Fifty years since the air link between Falkland Islands and Comodoro Rivadavia
Half a century ago, on 12 January 1972, a seaplane from the Argentine Air Force landed in Stanley harbor establishing the first regular flight between Comodoro Rivadavia and the Falkland Islands. From then onwards, ”sanitary, passenger and general cargo (mail, fresh food, and medicines) became regular flights”.
This is how Bernardo Veksler, a historian from Ushuaia, who collaborates daily with a local newspaper recalling relevant events relative to the Tierra del Fuego province calendar, wrote about the occasion in 1972, including a picture, this Wednesday, 12 January 1972.
Veksler points out that the sea plane was a Grumman HU-16 Albatros, from the Air Force, which was able to operate on land, sea and snow, and could carry some five passengers. Flights linking Stanley with Comodoro Rivadavia took place twice monthly.
However the following October, the Argentine State Airlines, LADE, established an office in Stanley, appointed a head of station, installed a BLU radio system and organized the increase of the number of regular flights. For that purpose, a landing strip with aluminum planks was set up at what is now Stanley airport by the Argentine Air Force, and a month later LADE landed for the first time in the Falklands with a turbo Fokker F 27. From then onwards the air link to Argentina became weekly with either F27 or F28s.
Veksler points out that in 1973, on the anniversary of the inauguration of the aluminum planks air strip, the Islands’ governor at the time, Ernest Gordon Lewis welcomed the Argentine Air Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier Roberto Donato Bortot who arrived in a LADE Focker F27, T-44.
By October 1974 two Argentine manufactured vehicles, a Dodge D200 and a Citroen 2CV were in the Islands as transport support for the LADE station. In 1975 the Argentine congress sanctioned Law 20.087 requesting the extension of the provisional landing strip in Stanley, from 700 to 1,200 meters, to be completed by the Argentine Air Force.
The cost of the airfield extension was estimated at 2,3 million US dollars and was concluded by October 1976. According to Veksler, personnel from Argentine Air Force, Army and Public Works were involved in the infrastructure. From then onwards the Hercules C130 could land increasing the volume of cargo and transported goods.
With the Hercules C130 link, Argentine Gas del Estado and YPF set up offices and deposit facilities in Stanley to supply the Falklands. There was also a scientific cooperation agreement signed by Argentina and UK, and two even Argentine teachers were sent to the Islands to teach Spanish.
It must be added that all of this was part of the Argentina/UK Joint Declaration on Communications between the Malvinas Islands and continental Argentina agreed in 1971, and which was started to be implemented in 1972.