History of Barra

Old photo of Barra Airport

Barra Airport (IATA: BRR, ICAO: EGPR) is a short-runway airport situated in the wide shallow bay of Traigh Mhor at the north tip of the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The uniqueness of the airport is that it is the only one in the world where scheduled flights use the beach as a runway.

The beach is set out with three runways, marked by wooden poles at their ends. This allows the Twin Otters that serve the airport to almost land into the wind. At high tide, these runways are under the sea – flight times vary with the tide. Emergency flights occasionally operate at night from the airport, with vehicle lights indicating the centre line of the runway and reflective strips laid on the beach.

Barra Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P792) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instructions as authorised by the licensee (HIAL). The airport is not licensed for night use.

It was in June 1936 at the same time as a small grass airfield opened its first passenger terminal on land next to Gatwick racecourse that a fledgling Scottish airline first introduced calls on demand at Barra in Scotland. Whereas the Sussex airport developed into a great international airport, the Traigh Mhor at Barra has seen less change but continues to bring a valuable community facility. Through the visions of such early pioneers as Fresson, Sword and Nicholson, islands were among the first places in the UK to benefit from air transport and few would deny that Barra would be the poorer without its air link.

The schedule is still governed by the ebb and flow of the tide and the airfield is surely one of the most beautiful locations in the Western isles. Once it might have been considered a luxury to have an air service to Barra but now it is a highly valued asset of which the islanders are highly protective.

The Air Ministry officially licensed Traigh Mhor as an airfield on 7th August 1936 and a daily service was promoted in the Oban Times from early July that year. The single fare from Barra to Glasgow in the winter of 1936 was £4, while a 90 day return was available for £7 17s 6d. By the winter of 1983, the cost of a single fare had risen to £40.

In October 1974, Loganair begins operating Glasgow-Tiree-Barra flights under contract to British Airways and they took over the service in their own right in April 1975. In 1994, the responsibility for Barra airport passed from Loganair to Highland and Islands Airports Limited. And in the summer of that year, a one way fare to Glasgow was £80.00.

Passenger numbers at Barra are now over 10,000 per year with around 1400 aircraft movements. There are also around 60 private light aircraft flights per year.

The draw of landing on the beach at Barra makes it an ideal film location for many production companies and the airport is always being filmed all year round for its unique landing runways.

During 2009, these productions including films for Channel 4, BBC Alba and German television.