Connecting the community: times subject to tides
The Island of Barra, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides is home to the world’s only beach runway used for scheduled air travel, where flight times are subject to tides. Since 1936 Barra Airport, now operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL), has provided lifeline services to the island community and its estimated 1,300 residents.
The airport plays a crucial role in the lives of Barra residents, enabling regular and reliable access to essential services.
Three beach runways, marked by permanent wooden posts, allow twice daily flights to land in unpredictable weather conditions. Flight schedules to and from the island are dictated by the sea level and at high tide, the airport’s runways are submerged under water.
Barra airport delivers a vital service to over 11,500 passengers a year and opens up opportunities to connect island businesses with the mainland, supporting the local economy. The airport plays a crucial role in the lives of Barra residents, enabling regular and reliable access to essential services, from attending routine medical appointments to receiving deliveries and mail.
Last year, the Scottish Government purchased two 19-seater Twin Otter DHC6-400 aircraft to serve Barra Airport, as they are one of the few types of plane suited to short take-offs and landings on sand.
The iconic Traigh Mhor beach landing attracts a great deal of attention from visitors and film makers around the world and is on the bucket lists of many who visit Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The airport is welcoming more and more passengers every year who come to experience the unique beach landing.
Last month, Barra Airport celebrated 80 years since the first scheduled flights began, with celebrations involving the whole community. To commemorate the milestone, a time capsule was buried by Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf, for opening in 2096 .Every HIAL airport is a regional hub in its area, supporting everything from oil and gas helicopter operations to lighthouse maintenance, as well as passenger transit.
Each of the 11 airports offers the remote communities easy access to destinations across the EU and further afield, by connection through Glasgow Airport and other major transport hubs. Equally, this airport access allows us to welcome both UK and international visitors to the rural Scottish Highlands and Islands.
Barra airport is part of a network of 11 airports across Scotland which are run by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, providing a vital transport link for many remote communities including Tiree, Sumburgh, Islay, Stornoway and Wick John O’Groats.