Orkney’s Aviation Festival got off to a flying start on Friday night, 12th of September, with the ‘Loganair’ talk from a well informed and humorous Robert Foden.
‘How The Fugelsang Came To Orkney’ was billed as an illustrated talk on Faroe Airways, Orkney’s first scheduled international air service. What you get with a Robert Foden talk, however, is far more interactive as he wheeled round the service trolley before departure and offered us sweeties to stop our ears popping.
Loganair would be most envious of the 100% attention paid to the pre-flight announcement Sikkerhed Ombord – no one chattering or looking elsewhere – and then we were ready for take off.
Faroe’s airport, Vágar, was constructed in World War 2 when the islands were occupied by British forces whilst Denmark was under Nazi Germany control. The first plane landed in this strategically important airfield in Autumn 1942.
After the war the airfield was basically abandoned until 1963 when Icelandair commenced flights. This was due to the efforts of 2 Faroese who worked for Icelandair, Hugo Fjørðoy and Lars Larsen.
Our story of Faroe Airways starts in January 1964 when the airline was founded. To last only until its last commercial flight on 9th of October, 1967, this small airline has had a lasting effect on Orkney.
The runway at Vágar was only 1100m in 1964 (today it is 1,799 m) and what made it such a great choice as a location in WW2 set within hills and virtually hidden from view, proved to make landings and takeoffs sometimes problematic.
Faroe Airways had its first flight on 7th of March 1964 using a DC3. Pilots were trained and on the 19th of July 1964 the first scheduled flight to the Faroes took place, however, thick fog required a diversion to Stornoway. There were a few diversions and delays in its short history.
The DC3 coped very well despite the frequent poor weather and was a reliable aircraft. By the time it was wound up Faroe Airways had three DC3s on regular flights.
It was at this time that Kirkwall Airport became an international airport. Bookings could be made at Viking Ways – KIRKWALL 858 – located in Mounthoolie Lane, which also housed the fledgling Orkney Tourist Board. This partnership proved to be a great boost to tourism in Orkney.
Inflight meals using the freshest of local produce were prepared in the upstairs Board Room. An excellent use of Board Rooms.
The company car driven by Manager Charlie Flett was a substantial 1959 Ford Galaxy County Sedan – 2KPK which many people in Orkney can still remember driving about .
Faroe Airways not only carried people but also freight. Items coming into Orkney included Fuglesangs (fabulous feather duvets), formidable Swedish army coats and a new product – yogurt.
Orkney was also able to export products using the airline and live lobsters were crated up and transported from Stromness.
The crew were mostly Danish and are said to have loved working for the airline: ‘Faroe Airways the Friendly Airline’.
Robert Foden had many wonderful amusing stories to relate: of snow drifts causing passengers to be delayed in Faroes for 2 weeks; of a day trip to Jutland where the DC3 landing on the beach became stuck and had to be dug out by passengers; and of transporting Shetland ponies – folding seats back to make way for them.
Faroe Airways was a successful airline. By the end of 1966 it employed 31 people. It was carrying 3,095 passengers and 43,600Kilos of freight. It was this success that attracted the attention of the larger airlines.
Whether pressure was put on to refuse the renewal of its licence – who knows – but that signalled the end of a small but incredibly important airline which launched Kirkwall as an international airport and geared Orkney up to what it is today as a top tourist destination. Robert Foden’s talk revealed the deep impact Faroe Airways had on Orkney, reminding the islands of its heritage and increasing the links with our Northern neighbours.
Robert Foden will give a talk on Saturday 14th of September, 7.30pm at King St Halls on ‘The First Flight Around the World – Via Orphir’
Reporter: Fiona Grahame