About forty years ago when my elder brother Jim was earning a living as a diver on civil engineering projects on the west coast of Scotland he would tell me about his escapades when towing a barge loaded with pipe out to the Isle of Barra at the most southerly end of the Outer Hebrides and laying it there.
It has taken me a long time to follow in his footsteps – reason being I’ve been kinda busy myself till now but I finally made it out there last year. I had the dubious comfort of a Calmac ferry and even that turned many of the passengers green so I can imagine there would be a touch of the Parahandy’s in that little tugboat. No doubt it would take much longer than the five and half hours that my ferry did the trip in.
But – he didn’t use the tug on every trip. His company had it’s own aircraft – a little push-me – pull-me twin engined device that may even have confused our resident Armchair Pilot.
It was something like this Cessna here —
It had one prop in the normal place in front and another between the twin tailbooms to the rear – hence my description of it as a ‘push me – pull me’ plane. Jim was the first to tell me about the hairy landings on the beach on Barra. I have no doubt that over the intervening years many thousand of people have flown safely in and out of the island – especially now that there is a daily commercial flight with Fly-Be.
The thought of landing on the beach still tickles me and I made a couple of trips there with my camera during my visit to Barra with the Tenere in August 2012 —
This is the approach road —
and the landing ‘strip’ – but only at low tide —
Here’s our plane coming in now —
It all looks quite civilised and I can vouch for the tea and home made scones served up by the ladies in the airport café —
Time to start engines —
and off she goes —
I didn’t need the horizontal windsock to know that she was taking off into a howling gale! I came out of the tearoom with a mug of coffee and the wind spiralled every drop out of the deep mug before I’d walked ten paces 🙂
Ah – the otters! I spotted them chasing a fish when I called in at the deserted ferry terminal to check out sailing times as I was heading over to South Uist the following day.
Barra Beach Airport