!!
    oban is the better choice and lets hope that someone see sense and steps in and takes over the airport at oban and not the currant owners(A & B council), would be good to see the government take action and order someone like HIAL to take over as they did with dundee airport, they have the knowledge and backing from government so make a success of the place and get rid of all the problems that is associated with the place.

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  8. I think this is a joke of a quote.

    Dave McEwan Hill Says:

    December 22nd, 2010 at 2:05 am
    Keegan is the man

    How can anyone say that, this man has done nothing for avation in this area in the past 3 years apart from try and make the airport fail, he is selfish and only out to gain things for himself. He is only a contractor to supply fuel and not someone i think that can be trusted. He has restricted the length of the runway so that what was a airport that was starting to grow would not be able to get the size of aircraft in, The King Air, the Tucano’s form the RAF and the Jets (yes not many Jets, But a few in and out is better than none.) Oh sorry it was the club that he virtually owns that put a fence up over night. Who in there right minds erects a fence over night to stop avation, and now possabilly ruin the jobs for the airport workers and there familys. Also dont start on the bully tactics he has used on the council and some previous employees. Find out why he no longer works at Prestwick or Campbeltown. The CAA would not allow him to run it anyway. This man should not be allowed on the airport let alone to run the thing. I have not seen anyone who is only after one thing. His own self gain nothing else. He treats some people with no respect. ABC have tried to develop this Airport and 1 man has tried at every chance to shut them out and ruin it for them. The staff have familys and are committed to making this a success if given the chance and the complete airfield, Not with a fence there tho. I think the council only have them selfs to blame for letting this go on so long and not stamping there feet down and making a stand at the beginning.

    I do agree the airport should NOT close, and should not be given to a small company or anyone who is against avation :) and does need some one to take over that already runs an airport, In this area HIAL would be the best option, and the only option. It would be a huge embarresment to the council if it was to close. I hope it does not and hope the council can learn from all their mistakes. Dont get me wrong i can understand why Mr Keegan is annoyed but trying his best for it to fail so he can run it again is a joke, 1 man to run this place. NOT HIM he should be

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  9. Also to say that the ‘OBAN AIRPORT TO CLOSE: STAFF ON 90 DYAS NOTICE’ That is false and no where near true, you need to find the facts before you publish that sort of thing i think.

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  10. The people in the oban area and local politicians and indeed perhaps the Transport minister need to know exactly why this airport has been aloud to get in this situation in the first place, yes the council need to take some blame and not promoting the airport and attracting more flights but a large amount of blame has to fall to TLC(paul keegan) for erecting a fence 18 months ago and stopping what larger aircraft where coming in and using the facilities in the oban area and since this fence was erected has basically held the council to ransom in the hope it will get to such a position that the council would back down and stop court proceedings and if a certain company would get the new PSO he would take the fence down as a GOODWILL jesture !!!!!! the airport does have a future and can be a success if only people would give it a chance and stop putting it down.

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  11. It seems Paul Keegan had a part to play previously, but in the light of his obvious chip on the shoulder, he will not be in a position to have the confidence of users or the authorities.
    As such he should be curtailed now from being a fly in the ointment any further.
    Even with the best will, it did not work under council control, so lets hope councillors can use their experience of what went wrong, in a positive manner for the future. I am certain they will be initiating moves for the continuance of this important operation.
    Good luck to Paul Keegan, but not in any capacity at Oban airport.
    It aint gonna work with you. Full stop.

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  12. In response to conserned1.
    Machrihanish has one of the best runways in Europe something I see you appear to acknowledge . The airport is rarely closed due to bad weather .
    The area has lots to offer; 2 world class golf courses and 4 other good quality affordable golf courses.
    Some of the best , cleanest , unspoilt beaches in the world .
    World class local distilleries with unsurpassed heritage .
    The Kintyre Way and other outdoor walks second to none .
    A beautiful friendly town with architecture which is the envy of Argyll, the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown and picturesque villages too numerous to mention.
    Regarding transport links.
    A twice daily public airplane service to Glasgow International Airport
    3 return citylink/west coast motors coaches 7 days per week to Glasgow Buchanan Street , soon to be increased to 4 .
    An excellent ferry service to Gigha
    An excellent ferry service to Arran
    An excellent ferry service to Islay connecting with Jura ,Colonsay and Oban !
    A passenger ferry service to Northern Ireland commencing May 2011
    A passenger ferry service to Troon Ayrshire allowing connections to Glasgow Prestwick Airport
    An on demand bi plane to numerous destinations
    The biggest selling number one record ever at the time Mull Of Kintyre by Paul McCartney and Wings beautifully covers this areas many attractions and Phil Spencer of the TV programme Location , Location , Location said of Kintyre “one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited ”
    Come and see for yourself

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  13. Totally agree with kintyre1′s points,
    Machrihanish has the longest runway in Europe and unlike Oban McCaskill International Airport is capable of handling all of the Airlines largest aircraft operating on International flights.
    It is rumoured that the privately owned company that owns Machrihanish Dunes Golf Courses plan to use international charter flights landing at Machrihanish as an arrival point for golfers visiting Scotland.
    I would also point out to concerned1 that Kintyre hosts the 2nd largest yachting event in the UK, The Scottish Series.
    Kintyre is also increasingly used as a point of entry, by passengers arriving Prestwick, into Argyll using the Ardrossan/Brodick/Loch Ranza/Clonaig ferries thus avoiding the nightmare of the A/M77 and M8 through Glasgow.

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  14. Point of order – Machrihanish does not have anywhere near the “longest runway in Europe”, it is big but practically every major international airport in Europe has considerably larger runways.

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  15. I’m not a resident of the area, and perhaps have no right to speak on the subject. However my friends are pilots from the south of England – who visit Oban and Glenforsa (Mull) several times each year – as paying customers of Oban airport. Glenforsa often attracts more 50 aircraft and 150 – 200 people over a weekend – and all of them visiting Oban for fuel. We are paying customers of Oban airport. We also often use both Oban and Plocton as our temporary base when visiting the Western Isles.

    We’ve been doing this year in year out for the best part of 20 years and in all that time, the one consistently friendly and efficient factor has been Paul Keegan. When other airports in the area arrange their opening hours and staffing to suit thier own needs, noth the customer, it has always been Paul Keegan who says “what time do you want to land? I’ll be there”.

    When A & B took over, we saw an excellent airport and an excellent service destroyed by bureaucratic ineptitude and incompetence.

    Being realistic, because of the (albeit small) mountain at the northerly end of the runway, Oban is never going to be an all weather base for larger aircraft. But then with Preswick and Glasgow just a few minutes flying away, I am certain there is not a sufficient demand for long distance direct services from Oban.

    Overall, in the view of the hundreds of visiting pilots, Paul Keegan IS Oban airport.

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    • For Maidenhead flyer: it is p[recisely as a non-resident that your evidence ios so important. Airports are for non-residents as much if not more than for residents.

      It is your custom and the service to you and your fellow pilots from elsewhere thayt is crucial for the success of this potentially great airport.

      We noted that an earlier comment on this piece recommended that HIAL should take over Oban Airport. HIAL are the franchisees at Campbeltown Airport and they run that airport – and others in their portfolio, exactly as you describe those airports in your experience that are run by bureaucrats and not for flyers.

      HIAL is flatly obstructive to running Campbeltown as a popular airport for leisure flying to the ;point that many pilots who used to keep their aircraft there have moved them elsewhere. Campbeltown, like Oban, needs to serve the leisure flying sector memorably well and, from our postbag, we know that Paul Keegan is aware f that and delivers on it.

      What you have described in your experience of Paul Keegan’s operation, is what customer service means. We need to see it lead in Argyll.

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  16. For Newsroom. Thamyou for your comment. I deliberately removed any mention of HIAL from my first post as I did not want to get dragged into a slanging match. However your supposition is 100% correct. Most of the airports that we DO NOT visit are HIAL run airports. They are simply way too unfriendly. Different opeing hours at nearby airfields, often closing at odd times of the day, excessively expensive – and levying horrendously disproportionate charges if (for example) the weather causes you to arrive 2 minutes outside of their (odd) opening hours.

    Most small aircraft can come and go in total safety without a bunch of airport staff being present – but HIAL don’t permit this. Eleswhere in the country, many airfield owners operate very successfuly using an “honesty box”. Provided the fees are not outrageous, visiting pilots will generally play fair and leave the fees.

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  17. An example of HIAL’s attitude occured earlier this year at Barra. Approximatelly 8 aircraft took the trip from Oban out to Barra to land on the beach runway. In our group were 4 rare aircraft, two Chinese trainers and two russian trainers – all in authentic Chinese / Russian markings. After we parked, a group of visiting tourists (and locals) soon gathered to look at these unusual arrivals. Being friendly people, we invited some of these folks to come down and take a closer look at our aircraft (take photo’s etc). Immediately, a member of the airport staff came rushing out of the tower and using some very unnecessary language, told the tourists to get off his airfield. At the time, ours were the only aircraft on the aircraft parking area, all engines were stopped and the aircraft empty. The next scheduled fight was not due for two hours – yet the official refused to allow us to escort the tourists to see the planes. We offered to take them in ones or two’s, to give them (silly) high viz yellow vests to wear, whatever he wanted. But no. Unless they had a boarding card – they could not set foot beyond the fence.

    As a pilot for 40 years, I fully understand the safety argument, possibly better than that staff member. If there was an aircraft due, or if any of our group were about to start engines and move off – then I could see a reason for the rule (even then it can be easily managed in complete safety). But in this situation, it was simply rules for the sake of rules – and “I’ve got the power to shout at people”.
    He could have quite easily allowed them to come take a look – and then 15 or 20 minutes before the next landing – told us to clear the area. Safety would not have been compromised – and visitors would have gone away with a good memory (instead of a bad one).

    By comparison, my home base is a grass airfield, with over 200 aircraft based there. On a summers day, we have something like 300 take offs and landings – compared to Barra’s average of 4 per day – but we don’t need to impose these unnecessary rules. We trust pilots to take due care, and to ensure that they escort anyone that is unfamiliar with the common sense rules of being on an airport. Guess what – no one has ever been hurt in over 70 years of operation.

    HIAL really do not encourage private aviation visitors to any of their airports, and as such, they actively deter a significant number of visitors from visiting those locations. It could be so much better.

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  18. Oban was a destination on my list for a long time. Why – because of the reputation of Paul Keegan. When we finally got around to coming – a long wait for clement flying weather – he lived up to his reputation. Everything we had heard was true – and more.

    Based on my own experiences I have recommended a good many Dutch pilots to cross the water, bringing tourist Euros into the area.

    I will be back next year – and very much hope to find Paul Keegan running the show.

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  19. Dave Smith re point of order Machrihanish Airport,
    Googled it and quote, at 3,049 x 46 metres Machrihanish is one of the longest runways in Europe.
    A lie to me a lie to you.

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  20. As a non-local I do not know or understand the local issues and “difficulties” but Oban airport is a key destination for visiting pilots. The current problems have inhibited some flyers from visiting.

    I am always sorry to hear of peoples livelihoods at risk, especially at Christmas.

    I hope the situation can be resolved sensibly and in time so that flyers can plan their trips for 2011 to include Oban.

    Whilst it can’t be a major part of the local economy, I am part of a group of flyers that visit the area multiple times a year, not only to uplift fuel but to visit restaurants, stay overnight and buy distillery products (for post flight relaxation!). As someone posted earlier, the level of visitors to Glenforsa shows the volumes that can occur some weekends. I am sure if things can be resolved, Oban would have much greater visitors in what is one, if not the most, beautiful area in the UK to fly.

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  21. maidenhead flyer and other pro keegan supporters.. you need to realise that oban airport is no longer a private members club for you to come and go as you please and do what you want when you want and drink tea and eat jammy dodgers with the man that has bought the airport to its knees and all for what… HIAL would be a god send for the place, get the fence down and attract the flights that the place deserves and can handle, its never going to be a international airport everyone knows that but it has potential for so much more, why rely on a few private member flyers to pay there landing fees when twice as much can be earned by 1 decent flight with paying passengers who want to visit oban and stay and see the area and not winge and moan over a jammy dodger with the problem that is TLC…. lets face the YAK fliers that go to oban and barra dont bring a great deal to the local area.

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  22. As a regular (except in Winter) visitor to Oban airport – and Glenforsa, and the other delightful areas around – I am very surprised and disappointed at the insults levelled at Paul Keegan. Before the ABC had delusions of grandeur (and wasted millions of local people’s money), Paul ran one of the friendliest airports in the UK. He won awards for excellent service from the aviation community. Many of us made a point of visiting Oban on our travels round the Highlands. Paul brought a lot of money into the local economy.

    Aviators Europe-wide now discuss the sad fiasco that was ABC’s attempt at running an airfield. The sooner they hand it back to people who know how, the better.

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  23. It is a shame there are so many entrenched and very negative views regarding the airport. I have been visiting the airfield, and paying for the privilege, for over 15 years.

    The council developments are a source of wonder amongst anyone who knows anyhting about aviation – the council’s incompetance is near legendary across Europe thanks to the grandiose plans and massive expenditure. The closure is inevitable, sad though it is for the staff concerned.

    To those who blame Paul Keegan – the fence was simply another in the tit for tat actions which TLC and ABC indulged in. It is worth remembering that it is only the availability of fuel that makes Oban viable at all as an airfield for light aircraft. When the council tried to rescide TLCs contract to supply it (although they had awarded that right) then most aviators could see that petty jealousy was the man driver.

    Could Oban support a real commercial service? Probably not – the small matter of that hill to the north severely restricts the types and sizes of aircraft and always will. The size of the local population is unlikely to support any scheduled flights – small aircraft are expensive to run in comparison with the types that Ryan and Easy use – and aircraft of that size could never use Oban.

    The air service to the island seems to not be supported that well, so inspite of the subsided tickets it is not viable. The seaplane service is much more tourist orientated and of course does not need the runway…..

    Aircraft carrying more than half a dozen people are realistically never going to visit Oban unless there is a real reason to arrange expensive charter flights – I cannot think of any event over the last 10 years which would have justified it.

    Like it or not light aircraft are the only likely users of Oban. Paul Keegan’s operation was voted ‘the best airfield’ in the UK by light aircraft visiting Oban. A couple of years later ABC had managed to turn it into deserted site.

    Oban airport could be a real asset to the area, attracting people with money to spend, hopefully that is what will happen – people simply need to stop fighting and come up with a very low cost way of preserving a valuable asset.

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  24. Since being introduced to Oban, and Paul, by other light aircraft pilots in the mid-nineties I have returned to Oban and Mull many times for holidays with family; visits with friends and flying trips with other pilots. It is a real joy to introduce others to Oban, Mull and the beautiful Western Isles – all the more so from the air (if you get the chance take it, is you dont then make the chance, it is fabulous).

    Sometimes we’ve just driven up, other times flown up on a low cost airline to Glasgow and hired a vehicle, stayed in Oban and caught the ferries Oban and stayed on Mull. We have used buses and taxis from Oban airport to/from town etc when we’ve been able to visit by light aircraft.

    Bottom line is the light aircraft that come and go can and do generate economic activity in, and return visitors to, the area – you just want more of them, not less! I encourage and help other pilots to fly your way and am pretty confident they will enjoy the experience and tell others about it when they get back home and to the office.

    Currently ‘selling’ a visit to Oban isn’t helped by whats gone on, but is still not a hard sell. But when pilots plan to make excusrions from Oban to the many HIAL airports the opening hours, out-of-hours paperwork and costs start to make a visit into France more appealing.

    Many town airfields in France bigger than Oban will have no-one manning them while visitors come and go. They know that an airfield isn’t about being a huge employer in its own right but being an enabler for capturing business investment and recreation spending by providing time saving access so the money is spent with them rather than somewhere else. Not hard really is it.

    Mixing in the (necessarily small-scale) commercial flights can be achieved safetly without the sheer overhead and cost of a ‘proper airport’. All around UK europe and the world there are airfields which are basically community airfields which mix these flights perfectly well. So they get the benefit of small-scale scheduled flights and the light aircrraft tourism as well. Which is the more robust business model?

    Talk about having spent a fortune to shoot yourself in the foot. Let someone with true General Aviation (not an Airport, BAA, HIAL, Intergalactic Spaceport) and commercial/business sense sort put the place back on a viable operational footing at least.

    There is certainly more local and regional economic activity that can be driven through a thriving general aviation airfield/airport at Oban, but in term of large scale Commercial Airline operations ‘being the future’ well the Regional Airport vision people needed to be better informed about aviation. “You’re not a big fish. You’re not a big fish. You are not a fish…” might have done the trick.

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  25. It is very good to hear from the users of the airport, these are the really important people in this situation.
    While it is valuable to have people dropping in to get fuel, is this seriously going to bring significant additional customers to the business community around, if they are just passing through?

    It would be fantastic to hear from other stakeholders, or potential stakeholders, in the airport traffic.
    The surrounding community has an increasing number of the very best quality accommodation providers, more and more 4 – 5 stars and their equivalent are being awarded locally.

    What do these and other local businesses need or want from this facility ?

    - bringing people into the area
    - creating a coordinated route through to the islands
    - freight transit to the rest of Scotland, and beyond

    What are the issues that local businesses and their customers have found difficult in current set up?

    Some honest, sensible discussion on what this airport CAN do, what it is not possible to do with the location and learning from other successful small airports would be useful and positive.

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  26. As others have pointed out Paul Keegan is not the villain of the piece here. Grandiose plans and inappropriate bureaucracy have done the damage. Everyone in European Aviation who knows Oban also knows that the expensive development wasn’t necessary to provide the scheduled services to the islands and maintain the regular private traffic. Small airports aren’t required by law to have heavy handed health and safety and security rules either.

    The net effect of the Council’s efforts has been to reduce private traffic and fail to deliver the commercial traffic. Commercial traffic is always going to be limited because the local terrain makes instrument approach facilities extremely difficult in an area where the weather is so fickle.

    While I have no doubt that Paul Keegan is less than perfect, he certainly knows how to deliver a service that customers appreciate and come back for.

    The Council’s attempts to bully him have been utterly counter-productive.

    There is still a strong appetite amongst private flyers to visit Oban and the nearby islands, I shall certainly be back in the spring, but it is much more difficult to plan than it used to be for no good reason at all.

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  27. Oban will never be viable as a full commercial airport. It lacks instrument approach facilities that would make it usuable by commercial operators. The local geography means that it is unlikely to ever be practical to have any.

    Anyone who knows anything about commercial aviation was aware of this when the redevelopment started. It was a non starter – a waste of time.

    Its market was and still is General Aviation – light aircraft, helicopters, micro lights, training traffic and occasionaly when the weather is reliable private jets, ad-hoc services in small turbo props. Its a much needed fuel stop on the West side of Scotland.

    Under Paul Keegans stewardship Oban was voted FLYER magazine Airport of The Year in 2002. Movements rose from 50 in 1995 to more than 1,900 in 2004.

    As others have mentioned a thriving facility then disappeared under endless red tape.

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  28. Fine if “oban airport is no longer a private members club for you to come and go as you please”; I never imagined that it was. However, as another visitor from south of the border, if Oban isn’t there to sell me fuel, I won’t be visiting Oban or Glenforsa (Mull) again. That’s not a threat: it’s simple practicalities; I need somewhere to refuel when I go to Mull with my family. But if “…fliers that go to oban and barra dont bring a great deal to the local area…” then my absence is of little consequence, I guess.

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  29. Pingback: Argyll News: Comments on Oban Airport story worth reading :Argyll,Oban airport,leisure flying,Paul Keegan, | For Argyll

  30. Why not refuel at Islay airport. Operated by HIAL and light aircraft land without the airport being “open”. Also agree with the potential of Machrihanish.

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  31. After hearing all the good things about how friendly and welcoming Oban airport was as a stopover for visting the islands and having emailed Paul I planned a visit up from the the South of England for several aircraft and people.

    Then it turned into a mini Heathrow and the trip was cancelled.

    We would have brought a few thousand pounds of tourism to that part of Scotland not least of which several hotel rooms and eating out in Oban on our outward journey and again on our return.

    I find it surprising some of the comments that light aviation is inconsequential to tourism in Oban as a few of these trips when added together would have made a reasonable contribution to the tourism industry.

    But then again compared to the millions wasted on Oban airport it probably is small beer.

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  32. As a pilot from south of the border I have landed at Oban a number of times. Much needed fuel from a friendly and helpful Paul Keegan. A few minutes walk to the riverside pub for an excellent lunch. Then on to Glenforsa, Plockton etc, dropping into Oban again the next day to top up with fuel for the journey home. Then the lunatics took over and turned the Oban experience just a little sour. I personally am aquainted with a number of pilots who have removed Oban from their list. I’m sure they’ll return when sanity does.

    As for Campbeltown. (Macrihanish). If you’re into weekday golf or beach walking and happy to be grounded over the weekend,………

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  33. For refuelling, Islay or Campbeltown are not ideal. They are off-shore, and personally I don’t cross more than very short stretches of water without survival gear. Oban airport really is strategically pretty important for light aircraft flying in the W Highlands.

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  34. phill – next (current) step is for the council to work with potential airport/airfield operators from the General Aviation sector, provide them with as much scope and lattitude as possible to re-grow the number of aircraft movements, and value of the same – in line with whats possible – and with the minimum overhead/officialdom necessary to achieve it.

    Investors dont only invest in the cheapest places, they also in invest in places they like and see opportunties in – provided they have good access and ability to get on with business without unnecessary pettiness/jobsworths adding hassle/cost rather than adding value to make an area attractive versus others.

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  35. Machrihanish was good enough for every plane in the USA’s arsenal and for the UK’s finest but is now to be second best to Oban …. Machrihanish is the airport with the real potential , Oban will never match what we have here .
    Can you explain your remark simon that machrihanish is “off-shore” ?

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  36. kintyre1, Simon refers to machrihanish as “off-shore” as I assume he speaks from the perspective of the pilot of a single engine light aircraft.

    When flying over any stretch of open water when you only have one engine powering the aircraft you would generally ensure that you and any passengers were wearing appropriate safety equipment to aid survival in the event of a water landing.

    Coming up from the South, it’s more straighforward for private aircraft to head up to Oban with no crossing of open water, than it is to fly up, to say Loch Fyne, and then head back to Campbelltown to avoid the water crossing.

    Different pilots have different aversions to risk but anytime, apart from the height of summer, isn’t a great time to be risking any water crossings without suiting up with water survival equipment prior to the flight in that part of the world.

    Most of us fly for pleasure, it’s much nicer to be able to fly around the country no having to be suited up for a water crossing if you can avoid it.

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    • For bhb: Learning about aviators world with interest – do you need to suit up to cross from Oban to Glenforsa? And how cumbersome is the protective suiting when you’re flying?

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  37. @ newsroom.

    It would depend upon the individual pilot and the airspace. I don’t have my aeronautical chart to hand, but as it’s less than a 5 mile crossing and from memory Oban is clear of controlled airspace, meaning I could get enough height to land clear of the water then I personally wouldn’t bother.

    However, some pilots would certainly choose to wear a lifejacket for even the shortest crossing of open water.

    A full survival suit is very cumbersome and quite uncomfortable, and is ideally only put on just before a water crossing. In the situation above many pilots would rather just use Oban, but if they needed to visit Campbelltown would track further North before heading back to the South to keep within glide distance of land and negate the necessity for water survival equipment.

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  38. in response to linnhe, up until 18 months ago the airport was attracting larger aircraft and general aviation aswell, the scottish air ambulance had managed to do a patient transfer using a kingair, the RAF tucano training squadron used it for navigation training for there pilots in training, the survey kingair was also using the airport and was walk of fishery protection useing the place, also jets from south of the border wanted to use the airport to fly passengers to oban who had booked the hebridean princess for there cruises, all these flights would have used oban and facilities the town has to offer, but a fence was erected over a weekend which meant the runway lost a third of its distance.. all these aircraft mentioned can no longer use oban airport and there had been plenty of interest from other air operators but alas have been declined the full use of the runway due to the fence… due to petty arguments between the ABC and paul keegan everybody is now suffering, the local bussinesses, the local area in general and due to what !!! let keegan supply fuel lets face it thats all he is there for and nothing else, get rid of ABC and let a company who know what there doing run the place and no not keegan, between him and ABC enough damage has been done, time to get new people in… and while all this is going on the staff at the airport have suffered ,there stuck in the middle of it all and have tried there hardest to make a go of the place with no backing from there employers , perhaps someone should go and talk to them and see how they feel and how the place could be run.

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  39. bhb answered very well for me! Further points: beyond gliding distance from shore (4 or 5 miles, say) I would want to be wearing (not just carrying) life jackets (a bit cumbersome) in summer when the water’s warm, and full survival suits (very cumbersome) at other times. Flying from the S I would normally stay within 2 miles of the coast. To refuel at Campbeltown means either crossing 25 miles of water, or crossing via the N of Arran, adding around 50 or 60 miles to the journey.

    Campbeltown is also a bit far south. After Oban, the next avgas (aviation petrol) is Inverness. Plockton has only Jet A1 (i.e. jet fuel).

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  40. Clearly it needs experience at the helm, but in light of the fence (‘keegangate’) he obviously wouldnt command the respect of all users, so clearly, he has to be out of any future plans.
    Or explain to everyones satisfaction why the fence went up, when he knew it would sabotage many of the operations.

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  41. phill….people have been asking this for over 18 months now and still no answers, the fence is still there the council have wasted thousands of tax payers money with a court case to get the fence taken down, keegan himself has re-fused point blank to take it down and re-fused all attempts of settling the dispute, its on council land that is leased to him by the council.. the majority of sensible people couldnt give a dam who,s land it is and why erect the fence there in the 1st place , only keegan knows why and has held the council to ransom ever since.. the sooner both partys are taken away from the airport the better… keegan has his supporters as everyone knows and some are in it for there own gain as most people know.. its time to move on and get this airport up and running the way its meant to be, it can only get better and lets face it with the present problems it cant get any worse.

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  42. For concerned 1: You’re quite right to remind everyone of the position the staff are in and the fact that they have never had the support they needed to make the airport hum.

    We brought our film unit and reporters there to cover the first emergency simulation exercise they conducted – an all day affair with all the emergency services involved and we;ve been to press launches held in the terminal – as with the Gaelic Rings initiative.

    The staff there were always interested in their jobs, interested in and committed to the airport.

    If it – and the air services operating from it – had been a keynote in a lively marketing campaign for Argyll… if the airport had had an accessible phone number… its own website…

    Regardless of the debate over the commonsense of going for the classification that brought a weight of costs and bureaucracy with it, this has always been a facility with legs to grow.

    A decent coffee shop on the premises, an observation deck… it’s on the main road north, the views would be terrific (and who doesn’t love to watch planes)… some great visuals and information displays on the islands and routes… and a couple of good screens running promotional videos of the islands with first class photography and music…

    This place has never been marketed, never been developed. You can never just make something available and then sit back and wait for it to work. You have to make it work.

    Local authorities are simply never the right bodies to run anything commercial, It’s not in their DNA – and that’s not a criticism. It’s horses for courses and Oban Airport has never had the right breed of high-steppers to tow it to where it needs to and can go.

    And staff would get a thrill out of being onboard for that sort of ride. But it’s not a 9-5 Monday to Friday operation, It needs the elasticity to flex in response to need and demand.

    Whatever it does and however it works it has to be a place where everyone is a welcome friend. It needs to be fun.

    None of this is in the public sector handbook and at least shortage of funds has brought the council to the departure lounge.

    But who will we get on the flight deck?

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  43. newsroom… those comments you make about a coffee shop, obs deck, and the marketing of the place the staff have put these ideas across already and fallen on deaf ears, they even put together info about the airport and printed them and gave them too the local tourist information and camp and caravan sites, the staff there have a wealth of knowledge about the aviation industry and have loads of ideas that can work if only people would actually take some time out and go and speak to them, as far as im aware they even put together a website which i believe is still up and running and the airport does have its own phone number, its a shame that some people are so blinkered and only hear what they want to hear.I hope some local business men/woman would pay a visit to the airport and talk to the staff and just see what ideas they have.

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    • For concerned 1: We know that this is the sort of thing staff have wanted to do and we have long sympathised with the frustration they’ve had of not being listened to.

      We feel that the staff should be a part of whatever comes next, not only contributing creatively and promotionally to the operation but perhaps as shareholders, which would mean that they could not be ignored again.

      Try Googling Oban Airport and see what you get. And try Campbeltown Airport. See the difference? We hold no great brief for HIAL, but Oban Airport needs a great website that comes top of the list when you Google it.

      There is a simple line for a phone number in the Business phone book (and it was a long time before that happened) – but no display space.

      This is not the fault of staff . It’s a management and marketing issue – but it’s all about as basic as it gets and it’s not happened.

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  44. concerned 1;
    thanks for the background, on that fence. appears keegan s##t in his own nest!
    this is a big issue needing addressed pronto.

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  45. phill.. this should have been addressed 18 months ago when it happened and its still there and its a sham, it should never been allowed to happen in the first place.
    newsroom you have some good ideas and hope the staff have the same thoughts as you and im sure they have ;)
    as for the website i guess campbeltown has been put together by HIAL and have the expertise to do that sort of thing, oban can only do what they can with the limited help they get from ABC.

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    • For concerned: Of course you’re right here. The council simpky trapped the airport in the council’s website.

      What visitor, having heard of Oban Airport, would go looking for it in the depths of the council website? This is what we mean when we say that managing and marketing – even handling public information well, are not in local authority DNA.

      This was never any responsibility of the staff’s but they must have been grinding their teeth.

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  46. phill… i doubt if HIAL would touch it due to the problems that are still there i.e the fence and they have had dealings with the said person in the past so no i very much doubt it, some people would also be against it as they are not really into accepting general aviation at there other airports, if oban could keep this traffic coming in and any charters that would visit under HIAL then it could be a good move as they do have the knowledge and expertise to attract air operators to the area, this it there job after all.
    newsroom i know what you mean by the website and yet again a failure by ABC, i would be surprised if the staff have any teeth left after all thats gone on .

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  47. Having read this about Oban airport, I am ashamed at Argyll & Bute Council & the gent that errected the fence. I really feel for the staff who may loose their jobs, Maybe the director of the councils position should be looked at before making any decisions on such a fantastic facility.

    Why why why are’nt the councillors of Oban giving this the backing it deserves? I would imagine it would be a huge regret to the community if this goes down hill with the cost that was involved in the upgrade.

    Making cut-backs on staff??? How can you make an airport develop by doing such a ridiculous thing, All i can say is.. I am so sorry to hear this bad news guys.

    Im not a flyer and am not a local person, but i was up in bonny Oban on my holidays and i popped into Oban airport to use their toilet facilities and i got chatting to some of their fire crew and the welcoming was great. I have since then shown a great interest in the airport.
    All i can say people of Oban.. Get behind your airport.

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  48. There are some very ignorant people posting here who have no idea of the fantastic operation Paul Keegan put on and the absolutely scandalous way he was treated by Argyll and Bute Council who proceeded on personal whims and empire building fantasies on a course that destroyed a viable and hugely successful operation .
    It wasn’t as if they weren’t told.
    Those who knew their stuff made no secret of the stupidly flawed nature of the Council’s proposed developments.
    Grist to the mill of the serially incompetent Argyll and Bute Independent council

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  49. This is the same “saint” Paul Keegan that wont turn out to refuel rescue helicopters at night, and I dare say there are problems with the council
    but “saint” Paul is doing his best to be awkward at every opportunity and block any council initiative

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  50. dave mcewan hill….. no ones debating what he has done to the airfield BEFORE it was developed, its what has happened since it was licensed and the shambles that it has become over the last 18 months and thats due to argyll and bute council and paul keegan.
    Between both partys they have ruined the place with petty rows and a fence that was erected, its a case of if he cant have the airport then know else will and throw the dollys out the pram time and hold the council to ransom… both partys need to go and get new and fresh blood into the place and start again, give the area a airport that can be used by everyone and a full length runway, its not rocket science to see whats been happening to the place over the last 18 months/ 2 years.

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  51. concerned1..
    he has refused to refuel the coastguard helicopter on occassions whilst they have been on a rescue mission in th local area

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  52. A few here seem to know a lot about the inner workings of the airport, mostly to attack a certain individual.

    Newsroom – could you find out from the Coastguard Helicopter service and the Royal Navy what the Truth is? and let us know.
    How do they currently use the facility and what would they like to see in the future?

    It would also be interesting to hear from similar airports around the world how they are staffed. While any local job loss is very unwelcome, there have been reports that Connel is heavily over staffed for necessary, safe, useful operation of the facility. This is not an economic business model to encourage others to take over.

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    • For linnhe: We’re in the process of investigating this situation further and that includes looking at the necessary uses of the facility. We’re also adding further information to the story above that relates to points you make in your last paragraph.

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  53. linnhe… The royal navy do not use the airport for re-fuelling anymore and havent for some time due to the present re-fueler, they now have there own sight based at dunstaffnage and that is fact, and as for the attacks on a certain individual !!!! its not just that individual its argyll and bute council aswell, both partys are to blame for this fiasco but people need to know how and why this has happened.Regarding the staffing levels at the airport i think you find its not over staffed at all and probly the opposite, pop down and take a look around and see for yourself.

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  54. I think its a good point that Paul keegan done a good job at one time but has been guilty of not wanting the airport to succeed at any cost, typified by the ‘Keegangate’ fence.
    I would imagine the council having been bitten once will move in the direction of farming it out to a competent entity, which due to the afforementioned nonsense from Mr keegan will not include him in any capacity.
    He has put himself out of the loop.

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  55. The point is, Oban was NEVER going to be what the council wanted because of those hills. The airfield was used much more and provided greater benefit to the area when it was looked after by Paul. It even provided more income for the council when Paul ran it than when the council ran it…. even ignoring the millions that were spent.

    Every pilot (who lets face it know more about aviation than many posting here) is now praying and hoping thet the powers that be have the sense to let Paul have free run of the place so that we can get back to the good old days of lots of planes visiting and their pilots and passengers spending money in the local economy.

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  56. Was the fence not originally erected to prevent the dumping of rubbish/unwanted material on the land leased to the aero club/P Keegan? I have visited the airfield as far back as the 1970′s in both gliding and power flying capacities. While it is an excellent site for GA activities it was obvious from the very beginning that it would/could be a viable facility for this type of aviation. By no stretch of imagination could it ever have been considered viable as a licensed Commercial airport. The Council took advice from flawed advisers (witness comments in early posts on the subject) and took on an ego trip that could not be justified by anyone with even a hint of aviation knowledge. I would sincerely suggest that the only way that the airfield will continue to exist is as an unlicensed facility as the cost of maintaining the necessary fire and other cover for a licensed airfied will never be realised without a major expansion in commercial traffic.

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  57. Should have added that closing the secondary runway was also a major error. On many days the wind is across the main runway and the extra 20 – 30 degrees difference in heading that the secondary runway provided made all the difference as to whether or not light aircraft could safely land and take off within their crosswind limits.

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  58. In reply to some of the above, and mainly Oxford Flyer.

    Mr Keegan has tried at every stage to ruin the council’s chances at making this airport work. From the start he has tried everything to make this venture fail. I can understand his frustration when the council made plans to develope this airport, and not involve him, and YES they have made i think alot of mistakes but they have given it a good go, and with support form everyone it could and would be a great place like it was before. With the changes at the airport there has been rule changes, Its licensed so there has to be these changes. So i don’t think need to be there and some i do think need to be there. But Oxford Flyer why would anyone give Mr Keegan a free run at the place ever again. He is so against the place and he makes up his mind who is welcome here, he picks and chooses and if a visiting pilot does not buy fuel they you are not welcome. He has put up a fence, Sorry he says it was the CLUB (what a joke) OVERNIGHT, why OVERNIGHT why hide it if it was the club, i bet the members of the club knew nothing about this fence. This fence has stopped larger aircraft coming in and that has lowered the numbers. He is a very selfish man and will do anything to ruin the council’s chances to make a good go of this.

    All i can say is Mr Keegan should not be allowed to ruin a Airports chances of success and so far he is trying his best. The council are not saints they have not in my mind done the best to combat all this, The council have not promoted this Airport to its Max, There should be a small coffee place to enjoy a cuppa and watch the planes :) Bigger planes if the Fence came down. Even free Tea and Coffee for visiting pilots. Alot can be said on both parties here, the Council and Mr (AGAINST THE COUNCIL) Keegan. Both should be wanting it to make a huge success(maybe not profit) but bring in the planes large and small.

    Get rid of the fence, bring in larger planes, Promote the Airport and relax some rules so that GA traffic find it a gr8 friendly place to be.

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  59. A lot of strange stuff here.
    If you poke somebody in the eye with a sharp stick and that person fights back he is responsible for the trouble?
    Bullshit.

    The fact is that under previous management Oban Airport was winning prizes and then the council stepped in with grandiose plans which every knowledgeable person told them couldn’t work and forced the previously successful management against the wall.
    Not for nothing is Oban Airport now routinely referred to as “McAskill’s Folly”
    How many schools could have been funded by the millions the council have spent and lost on this incompetence?

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  60. To Dave MacEwan Hill;
    Keegan cant have any role in Oban airport for obvious reasons, but will im sure find work somewhere as he is so well thought of in many places for his previous good work.
    He let his frustrations ovetake common sense to quite a degree. He probably feels hes won, but will i suspect, know himself that hes out on his a##e.
    He has contributed to the financial loss of the venture, and will not be allowed on board ever.

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  61. regarding the above… do not bring the schools into this, the schools are funded seperatly to the airport and the whole 15% council cutbacks are again seperate from oban airport, this is the council trying to get rid of the mess that themselves and paul keegan have created so please dont try to justify it by bringing the schools into this and indeed any other council cutback… and also everyone knows the airport will never be a huge attraction for air operators but the amount of traffic that was coming in BEFORE the fence went up was good and the likes of kingairs where coming in… none of this is now possible due to the fence and the sham that both parts have created.. get rid of BOTH partys and let someone else take over, have a clean slate and build from there but neither party should be included in the future operations whatever they may be.

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  62. Don’t know what bigger planes Mac is referring to but the aircraft that can use Oban are limited by 1 – the runway length and 2 Ben Lora to the North. The aircraft currently able to access the airfield are already at the limit of what it can accomodate. As regards pilots who don’t purchase fuel not being made welcome I have to wonder what grudge this respondee might have against P Keegan. In the times that I visited I have never seen anyone made unwelcome because of not requiring fuel but perhaps Mac has some insight that I am missing. The fence is not stopping the larger aircraft coming in, it is the pedantic following of unnecessary rules by the personnel on the airfield that is stopping them.

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  63. The main problem with Oban is the various factions either who were involved previously or are currently involved. All want their own agenda and are not prepared to sit down and discuss matters amicably to resolve the situation. This was the case before ABC stepped in, during the building process and, from what is said on the various forums on the subject, still appears to be the case.

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  64. in reply to John.

    January 1st, 2011 at 10:22 pm
    Was the fence not originally erected to prevent the dumping of rubbish/unwanted material on the land leased to the aero club/P Keegan?

    Can i ask if you still hung over from your new year celebrations????
    A fence that was erected over the course of 2 nights. Note!!!! NO work carried out during daylight hours (normal working hours i think daytime:):) ) This fence should not be there and it was put up to stop the running of the airport for larger aircraft. Nothing to do with rubbish and nothing legit about it either i think. Who would do this if they had a passion for avation and GA traffic. If an aircraft did come off the runway and into this fence i’m sure there would be a fatality. And then who would be to blame, the council, I think not. Its a joke how anyone can argue that Mr Keegan is the man for the job. He seems to be getting more and more against avation and for what his own gains. Many people work at this airport and want it to be a success. 1 man who is upset he is not running the airport needs to get a grip and see that he no longer is king of this castle. He seems to be trying hard to make it a failure, for what???? and why???? Change has happened and if it to be success it would of been much better if he helped to make it better rather than try and ruin it all for his own gains. Not that that will ever happen as i think he is only wanting it for himself. His airport and he can then do what he likes.

    2 things have to change. A new managment team who will make the place what it should be, A GA HUB as it was, and as it should be. Also the PSO to the islands is a great link for this area and with that the airport needs a licence, which needs staff. And sorry to say but a new contractor to supply fuel, who does just that, supply fuel to who ever needs it and does not get upset if they don’t.

    It can only be a good thing to get larger aircraft using the airport and able to arrange fuel if they need it. Imagine not supplying the coastguard, peoples lifes are on the line and the airport is a much safer enviroment to land at than Dunstaffnage.

    Concerened 1 is correct: a clean slate. 2 main changes and the airport WILL be back at its best. And i dont think it was ever ment to make money anyone with sense would know that given the area.

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  65. For John: Nail on head.

    The only thing that matters is Argyll, Oban and the isles ending up with an airport offering services people cannot wait to enjoy.

    If we provide a first class service and a lot of pleasure, in a place as beautiful as Argyll, it’s an unbeatable recipe.

    That means everyone getting behind the need to find the right answer, leaving the history and the grudges outside, listening, contributing, respecting and doing whatever it takes to make the best mix work.

    It means effort and attitude, with every single person concerned putting in extra to make the experience unforgettable and a must to repeat.

    Anyone at any level who can’t or won’t do that should be out. This may be an airport but it’s no place for passengers.

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  66. As in most other forums on this subject I note that it now descending into personal attacks – thanks very much Mac – nuff said; I will sign off then. As someone with some 50 years in aviation I obviously know nothing about it.

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  67. For John (again) and Mac: John – don’t go. This subject needs all of the experienced insights it can get.

    Everyone needs to leave behind positive and negative previous affiliations if Argyll is to get a valued, serviceable and cost effective operation out of this facility.

    What are the issues? what are the physical and technical problems? What are needs? What is the wish list? What will it take?

    We’re already learning a lot about the way private flyers think, plan and operate and about what they need – fuel, out of working hours access and very short distances over water.

    What about the commercial side of things? We’re looking into this but there’ll be people out there with knowledge and experience and ideas already to hand.

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  68. Commercial services through Oban, regardless of who operates them, will always be badly affected by the presence of the hill to the North and lack of instrument approaches. This basically limits any commercial services to VMC only and basically day time operations. I am sure that you are aware of the weather and daylight restrictions affecting Oban during the Winter Months. Charter operation would probably present the best option as this does not necessarily require an airfield licensed to full commercial standards. Loganair and others attempted scheduled services back in the 60 – 70′s or possibly earlier but these never really took off (pardon the pun). I would suggest that the airfield is probably at it’s limit with 8 – 10 seat aircraft be they jet or prop driven but someone with a lot more experience in operating these aircraft would be better placed to comment. No problem with helicopters however.

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  69. No personal attacks on my behalf.

    i am just getting a point across that a certain person is not the best person for the job. This place needs a new start and the 2 changes are needed for that.

    I’d love to leave behind the past and start again. That is what is needed at Oban. But the council need a kick up the a**e and yes a new tender to run the airport would be a great new start. And contractors who will work with who ever is running the palce to make it much much better, not work against it. So it is a problem the council and a contractor has made happen and both have made it worse.

    Fence down :) GA back in force :) Larger Chartered Aircraft back :) Contractors doing what they contracted to do :)

    Great place for GA and PSO. Lets hope Argyll and Bute can make a good go of this great little facility :)

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  70. I was asking a question re the fence – not suggesting that either party was in the right or wrong.
    However, I do agree that a new start is required beginning with deciding exactly what is practical with the airfield as it is. As I said above commercial operations place a higher requirement on the airfield than charter would necessarily do. The first decison therefore has to be to consider what aeronautical services are viable regardless of whether subsidised or otherwise (this because no sensible operator is going to take on a loss leading service in the current financial environment).That would then set the level at which the airfield required to be licensed or not. Based on that then one could move on to leasing or subcontracting the running of the airfield to whoever might be best qualified to do so. Flying training does not require a licensed airfield although I would think that would constitute a fairly minor part of the operation required to make the airfield a going concern. Tourism, charter flights and GA touring I would suggest are the main targets.

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  71. at last people are finally agreeing on some things…the history of this place needs to be just that, new management and new blood, in-put from GA,the local bussinesses,the people who actually work there, and people from aviation management all need to get round the table and get this place running the way it was and before the fence went up… its agreed that both partys are to blame hence neither should be aloud to operate from the airport, it needs to move on and with the right people.

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  72. If Oban airport is to have a future it will have to be run in a very different manner. Like it or not PK has a contract from the council (which they tried to rescind but were stopped by the courts!).

    That contract is realy the only form of income for the airport. That was largely why PK ran the place as well as he did! It is likely that run as a sensibe operation that may generate perhaps £200k per year – the ‘profit’ on that would probably pay for a single ‘refuelling person’. Add in the landing fees and the airport can just about support a staff of 2.

    That is a fundamentally different sort of operation to the present one.

    Commercial services? Well in over 15 years no one has managed to run them. Small aircraft of less than 10 passenger seats are pretty expensive. I recently tried to arrange a charter for some friends – a party of 6 going to Cornwall. The best price I could manage was just on £700 per seat… And that is why Oban will always struggle for any commercial services. Local people are prety unlikely to use anything with those sort of costs and no one is going to commit to running an aircraft like that into Oban if the flight cannot be made because the cloud cover is too low or the visibility too low or the daylight runs out.

    The best model to look at are the inter island services in and around Orkney – but those flights are heavily subsidised. I doubt that the council or any other public body could afford to do that now.

    I hope the PSO flights will continue – that may be a potential springboard for some commercial activity, it could mean that adhoc charters to Oban could be priced at more sensible levels.

    I understand the frustration regarding the fence – but realistically it only had a symbolic effect – pointing out to the council that they had made earlier commitments which they made but later found inconvenient.

    Realistically the only person with the knowledge and background to run the ‘airport’ in the short term is PK. I’m sure the council will refuse the give him that oppertunity due to the warfare between him and them. So where is the future? Like many private flyers I fear for it.

    The airport is an asset to the area, people simply have to understand that the council vision was completely and utterly wrong. Harking to any aspect of that vision is still wrong. There have been no commercial services into Oban before the PSO. The PSO flights never needed the huge expenditure and could continue if the subsidy does. Beyond that?

    Linking up with the Hedridean Princess? Maybe but unlikely, who wants to miss half their cruise because the cloud is too low?

    Big events? Maybe – but they will have to be ‘big money’ spectacles to justify the likely cost. I find it difficult to see any commercial future unless there are some developments in the area which would make flying the obvious choice – but the lack of instrument landing facilities will always be a major handicap – essentially meaning that no flight can be expected to arrive at Oban and whilst that might be acceptable for flights like the seaplanes as a real transport link it is the kiss of death.

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  73. I’ve just come back to this conversation. The fence is not an issue. Runways have a clear area around them, but it’s not unusual for those to be infringed. For reasons known only to them the operators of Oban airport have chosen to shorten the runway so as to have an uninfringed clear area and then enforce the displaced runway threshold with rigour, threatening pilots with formal reporting procedures if they land short of it apparently.

    They could have simply issued a notice in the official AIP entry that the area was infringed by the fence, giving its location and dimensions and let aircraft operators make their own decision as to whether that was acceptable. In most cases I believe it would have been.

    Oban’s problems have been created by an airport operator who has taken the rules for large airports, gold plated them and implemented them at a small airport. They’ve compounded the felony by trying to bully someone who won’t be bullied and is tough minded enough to fight back.

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  74. Archerpilot, without knowing the personalities or events involved, I’m making no judgement here. However one person’s “someone who won’t be bullied and is tough minded enough to fight back” tends to be another’s bl**dy minded S O B. It’s only perspective.

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  75. Exactly Simon, and any personnel involved in the operation of Oban airport in the future will need the confidence of ALL.
    Whatever has been said about PK, he will never be in a position to have that or the necessary respect.

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  76. Archerpilot. The fence does seem to be an issue, An issue of safety of all pilots who intend to use Oban. It is a solid fence with quite big stobbs every 3rd or so post, it is clearly too close to the runway and there for i think out of safety for the users the runway was reduced. Perhaps an entry to tell pilots there is a fence would of been good enough and the runway length kept but this is not the case, and there is a reduced runway in operation and now the larger aircraft can not come in, so the council and Mr K are to blame for the fence. But a fence erected in the hours of darkness on LEASED land should of been taken down by the council (who own the land and lease it out) straight away, The council failed to do that so its now a thorn in the side of Oban Airport.

    To Pete M, PK to run the airport in the short term, I think that is a joke he has made it quite clear he is only out to fill his own pockets and become king of his castle again(which i dont think it was ever HIS castle). The council could not let him after all that has happened any where near running Oban, After all that has been spent on the 3 airports new management and new contractors, Not the council or Mr K.

    Oban should be and will be a friendly place for all to visit. Not for the choosen bunch but all who want to use the fantastic (HOPEFULLY) FULL RUNWAY. Relax some rules :) Make it inviting for all :) Teas and Coffees for all visiting pilots (Not a Machine) :) Maybe even snacks for sale :)
    Keep the PSO :) Possible longer opening Hrs in the summer :)

    There is a way to make it Great so lets hope it does not fall into the wrong hands

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  77. I visited Oban, Mull and the outer Hebrides a few years back and was impressed that the Council were improving air access to Oban and the Islands. For the capital outlay, I think they got a good deal. Similarly, who would criticise the council for aspiring to provide a facility to support a scheduled air service for the benefit of local school children, tourists and anyone needing medical treatment?

    If the council are guilty of anything, they seem only to have been a bit naive about the commercial realities, licencing requirements and revenue costs required to provide a facility which can serve their laudable aspirations, without alienating the pre-existing stakeholders and the GA community that knew and loved it in it’s old form. I for one, forgive the council entirely.. only because the thought of BAA emptying bins, planning housing developments or administering burials is a nightmare far worse than Argyl council running an airport. Remember terminal 5?

    No problem is insurmountable, but I’m pretty certain that this one will not be solved using the same level of insight that was used to create it.

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  78. A new look as in the school closure scenario needed badly here. I agree that the Council did try but will admit that they now will want to put it in the hands of experienced operators, and move on.

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  79. Does anyone know if the same people involved in the schools fiasco are also involved in this!! How can someone who leases a piece of land from the council at the airport, dictate how the airport is run. Surely he is holding the council to ransom. The word has it that if a new operator is found then the fence comes down. Maybe if the council had grown a pair a long time ago the airport would not be in the mess its in.

    The council are not blameless either, who has been marketing the place? what ever happend to the post of Airport Development Manager?. It would appear that a lot of the decisions that happen at the airport are taken down at Castle Greyskull, if thats the case why bother having an airport manager. Any work to promote the airport has been done by the staff, contacting magazines, leaflets and customer comment cards. Shame on ABC and the petrol pump attendant for letting your petty squabbles jepordise a fantastic asset, and for possibly putting 13 skilled staff on the dole.

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  80. Paul won a very prestigious UK award for his work at Oban. Most GA pilots who are likely to visit, know him, trust him and support him. If GA were to return to Oben in the numbers it used to manage then a lot of cash would flow in with it. Give Paul back control and the fence will go and GA will return. You will have the jewel in the crown of UK GA.

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  81. “For the capital outlay, I think they got a good deal. Similarly, who would criticise the council for aspiring to provide a facility to support a scheduled air service for the benefit of local school children, tourists and anyone needing medical treatment?”

    No one would criticise the council for their aspirations!

    However -

    1 – The consultants whose report was used as a basis for the project were already known to be flawed in their thinking by the GA community.

    2 – The project was greatly in excess of what was actually required to meet the aspirations as quoted above (scheduled services apart, although the viability of those was questionable from the start).

    3 – The airport was only reasonably viable if it included the fuel contract which ABC had previously granted to PK on a long term basis.

    Taking these into consideration it is difficult not to find fault with the council for not seeking further knowledgable aviation advice prior to commencing the whole project.

    What is now required is a fresh start with the airfield being licensed (if actually necessary) at a level appropriate for the services envisaged. As has been said previously it is severely limited by both terrain and lack of instrument approaches so it will be interesting to see what comes of ABC ‘s deliberations. It is to be hoped that they seek knowledgable advice from true Aviation professionals prior to taking any decisions and/or implementing change.

    It is time for the “I’m not letting you play with my toy” attitude to be replaced with one of co-operation between the various parties concerned with both the present operation and any envisaged future operations. Those for ABC, P. Keegan, et al, and those against need to seek the best way forward and put the past to rest.

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  82. Unbelievable! Some people have just got no idea. “Give Paul back control and the fence will go and GA will return.” What a disgusting statement. Sounds like blackmail!!! Certainly all very childish. The council have always ran the airfield. Why cant the airport work as a licensed field? Is it because some GA pilots don’t want to talk to someone who knows the rules? The rules are not set by the airport. The CAA audit on a regular basis. Enough said. Surely it is safer for everyone, including GA, to have a flight information service and fire crew available!! Larger aircraft means more money and possibly business for the area. This is all being hampered by a stubborn man with a huge grudge against a spineless council. Everyone should be backing the airport. Get more traffic in with a regular service, get promoting the place and make it work for the community and the economy of Argyll.

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  83. The consultation, whose public meeting I attended, also completely failed to even consider the possibility, at any time of development or future use, of any Freight Traffic.

    It is not mentioned anywhere in their document, their consultant checked.

    In other parts of the world flights like these are carried out with craft whose seats are removable therefore allowing freight to be taken to fill up the space if not full of passengers.

    The opportunity for freight would have opened up potential for the businesses in the islands to get light weight goods, or perishables, over to the mainland for faster onward distribution.

    The facilities to handle freight at Oban would have opened up the potential for mainland businesses to look at fast distribution to other parts of the country.

    The fact that this was not even considered just shows the incompetancy of all involved in the process. Also indicates the low regard they have for our rural economy.

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  84. linnhe… regarding freight at the airport, this had already been put forward by members of staff at the airport and some time ago, there is enough land around the area for this to be developed, it will never be large aircraft or freight but would be enough for the islands and indeed oban its self, and yet again ABC failed to listen and take advantage of this oppurtunity,the airport does have a future in the area if only ABC had listened, now there trying to off load the problem they have created and the problem also shared with pk.

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  85. Well said Big Mac, lets get the fence down, lets get past play ground squabbles and get the place moving again. Lets make sure that it is to the benefit of the people of Argyll and not just a select few.

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  86. “Surely it is safer for everyone, including GA, to have a flight information service and fire crew available!! Larger aircraft means more money and possibly business for the area.”

    As aviation professional as well as a light aircraft owner I can answer that;

    Firstly, the rules on licensing have just been revised in the UK. Part of the reason was that not one GA life had been saved by an airfield fire crew since the war! It is quite normal for GA to operate without flight information using a system called safety com. Unnecessary services cost money, which is why you have a loss making airfield.

    Secondly, larger aircraft are a great idea. To make that work you need to be able to fly what is called IFR (Instrument flight rules). To do that at Oban you need to move the mountain and install instrument landing systems. Without that you are at the mercy of the weather, flying VFR (Visual flight rules). Oban can take bigger aircraft occasionally, but running a service with bigger aircraft will not work as a sole commercial approach. Oban was very busy in its hayday. It can undoubtedly get back there and bring in a lot of cash for local hotel owners etc. The airfield can get back to profit, but it must stop pretending it is something it can never be.

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  87. “Why cant the airport work as a licensed field? Is it because some GA pilots don’t want to talk to someone who knows the rules? The rules are not set by the airport.”

    Perhaps it is because the airfield is currently licensed to a commercial standard and the rules that have been set are more akin to those for Heathroaw, Gatwick, etc. and not a rural airport.
    Some of the points raised re freight as well as passengers could still be accomodated by a lower level of licensing which would save some of the current expenditure. It is not that GA pilots do not want to comply with rules – more that they see the over complex system at Oban as somewhat over the top for the size of airfield.
    There appears to be some misunderstanding of exactly what rules should be applied and the rigor with which some have been applied goes beyond common sense (more like jobsworths enforcing rules from superiors with little knowledge of what should be enforced). Contentious statement maybe, but that is why GA pilots have been driven away from Oban.

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  88. Im a GA pilot and regular visitor to Oban, Coll and Colonsay.

    The reality is that there is little potential to expand the commercial scope of Oban to something akin to Dundee or other regional airports, without significant subsidy.

    The only way that Oban would have half a chance to be able to wash its face is if the operation of the airfield and the supply of fuel were combined into a single operation.

    Paul Keegan may not be everyones cup of tea however he does have a contract to supply fuel and could easily handle GA operations on a similar basis to that which operated before the establishment of Oban Intergalactic Spaceport.

    The level of operation could always be stepped up to support the Coll & Colonsay flights on a part time basis, in the same way as Coll and Colonsay work. Although the services from Kirkwall to the other Orkney Islands demonstrate that isnt necessarily a requirement.

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  89. Regardless of what other changes may be made I would seriously suggest that the current PPR requirement should be revoked. I cannot understand why it should be necessary to obtain prior permission some 24 hours prior to arrival. Surely the radio operators/FISOs are not so busy that they are unable to handle GA traffic on a RT call/request. The weather is fickle in Scotland and often you can really only plan a flight on the day in question. The current PPR set up is utterly useless in this respect and, I am sure, puts many people off visiting.

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  90. john… there is no 24 hours notice PPR at oban airport, you can phone and PPR on the day infact you can PPR right up to the point that you leave your airfield, as long as you give the heads up to the airport and as you say the FISO,s are not that busy !!!!!!! thats right sometimes they are,nt but then at times they are and a heads up would be good just to let them know who is arriving and at what times.. always makes a FISO,s job easier :)

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  91. Got to start somewhere! :-)

    If PPR requirement can be removed that would be very positive. If it cannot communicate why it is required – a really GOOD reason please.

    Oban Operating Hours:Winter: 0820-1630 or sunset if earlier. Summer: 0720-1615

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE revise the operating hours to include summer evenings! Having to cut short or cancel a visit to the area because of the earliest closing time of a licenced airport I’m aware of is again a disincentive which needs to be removed or communicated. (If the reason is it is too expensive to man the airfield after 1630, well QED – costs out of hand for the need). Other licenced airfield allow light aircraft movements out of their operating hours, but I understand Oban doesn’t (for some reason) – and that has been strictly enforced. 16:31, we’re closed, your going nowhere mate, report you if you leave. Can’t expect people to recommend a visit to Oban if thats the attitude people will experience.

    Its not hard, simple things to fix, but make a BIG BIG difference.

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  92. We the local pilots fly after hours without any problem at all. I don’t see why the rules can’t be relaxed to allow for out-of-hours flying for all. What is required is a manager that has a credible background in running a small GA aerodrome that is willing to listen to the users and promote the place. The firs implementation should be the re-opening of 03/21. Closing that was a monumental mistake and only serves as a reminder of the incompetence and lack of foresight and planning from the inception of this development. Now we have a serviceable runway (caveats attached) which is used as proportionally the biggest aircraft parking stand in the UK.

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  93. Re Out of Hours opening. ABC did introduce an out our hours permit system last year. This was based pretty much word for word on the HIAL system with the exception of the charging regime.

    The annual HIAL charge is in the region of £30 per application. An application could include as many aircraft as you own and any pilot flying that aircraft. This allows you to land out of hours at most HIAL operated airports.

    The A&BC annual charge was circa £30 per pilot per airfield (Oban, Coll and Colonsay). Given that landing at Coll and Colonsay is forbidden during opening hours, a permit is mandatory for GA wishing to visit the islands.

    Landing fees still apply on stop of the out of hours permit. Therefore for someone visiting the area on a one off annual trip they would have been looking at nearly £50 to land at Coll and another £50 for Colonsay.

    As a result of some lobbying the charges were later relaxed to circa £30 to cover all 3 airfields, however none of this has appears to have been publicised by A&BC.

    Coll and Colonsay are beautiful islands and you get a great welcome. I like to think that I bring some welcome business when I visit. However A&BC seem unable to recognise this potential.

    Im with Speedbird Boomerand in that the sooner Oban is back in the hands of someone who understands the whole picture, and the fact that GA can be huge value to the area, the better.

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  94. I think now the situation with the Argyll and Bute council is at a very serious stage. Reports suggest that they have sufficient funding to cover them through to August. Independent auditors have been called in to assess the financial health of the council and work on a budget strategy. There was even a suggestion that they would sell the silverware they have on display at Kilmory house to raise some much needed capital.

    Right now Oban Airport is an expensive commodity that the council can ill afford to run. I can’t see how with this financial conundrum hanging over their head they can continue to run Oban Airport in such a splatter cash fashion.

    It is unfortunate that the likely outcome is that some of the firefighters employed there will ultimately be made redundant. I have never had an axe to grind with these guys they are doing a job under not ideal conditions and are trying to make it work.

    I personally feel Oban Airport will take years to recover and be again a great place to fly. All the solutions on the table just now are contentious to different users of the site. If the current standing tenants would get on with each other they would stand a better chance of being listened to and things could be good at Oban. As it stands all three clubs don’t talk there is rules for this club and rules for that club. We are so fragmented that if it comes to tenants against the council we have no chance.

    IMHO Oban airport will cease to provide PSO. It should then become unlicensed removing a lot of pointless bureaucracy. Someone and I really don’t care who as long as he is from grass roots aviation needs to be instated as caretaker/manager and allow this place to develop for what it is good for. Commercial aviation will never work at Oban. We neither have the demand or demographics to support it and anyone thinking otherwise is deluded beyond help. It has and always be a great place for GA and unfortunately that is its ceiling. The money has been spent we can’t change a bloody thing, fruitless arguments wont bring it back and it is time to start a fresh chapter.

    Money can still be made for the local economy but the longer this morass continues the harder it will be to clamber out the hole.

    I intend to start a microlight flying school in March/April of this year and I hope this can generate some much needed revenue for our local economy. It was always my dream to do such a thing and I hope by then we are back on an even keel and we can start utilising Oban Airport for what it is good for………… FLYING not warfare.

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  95. All go at Oban again, I hope the good people of ARGYLL know what the couoncil are up to with their hard earned cash. The fence problem is still on going, even tho rumour has it that Mr Keegan has already been paid £3000 to take the fence down, Now he himself states that he is looking for £18000 in legal fees from the council. Then what the fence will come down???????? I dont think so.

    He has managed to hold the council to ransom with this fence and still getting away with it. What ever has happened at the airport, with the council and Mr Keegan, every on has to remember, Larger aircraft using Oban, means more people coming in and spending money in Oban and its surrounding area. Larger aircraft is a good thing for Oban so lets all get together and stamp out this pathetic feud and hoprfully the council keep the CAT 2 status, Re-instate the full runway. Bring back the business and lets try and get people spending money in Oban again.

    The link below is to an artical about the fence and its a joke that the council are sitting back and letting this happen, £18000 who is going to sign that over, i hope he/she gets everthing in writing before hand to make sure this does not happen again.

    http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland/Fence-that-has-grounded-400.6720738.jp?articlepage=2

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  96. I visited Oban airport in October and even took a flight with my mate on Hebridean Air to visit Colonsay. The staff at Oban airport were superb and very friendly with so much enthusiasm. I feel sorry for them if their jobs are at stake because of the complex politics involved. I live down South , but always tell people about how beautiful that airport is with the surrounding scenery. It’s a real shame if that airport were to close. I really think it’s a gem that would be gone forever if it’s turned into anything but an aviation hub for tourists to visit and see the beauty of Scotland. Please don’t close that place !

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  97. Pingback: Better get to Oban soon.... - PPRuNe Forums

  98. What can it be run for? can the operation be streamlined? I`m confident the answer is yes but it would need a private company to do this. Local authorities have no understanding of small business.
    I manage a privately owned Airport with a FISO service and CAT2/3 RFFS down South we have 25000 movements a year with microlights to 747`s using the Airport, we do this with 15 full time staff and 5 part-time.

    Work out the real cost and then decide if its worth it? Ive flown in a couple of times and it is worth saving. The full potential has to be realised so the fuel guy must be made to see sense.

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  99. I understand it is still going through legal process so we are not hearing much from councillors as Cllr Neil MacKay stated on Oban fm last week. Council v Keegan, or keegan v Council, or both.

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  100. For an airport to be effective it needs a landing radio aid so that the field can be found in all weathers. The hillsides of Scotland are littered with the wrecks of aircraft attempting to fly visually and failing. There is only one way to operate a safe and reliable service and that is with aircraft that can fly in all weathers into airports that have proper instrument landing aids. This assumes the terrain in the vicinity of the field is suitable for a safe approach pattern to be flown, which in the case of Oban may not be possible.
    The basis of Civil Air Transport is flight under Instrument Flight Rules to Instrument equipped airfields. In the case of Scotland with poor weather and high ground this is even more so. Airfields that are not equipped as above are day only good weather fields and will only ever attract light aircraft and enthusiasts, and in Scotland there are simply not enough to sustain a commercial operation.
    I have always thought the Oban area the gateway to the West Highlands, could attract plenty of fly in visitors but unless the airport can meet the requirements of the above it has no chance of attracting commercial airlines.

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