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Port Stanley Airport is a STOLport in the Falkland Islandsmarker, two miles outside the capital, Stanleymarker. The airport is the only civilian airport in the islands with a paved runway. The airport is operated by the Government of the Falkland Islands, and is used for internal flights between the Islands.

History

Prior to 1972, there was no airport in the Falkland Islands with a paved runway, and all trips to the islands had to be undertaken by boat. However in the early 1970s, the Falkland Islands Company decided to withdraw its monthly supply ship to Montevideomarker, Uruguaymarker, increasing the desirability of an air link to the South American mainland.

In 1971, the Argentine Air Force broke the islands' isolation starting with amphibious flights from Comodoro Rivadavia with Grumman HU-16B Albatross aircraft operated by LADE, Argentina's military airline.

In 1973, the United Kingdom signed a Communications Agreement with Argentinamarker to fund an airstrip on the islands. Flights took place again from Comodoro Rivadavia, this time with Fokker F-28 aircraft. This service was maintained until 1982 representing the only connection to the islands. At first, these flights landed at a temporary airstrip at Hookers Point at the east end of Port Stanleymarker where the runway was constructed of Pierced Runway Planking. This situation continued until 1978, when a storm tore up large areas of the runway, rendering it unusable. By this time however a permanent solution was in hand and on 1 May 1979 a new airport was opened at Cape Pembroke by Sir Vivian Fuchs with a 4000 foot paved runway. It immediately became home to FIGAS with its Islanders and Beavers.

The Royal Air Force also used the airport for flights to supply and reinforce the British military garrison when necessary.

Falklands War

Present-day Port Stanley Airport.
Craters from the Falklands War.
The white extension is no longer used.
During the Falklands War of 1982, Argentine forces occupied the airport. The Argentine Air Force were unable to place their most advanced fighter jets at the base given the relatively short runway, and the risk of attack by the British. However, several air force FMA IA 58 Pucarás with Argentine Navy Aermacchi MB-339 and T-34 Mentor for close air support and air reconnaissance were based at the airport. The Pucarás were deployed against the Britishmarker land forces, shooting down a Westland Scout and the Aermacchis against the British Fleet.

On May 1, 1982, the Royal Air Force started to bomb the airport in Operation Black Buck and several other raids were carried out by embarked Harriers. Through the conflict, the airport installations were attacked with 237 bombs, 1,200 shells by detached Royal Navy ships and 16 missiles . However, it was never out of action entirely. C-130 Hercules, Lockheed L-188 Electra and Fokker F-28 transport night flights brought supplies, weapons, vehicles, and fuel, and airlifted out the wounded right until the end of the conflict. The Argentines would leave the runway covered with piles of dirt during the day causing British intelligence to surmise that repairs were still in progress. Craters were in fact heaps of earth placed there by the Argentines to make it look as though the runway was damaged. This deception misled the British as to the condition of the airfield and the success of their raids..

After the war, the Royal Air Force took over the airport, renaming it RAF Stanley. The runway was extended and arrester equipment installed to allow RAF F4 Phantom fighters of 23 Sqn to be based on the island as air defence. In addition long range Hercules transport aircraft were able to land supplies and personnel from the United Kingdommarker via Ascension Islandmarker.

In 1985, RAF Mount Pleasantmarker opened and in April 1986 Port Stanley Airport returned to civilian use. The runway extension was removed bringing the runway down to its present length. Although flights from Chile by a regional airline did use the airport in the early 1990s, for the most part external services have used RAF Mount Pleasantmarker since it opened.

Flights

The Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS) operates internal flights within the Falkland Islands from the airport. The British Antarctic Survey also uses the airport.Stanley Airport is used by internal flights and provides connections to British bases in Antarcticamarker. A temporary airstrip predating Stanley Airport was opened by the Argentine Air Force on November 15, 1972 (previously, international flights were by seaplane from Comodoro Rivadavia). In 2003 Argentine president Néstor Kirchner ended all flights from Argentina to the Falklands Islands and since then most flights to the Falklands come from Punta Arenasmarker (Sandy Point) in Chilemarker. LAN Airlines provide these weekly flights to RAF Mount Pleasantmarker from Carlos Ibanez Del Campo International Airportmarker in Punta Arenas.

References

  1. [1]
  2. Commodore Ruben Oscar Moro La Guerra Inaudita, 2000 ISBN 987-96007-3-8
  3. Offensive Air Operations Of The Falklands War - USMC
  4. http://www.britains-smallwars.com/Falklands/vulcan.htm The Avro Vulcan and the Black Buck raids


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