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70th Anniversary of Commercial Air Mail Services 28 May 04

The 70th anniversary of the first official internal British airmail service will be commemorated on Saturday 29 May at Kirkwall Airport in Orkney.

Captain Ernest Edmund Fresson OBE, the pioneer of flight in the North of Scotland, flew the first airmail service from Inverness to Wick and Kirkwall on 29 May 1933. Earlier in the same month he flew the first scheduled passenger service on the same route and in November of 1934 he operated the first UK air ambulance flight.

Fresson and De Havilland Gypsy Moth at Kirkwall 1932

Captain Fresson's son, Richard Fresson, will be amongst those marking the anniversary at Kirkwall on Saturday. Members of the Fresson Trust will recreate the journey from Inverness to Kirkwall with BenAir, the company that currently operates the mail flights to Orkney. The original pennant presented to Capt Fresson by Royal Air Mail on the occasion of the first flight will also be flown to Orkney and put on display in the airport terminal by Kirkwall Museum.

The pennant will be received at Kirkwall by Councillor Brian Taylor. John Morrison, Royal Mail's islands manager will also make a presentation to Richard Fresson to recognise the anniversary of his father's achievement.

The anniversary is being marked with support from Royal Mail, Orkney Islands Council, Kirkwall Museum, Highlands and Islands Airports Limited and BenAir.

The Fresson Trust was set up to honour Capt Fresson, who pioneered aviation in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland with the formation of Highland Airways Ltd in 1933. Capt Fresson's vision and determination saw the airline establish commercial and mail flights to and from Orkney, Wick, Shetland, Inverness, Aberdeen, Perth and Glasgow. Another first attributed to Capt Fresson was the tarmac runway at Stornoway, which is acknowledged as the first of its kind in Great Britain.

Between 1933 and 1948 he established a network of air services and aerodromes in the region and he continued to fly charters until 1958. Capt Fresson died in Inverness in September 1963.

The Fresson Trust continues to further knowledge of aviation throughout the Highlands and Islands. This includes providing financial assistance to those aspiring to careers in aviation, particularly prospective pilots, engineers and air traffic controllers. The Trust also organises events to commemorate anniversaries of Capt Fresson's significant achievements.

Bob Macleod, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited and secretary of the Fresson Trust, said: "Captain Fresson was a visionary who led the way in connecting the islands with the mainland by establishing air links. His dedication and skilled flying paved the way for aviation as the main mode of transport to the remoter parts of Scotland. HIAL is extremely proud to be involved in the Fresson Trust and we actively support its continuing work in the field of aviation.

"Today commemorates one of the many aviation firsts achieved by Ted Fresson and we are delighted to be displaying some items associated with the first internal UK air mail service in the terminal at Kirkwall," he said.

John Morrison of Royal Mail said: "Seventy years on from Capt Fresson's first air mail flight air services continue to play a vital role in mail delivery both to the islands and across the UK. His pioneering vision saw aviation develop to play the vital role it fulfils in the Highlands and Islands today."