THE head of Loganair has claimed the airline is well placed to benefit from continuing problems in the aviation sector by taking over routes abandoned by rivals.

Scott Grier, who led a management buyout of the firm in 1997 and who has since helped ensure its survival as Scotland's last major independent airline, said Loganair's recent expansion was fuelled by the collapse of companies such as Highland Airways and Air Southwest.

This helped offset a drop-off in scheduled traffic and allowed the airline to add to its core network of destinations in the Highlands and Islands with new routes to Norwich, Manchester and Exeter, Mr Grier said.

Speaking during a celebration of the airline's 50th anniversary yesterday, Mr Grier, Loganair's chairman, claimed there was further potential for such expansion as more airlines struggled to stay afloat.

"We're well placed to take advantage. We're ready to step in if the opportunity arises," he said. "The great advantage is that you're not having to start a scheduled service from scratch; you can use the existing market and passenger flow."

From humble beginnings following the management buyout in 1997, when it had just five eight-seat Britten-Norman Islander and a single Twin Otter aircraft, Loganair – which operates under the Flybe franchise – now operates 20 aircraft.

Its turbulent history – the subject of a book by Mr Grier – has seen it outlast 50 airlines that have gone bust. It has also diversified its service beyond passenger traffic to include freight and mail deliveries while seeing turnover increase from £4 million in 1997 to £65m today.

Transport minister Keith Brown, who attended a ceremony celebrating the airline's anniversary at Glasgow Airport yesterday, said: "Over the years, Loganair has provided vital lifeline air links which are essential for maintaining the economic and social viability of Scotland's remotest communities.

"The Scottish Government retains our commitment to the 11 airports in the Highlands and Islands Airports network, all of which Loganair flies from.

"Loganair's longevity in such a competitive and fast-changing industry is testimony to the acumen of its management."