This is the shortest flight in the world. On a good day, this takes only 53 seconds

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The pilot pulls the metal handle that starts the engines, about an inch away from his passengers. The two thrusters visible through the windows on either side begin to spin loudly.

The small plane advances a few hundred meters through the gravel. Then, when the pilot controls the altitude, it takes off and begins to turn right, in the opposite direction. At the bottom, the land disappears and is replaced by blue-green water.

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Loganair’s LM711 aircraft is not a very comfortable experience.

A VW caravan-sized cabin can hold eight passengers. Engine noise is non-stop and there is no comfort inside the aircraft. If you have to go to the bathroom, the only way is to cross your legs. Although there is no place to do so.

Still, there is something special about this plane, and if we had not already known about it, we would have discovered it two minutes later. This is because, after a two-minute flight, it is very unlikely that the aircraft will still be in the air.

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It is the world’s shortest scheduled airline, according to Guinness World Records. It covers a journey of just over 2.7 kilometers, in less time than most commercial flights. On a good day, with favorable winds and light luggage, it is 53 seconds.

The voyage, which takes place two to three times a day, connects the island of Westray, at the northern tip of the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, with the still smaller and more remote island of Papa Westray.

In a year, the rescue of approximately 80 people who call the ten-square-meter island home. In the summer, it also brings in tourists who usually stay only during the day and travel by plane looking for the experience of discovering the many pleasures of Papa Vestre.

For visitors, the journey begins on the mainland island of the archipelago, at Kirkwall Airport, the bustling capital of Orkney. From there, it was a quarter-hour flight to Westrace, before breaking the record of travel.

It is at Kirkwall that passengers enter the small cabin of Loganeer’s small British Norman BN-2 Islander.

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Aircraft fans, especially those who can get a front seat in four rows, can see the pilot being active. But no one chooses their place. These are assigned taking into account the weight distribution of the aircraft.

Post hit by wind

Take-off, brief safety instructions provided by the pilot, confusion of switches, displays and radio sounds. Seeing the rotation of the analog altimeter and the inclination of the horizon in the high view is as exciting as the view from the window.

But the view from the window wins. It’s the beginning of August, so the green cover of Orkney’s fertile soil turns into the blue-green waters of the Atlantic, and we fly over the islands of Cairo and Rousseau.

After just 15 minutes in the air, the plane landed at Westray Airport, a ventilated outpost with a small building, a gravel runway and an asphalt driveway. There is a small pause, another passenger enters the final and short section of the journey, and we depart.

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At most airports, this is less than the length of the runway.

No screens are required to view the route map, just look out the window to see where you are going to land before departure.

When the timer is running from the moment the wheels lift off the ground, it appears to have traveled slowly to the shortest plane in the world due to the direction of the wind. The time is about two minutes and 40 seconds.

Landing is another wave of excitement. We land on the main gravel runway of Papa Westray (the other two are grasses and wildflowers, used to land when the wind blows in the wrong direction) and the island comes alive around us.

There is a fire truck operated by two brothers who come from their farm when the plane goes to the island. After the flight departed, the woman working at the control tower put on her post office coat and boarded the van to deliver the mail.

As the noise of the engines subsides, the small airport becomes quieter. The only sound is the sea breeze blowing through the orange wind, with a view of the countryside. Not much to see from here. Due to the lack of trees, the island is almost deserted.

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But it is not. Despite its size, Papa Vestre or Papaya, another name for it, is a truly magical place.

The thrill and adventure trip is worth $ 20 per ticket, but the real attraction is the island. Especially mentor Jonathan Ford.

A resident of the late ’80s, Ford worked as a “poppy ranger” on guided tours, boat trips, organizing events, creating art projects and controlling the island’s wildlife during the long, dark winter and endless days of summer.

Nobles or witchcraft?

We have seven hours before the return flight and have a lot of things to do.

Ford, on the same road as Popeye, tells us about local culture and rumors, using seasonal tranquility for industrial use, as Ford begins when they pass by islanders in bad weather, where they are often exposed.

There are legends of a tomb found under a house and the discovery of a Viking sword. For those who like to spend the night, from the lively nights in the community center which is the island’s community center and the location of the latest hotel. And the sponge industry, at the beginning of the 20th century, forced the local people to work in poor condition to harvest the sponge used in the manufacture of glass and soap.

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We prevent caravans trapped in cement blocks from exploding. Island School (Number of students: four, two in kindergarten and two at the beginning). Small huts and large gardens. Acres of fertile soil surrounded by hand-built walls, including a wall painted with red and white lines marking the end of the path.

The first stop is near Holland Farm, the island’s largest farm, where a path leads to the beach through a cattle field and the archeological site Knob of Hover, believed to be a 5000 year old vertical structure. Europe.

This is an unusual place. In the open, the ruins of two connected rooms are buried in the ground, accessible to anyone to explore, and families lived before the Egyptian pyramids were built.

Best of all is the soft mortar stone in the corner, where the Nap ancient people crushed grains to make flour. It sits on top of it and appears crisp and used as an insect.

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Picking up what was stuck in someone’s hands in this place about five thousand years ago makes your hair fall out.

The next stop of the visit is another historic site dating back to the 8th century. St. Boniface is a refurbished church whose cable architecture suggests Hanseatic, Continental European influences. Ford says there is a tomb in the Lichen Closed Cemetery that seems to be associated with its inhabitants, nobles or perhaps, witchcraft.

The last big au

After lunch, we explore the Wildlife Sanctuary, Papa Westrey Natural Reserve, North Hill, the coastal area of ​​Heather, protected by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Birds of the United Kingdom, where dozens of migratory species visit some of the island.

As we stroll along the beach, an eager gray seal follows us across the ocean, spotting kitty whales, millers and a bullmar calf, from which we turn away. Bird-like bird is capable of expelling odors against predators.

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We also visit a tragic monument honoring the Great Bird, a large bird that was hunted and extinct in the 19th century. It is believed that a bird killed in Papa Westray in 1813 may have been the last living oak in the British Isles.

Even on this little beach walk, the weather is constantly changing. The blue sky is quickly filled with storm clouds. The light in the water changes from gold to silver. According to Ford, this is a view of unpredictable weather, which is one of the main attractions of poppy.

“I like that things are always changing,” he says. “But we have to be here for a while to see him. I like to be here all year to see all the changes, especially the birds that come and go according to the seasons.

I also like this year’s polar opposites. In the summer almost 24 hours of daylight has an incredible effect on our body, when we realize that we can not stop working. Everyone is working harder than usual and we do not feel tired.

Birds including puffins, crepes, loons, lapwings and oyster catchers are another major attraction of Ford (see This is the Instagram page Incredible), as well as the islanders and their kind personality and determination to make this remote island prosperous.

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“That’s why I came,” he says. “It gives us a sense of community. We can not live here for the birds. I mean, we can, but …”

Side landings

As the last flight of the day approaches, at the small airport, it’s time to re-activate the community of farmers and firefighters Bobby and David Randall patrolling the runway in their truck.

Shortly afterwards, senior pilot Colin McAllister, who has 17 years of flying experience from Orkney, heard that the BN-2’s engines were losing power as they made another perfect landing that he and other pilots could make in harsh weather, Ford says. .

“In the summer, they can operate almost as an automated pilot, but in the winter, they earn their jobs,” he says. “I saw the plane landing almost sideways.”

Regardless of the season, according to Ford, aviation is an important connection to the outside world.

The island has a slow ferry service, but an air link to Kirkwall means they have quick access to essential medical and social services, as well as many other things we normally take for granted such as hairdressers, cafes or jobs. For older children, this is the school bus.

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“Without a doubt, it helps me to see that there is a world outside the island,” he says.

Under McAlister’s control, the aircraft is ready for return flight. This time, due to the wind, the journey is fast and we are approaching its maximum speed of 240 km / h.

Once in the air, every moment is pure joy.

We feel excited once again when we see a small plane ride and the pilot handling the controls efficiently. We feel the joy of being able to look ahead and see the horizon coming towards us. Above all, there is the beauty of the land and sea of ​​Orkney.

Then, exactly one minute and eight seconds after the wheels were lifted off the ground, we were back on solid ground.

On the way home, the narrowest plane in the world was a bit short.

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