We had previously visited Oban airport a couple of times when touring in Scotland, most recently as a refuelling stop on our way to Colonsay. It’s always been friendly, welcoming and stunningly beautiful.
We never dreamed it would end up as our home airfield, though – we are so lucky!
In early 2017, J and I made the big decision to move our lives up the west coast of Scotland. We both still work for firms based in London and commute up and down every couple of weeks in our Mooney whenever the weather plays ball (and on the Caledonian Sleeper or a commercial flight whenever it doesn’t!).
We had to slow down a little with our kit build during the summer as there was a fair bit to do on our house after we bought it, but we are so pleased with our new surroundings and we’ve met a wonderful collection of new friends and neighbours already.
I could go on about how awesome Scotland is for hours, and if I start talking about the house there will be a never-ending supply of DIY posts, but this is an aviation-themed blog so instead I’m going to introduce you to our new home airfield 🙂
Oban is situated in the midst some of the most incredible scenery in the UK and in fact the world, which makes it a popular general aviation destination for visitors in light aircraft of all kinds from across Europe. There are regular scheduled services run by Hebridean Air out to the islands, including services twice a week to bring children from the islands to the mainland so they can go to the high school in Oban. The Hebridean planes also occasionally get chartered at short notice for those wanting a private tour or even to get a glimpse of rare birds, as was the case in September.
Light aircraft based at and visiting Oban can look forward to reaching any and all of the airports on the Isle of Skye (Broadford), Isle of Mull (Glenforsa), Tiree, Islay, Colonsay, Coll and Barra within a very short flight (sub-30mins in all but the worst headwinds if you cruise at a true airspeed above 100kts). You can also fly east along the various lochs to take in the Great Glen and other famous peaks and valleys.
When based down in the south-east of England, we used to fly for 4hrs+ just to experience 20 minutes of flight around the highlands, islands and glens surrounding Oban. Now when we take off we are immediately in the middle of it all – it is just mind-blowing, and because of the changing light, weather and wildness of the scenery, there is something new to see every time we fly.
The tower and frequency at Oban is manned during the published opening hours by one of a fantastic team of firefighters and FISOs. Hearing their familiar voices is one of the best things about coming home now – that and the ridiculously beautiful views as we get closer to the airport 🙂
PPR is required for visiting aircraft and at the moment it can be done via an online form or by calling the published number. Ordinarily take-offs and landings are only permitted during opening hours, but regular visitors and based aircraft can apply for out of hours indemnity, which allows you to come and go during the hours of daylight (in the summer that’s a huge bonus and means you can still get in until around 11-11:30pm and take off very early if you wish. In Scottish winter the value-add is admittedly more limited!). When the tower is closed, we make blind calls on the frequency so that anyone on out of hours permits knows who else is around and can self-organise. There are 9 stands on the main apron for visitor parking, and further parking available on the far side of the runway if it’s busy.
Fuel is expensive at Oban, there are no two ways about that. But the team at TLC do an excellent job of turning people around quickly and efficiently and keeping everyone flying, including looking after the out of hours and emergency visits from helimeds, the coastguard and various aircraft on military exercises.
Before we moved to the area, we got in touch with Connel Flying Club about membership and hangarage. The club is very active and the existing hangar is currently full, although there is an extension in the pipeline which we hope will be able to get underway soon. Many of those based here are flying self-built aircraft, partly because there is no full-time maintenance organisation so as a pilot in Oban it is a lot easier to be able to do the bulk of the work on your aircraft yourself. This is a place where the LAA’s Permit to Fly regime has enormous value.
We were incredibly lucky to find in the club’s members a group of the most friendly, welcoming and fun people we’ve ever met, and we already feel at home. We have had some excellent group fly-ins and the sharing of information and expertise between people building and maintaining their own aircraft is really beneficial for everyone. There’s always a friendly face at the club when we stop by, and I know visitors also enjoy coming in for a chat. Kipper the spaniel ‘guards’ the door to the club (read: wags his tail excitedly and presents himself for stroking) and loves getting attention from pilots and passengers.
I won’t pretend that the Scottish weather isn’t a challenge sometimes – it’s unpredictable so you need to plan in some contingency if you want to be in the area for a multi-day visit, or if – like us – you have a long-distance commute to get through. It’s pretty rare to have a whole day where you can’t depart IFR (it’s getting in in the poor weather that’s the problem), but if you’re VFR only, you need to be willing and able to wait it out if the weather closes in.
The terrain around the airport is mixed – with mountains to the east, the peaks of the Isle of Mull to the West, and high ground at both ends of the runway, it is not somewhere you want to approach unless you are absolutely sure where all the mountains are. Low cloud is not your friend. Oban doesn’t yet have an instrument approach so you need to have a high enough ceiling or at least a decent gap in the cloud to get down safely.
We absolutely love being based at Oban and highly recommend it as a GA airfield to visit!
- ICAO code: EGEO
- Elevation AMSL: 24ft
- Runway direction & length: 19 / 01, 1,264m
- Runway surface: Tarmac
- Landing fee (at time of visiting): Landing £10-£20 depending on aircraft weight. You can get an annual landing card for unlimited landings at Oban, Coll and Colonsay for £120.
- Facilities: Toilets and a small snack and souvenir shop in the terminal building.
- Transport links: Walking distance to Connel village, where there are hotels, restaurants, pubs and B&B accommodation, as well as a small village store and post office. It’s about 20mins drive into the main town of Oban, or there are buses roughly every hour. Taxis are reasonable (£15-£20 at the time of writing). Connel Ferry rail station, walkable in about 25mins over Connel Bridge, has trains to Glasgow (just under 3hrs) and into Oban (15mins).