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Cheap flights to Paris from Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant is a Royal Air Force station in the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands. The airfield goes by the motto of “Defend the right” (while the motto of the islands is “Desire the right”) and is part of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI). Home to between 1,000 and 2,000 British military personnel, it is about 33 miles (53 km) southwest of Stanley, the capital of the Falklands – on the island of East Falkland. The world’s longest corridor, half a mile (800 m) long, links the barracks, messes and recreational and welfare areas of the station, and was nicknamed the “Death Star Corridor” by personnel.
Mount Pleasant was opened by Prince Andrew on 12 May 1985, becoming fully operational the following year. The station was constructed as part of British efforts to strengthen the defence of the Falkland Islands following the 1982 war with Argentine forces. It remains the newest purpose-built RAF station and replaced previous RAF facilities at Port Stanley Airport.
RAF Mount Pleasant is the newest permanent airfield in the Royal Air Force. The RAF previously had a small airfield at Stanley airfield after the end of the hostilities in 1982. During the Falklands War when the islands were occupied by Argentine military forces, British aircraft were sent to disable the runway with RAF Strike Command Vulcan bombers (Operation Black Buck) and Royal Navy Sea Harriers. The raids were moderately successful, and on the first Black Buck mission one 1,000-pound (450 kg) bomb hit the runway in the middle, disabling it. However, temporary repairs by Argentines engineers did allow C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to bring in supplies and take out casualties until the end of the conflict. At the end of hostilities the runway was fully repaired by British military engineers.
After the surrender of the Argentine ground forces on the islands, the British still faced the problem of potential Argentine air attacks from Argentina, so an aircraft carrier had to remain on station to guard the islands with its squadron of Sea Harriers until the local airfield was prepared for jet aircraft. HMS Hermes was the first to take guard duty, whilst HMS Invincible went north to change (at sea) a main engine. Invincible then returned to relieve Hermes which urgently needed to return to the UK for boiler cleaning. Invincible returned until she was relieved by the newly built HMS Illustrious, which was quickly rushed south and commissioned during the journey. Once the Port Stanley runway was available for jets, Illustrious was relieved by four RAF F-4 Phantom FGR.2 (named ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’, Charity’ and ‘Desperation’ by the crews – the first three named after the three Gloster Gladiators that according to legend were the names of the three RAF fighters defending Malta in the Second World War).
In order to deter further Argentine aggression or invasion attempts, the British Government considered it necessary to enhance the military presence in the Falklands. However, the temporary military airfield at RAF Stanley was restricted by the length and strength of its runway. Therefore, in June 1983, the British Government announced that a new military airfield would be constructed at Mount Pleasant, the option being considered to be more cost effective and straightforward than upgrading RAF Stanley. It would also allow RAF Stanley to remain operational whilst the new airfield was constructed.
The Ministry of Defence reached a voluntary agreement to purchase 8,300 acres of farmland for £55,000, with severance compensation assessed at £100,000. To allow existing agricultural operations to continue, Mount Pleasant House and other farm facilities were relocated at a cost of £83,877.
The airfield at Mount Pleasant was constructed by Mowlem-Laing Amey Roadstone Construction, a consortium of British civil engineering and construction firms Mowlem, John Laing Group and Amey plc. The airfield was designed to accommodate military as well as civil wide-body aircraft, enabling efficiencies in the running costs and time taken to support the Falklands garrison. The construction and shipping of materials to the Falklands was expected to cost approximately £190 million. Additional costs included the provision of a road between Stanley and Mount Pleasant and the installation of communication and navigation aids, bringing the overall cost to approximately £215m. Construction began in Autumn 1983 and the new runway was expected to be available for use by April 1985, with the wider airfield complete by February 1986.
RAF Mount Pleasant was opened by Prince Andrew, Duke of York (who saw active duty during the Falklands War while serving in the Fleet Air Arm) on 12 May 1985 and became fully operational on 1 May 1986. Mount Pleasant’s first flying unit, No. 23 Squadron, equipped with four McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2, arrived from RAF Stanley on 21 April 1986. The Phantoms were joined by No. 78 Squadron on 22 May 1986, which was reformed from the former No. 1310 Flight, operating the Boeing Chinook HC1 and No. 1564 Flight, operating the Westland Sea King HAR3. Later in 1986, two Lockheed C-130 Hercules C1K of No. 1312 Flight, operating in the air-to-air refuelling role, moved to Mount Pleasant to support the Phantoms.
Responsibility for the air-defence and of the Falklands and the Phantoms of No. 23 Squadron were transferred to No. 1435 Flight on 1 November 1988. Subsequently, the flight’s Phantoms were replaced when four Panavia Tornado F3 arrived in the Falklands in July 1992.
No. 1312 Flight’s Hercules C1K were withdrawn in April 1996, with the flight gaining a Vickers VC10 K4 for air-to-air refuelling and C-130 Hercules C3 in the transport role.
In September 2009, the Falkland’s air-defence capability was enhanced when No. 1435 Flight’s Tornado F3’s were replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 in the quick reaction alert (QRA) role, at a cost of £1.56 million. To accommodate the Typhoon, a further £416,000 was spent on infrastructure improvements to the airfield.
As part of the RAF’s wider upgrade of their Hercules, the C3 variant of No. 1312 Flight was replaced with a C-130J C5 in April 2010. A Lockheed TriStar K1 took over the air-to-air refuelling role from the VC10 K4 in October 2013, when the latter was withdrawn from RAF service. The TriStar itself was soon replaced, in February 2014, by a Airbus A330 Voyager KC3.
Chinook helicopters provided heavy-lift support until they were withdrawn in 2006. In 2015, the Chinooks were redeployed to Mount Pleasant. A flight of Westland Sea King helicopters for support and search and rescue was located at Mount Pleasant from November 2007 until April 2016.
Prince William served as a Sea King pilot on the station for six weeks during February and March 2012.
As of April 1, 2016, with the retirement of Westland Sea King the Islands’ search and rescue function has been replaced by a commercial organisation, AAR, subcontracting the services to British International Helicopters for 10 years using two new AgustaWestland AW189s.
1312 Flight’s Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, used for transport, search and rescue, and maritime patrol, was replaced with an Airbus A400M Atlas C1 in April 2018.
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