Aviation Festival for Orkney

Orkney is to have an Aviation Festival. It will follow this year’s Science Festival and run from 10-14 September, highlighting the story of military and civil aviation in the islands.

Orkney has been over the years at the centre of numerous aviation developments, through two world wars and the pioneering air service of Captain E.E. (Ted) Fresson in the 1930s.

A new era in island aviation began in 1967 with the start of Loganair’s inter-island service and the company’s chairman, Scott Grier, will tell the story, with archive footage, on the evening of Friday 12 September.


The Flying High Aviation Festival is an initiative of a local group, Another Orkney Production (AOP). One of its members, Moya McDonald, says that the driving force behind the new initiative is to put on record the remarkable range of achievements in aviation that have taken place in Orkney.

”Scapa Flow had a huge impact and the programme will include a talk about radar in Orkney in World War II,” she says. “It will be given by Ian Brown, curator of the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune.

We will also hear about the Fleet Air Arm in Scapa Flow from the daughter of one of the pilots, Sheena Taylor who comes from Stromness.”

The Festival will open with an Aviation Film Night in Westray on Wednesday 10 September, with extracts from a new DVD of early flying in Orkney introduced by Richard Fresson, the son of the aviation pioneer. A film show in Birsay on Thursday 11 will feature films from the Scottish Screen Archive collection.

The closing event of the festival will be an Aviation Trail Bus Tour on the afternoon of Sunday 14 September, including the unveiling of an aviation interpretation board at the Standing Stones Hotel in Stenness.

The new festival will take place just after this year’s Orkney International Science Festival, whose director, Howie Firth, warmly welcomed the development. “It fits in so well,” he said, “and quite a number of people coming to Orkney for the Science Festival like to stay on a little afterwards, and this could be a great attraction for them.

“We’re going to provide information about the aviation festival on our website www.oisf.org and we will also have an event on the closing day of the Science Festival to tell the story of the first Orkney resident to fly the Pentland Firth.” This was Agnes Shearer from Kirkwall, then a young reporter at The Orcadian, who later became well-know throughout Scotland as the writer Ann Scott-Moncrieff (pictured top of page before her flight with Captain Ted Fresson).

Orkney is the ideal location for an Aviation Festival,” says Moya MacDonald.  “From the flying boats in Scapa Flow on U-boat patrol to today’s pioneering Loganair inter-island services, Orkney has a wonderfully rich and varied aviation history.”

Wednesday 10 September

Archive Aviation Film Night in Westray
with excerpts from the new ‘Flying High’ DVD, introduced by Richard Fresson
Presented by AOP and the Westray Heritage Trust

Thursday 11 September

‘Flying High’ Film Show
Films from the Scottish Screeen Archive collection
Presented by AOP for the Birsay Heritage Trust
Tickets £5 including refreshments
Also available for one night only: tickets for ‘Exploring the Control Tower at HMS Tern’ on Saturday afternoon

Friday 12 September

Paper Plane Competition for Orkney Schools
St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall. Doors open 7 pm

‘The story of Loganair, Scotland’s airline’
Scott Grier, President of Loganair
chaired by Liam McArthur MSP
Ticket £5 includes refreshments by the RNLI

September 13 September

‘Exploring the Control Tower at HMS Tern’
Special afternoon event organised by Birsay heritage Trust
by ticket only – available at ‘Flying High’ Film Night

Two evening talks in St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall:

‘Watching over the Flow: Radar in Orkney during World War 2’
Ian Brown, curator of the Museum of Flight, East Fortune

‘Wavy Navy Airmen’
Sheena Taylor describes her father’s experiences as a Fleet Air Arm pilot with two of his colleagues, defending Scapa Flow in WW2, and the ‘Dragon’ Spitfire visit to Grimsetter in 2010.

Doors open 7 pm

Sunday 14 September

Orkney’s Aviation Trail Bus Tour

highlighting some important events in Scottish aviation history, including early civilian airfields and WW1 and WW2 sites, plus the unveiling of a New Aviation Intrepretation Board at the Standing Stones Hotel

Tickets for all programme events are available from the Herald Printshop, 27 Albert Street Kirkwall or telephone 01856 875039.

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