IT is famous for being the world's shortest scheduled flight, lasting just two minutes from runway to runway.

And now the picturesque route from Westray to Papa Westray in Orkney has achieved a new landmark after an Inverclyde woman became the first female pilot to operate the vital island service, operated by Loganair.

Rebecca Simpson, 35, a pilot with Loganair for seven years, spent weeks training to take over the inter-island service under the tutelage of her predecessor on the route, Stuart Linklater, who recently retired after 24 years.

She finally took to the skies for her first solo flight from Westray to Papa Westray just over two weeks ago, on October 25, touching down in Papa Westray just one minute and 15 seconds after take-off. The scheduled flight time for the 1.7-mile journey, including taxiing, is just two minutes, making it a world-famous tourist attraction for flying fans keen to tick off the world's shortest passenger flight.

Passengers get a certificate to mark the occasion but no longer get a free miniature of whisky included in the £21 return fare.

Ms Simpson said: "The record flight time is 52 seconds from Westray to Papa Westray. I did it in one minute and 15 seconds. The flight time in terms of the record is measured from the second the wheels come up to the second they touch back down again on the other side."

Ms Simpson is one of 19 female pilots working for Loganair, out of a total of 173. The Glasgow-based operator, which also flies to the Western Isles and Shetland, has a higher than average proportion of female pilots. In the UK as a whole, only around four in every hundred commercial pilots is female, compared to 10% at Loganair.

The route from Westray to Papa Westray is one of the most scenic in aviation, drawing visitors as well as providing an essential shuttle service for locals who are entitled to discounted fares on the tiny planes, which usually carry only eight passengers at a time but can seat a maximum of nine if one passenger sits next to the pilot. Ms Simpson said: "We get a lot of teachers on the Orkney service, and people travelling to hospital and things like that. There are schoolchildren sometimes, and we get quite a lot of banking people, especially in summer, and a lot of tourists as well in the summer months. It really is one of the most beautiful flights there is. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Fair Isle and Shetland, and flying over the Orkney islands is beautiful. The cliffs are stunning."

Phil Preston, chief operating officer at Loganair, said: "The Orkney Inter-Isles service is one of the most famous routes in aviation, with people journeying to islands on a daily basis to travel on the world's shortest flight.

"The service also performs a vital function for Orkney's residents, acting as their connection to the remainder of the network of islands. It is hugely important and Rebecca will be performing an essential role which I am sure she will excel in. She was trained by the route's longest-serving pilot, Stuart Linklater, who recently retired after 24 years and an incredible 1.3 million miles."