Nonstop-flight to the Falkland Islands sets new records | Polarjournal
Port Stanley’s airport, Mount Pleasant Airport Complex, is the only airport in the Falkland Islands. The complex is managed by the British Armed Forces and is also the HQ for the local units. Picture: By Donald Morrison from Lochalsh, Scotland – Mount Pleasant Airport, CC BY 2.0

The Falkland Islands in the middle of the South Atlantic are a British Overseas Territory and since 1983 the inhabitants are legal British citizens. But the isolated location of the 776 islands, some 12,700 kilometers from the British homeland, makes transport connections much more difficult, especially direct air traffic. Only the Royal Air Force has a flight connection from the UK to the islands. Now a maiden flight of an A330-200 Voyager has concluded a non-stop flight, breaking two world records.

The modified Airbus 330-200 aircraft by Air Tanker Ltd, a British charter company, flew the 12,867 kilometers from RAF Brize Norton Airport in the UK to Mount Pleasant Airport Complex in 15 hours and 9 minutes. As a result, the aircraft undercut the Royal Air Force’s record standing since 1987 by 36 minutes. After a short stay and refueling, the aircraft flew back the same distance, setting a new record: 13 hours and 22 minutes. There were no civilians on board the aircraft, only the flight crew and cabin crew. The aircraft was flown by the two captains, Dave Hall and David Thompson, and their two first officers, Aby Jackson-Moore, and Rich Steer, respectively. Dave Hall commented on the record: “As a former VC-10 pilot (the aircraft that had held the previous record). Note. of Red.) I was delighted to be part of an amazing team that has set a new record, flying direct to the Falkland Islands. It’s an extremely poignant moment milestone in history, the record stood for over 30 years; I am extremely proud of what we have all achieved.”

The Airbus 330-200 Voyager from Air Tanker is a civilian registered aircraft (G-VYGM) and can accommodate a maximum of 327 passengers. Air Tanker Ltd. is responsible for flights to the Falklands and, in addition to military personnel, also takes civilians from Brize Norton (UK). Photo: MercoPress

Civilian flights to the Falkland Islands are operated from the UK at RAF Brize Norton Airport, the Royal AirForce’s largest base. Twice a week, an Air Tanker Ltd. aircraft flies to Mount Pleasant airfield near Stanley in the Falkland Islands. However, due to the distance, a stopover on Cape Verde had to be carried out for refueling. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, flights had to be diverted to Dakar, Senegal. Non-stop flights to the Falklands archipelago were few, as the planes had to be refueled in the air. Altough this action is one of the core competencies of Air Tanker Ltd., it is not possible with an A330-200. Additionally, the resting periods of the crew, which must be observed according to the Civil Aviation Act, also made stopovers necessary. The aircraft has now been equipped with resting rooms for the crew and thus made fit for direct flight.

The four-person flight crew (here Dave Hall, left, and Aby Jackson-Moore, right) were also able to rest during the non-stop flight. The three men of the crew are reservists of RAF-Squadrons 10 and 101. Picture: Air Tanker

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding closure of airports in South America forced the Falkland Islands to set up an airbridge to the UK. In addition to supplying goods, the islands were also unable to test their citizens locally for the virus. Therefore, all samples had to be sent to the UK and evaluated. It was only from the beginning of May that the problem was solved, thanks in part to the airlift. But this showed that a direct and rapid connection of the islands with the rest of the world is imperative, also with a view to the future reopening. While countries are slowly reopening in Europe, Chile and Brazil, the transport partners of the Falkland Islands, have no recovery in sight. The insolvency of LATAM, which only a few weeks ago had started better connections between the islands and the flight route network with flights to Sao Paulo, is also exacerbating the situation.

The Falkland Islands are a suitable gateway to Antarctica due to their location. But whether they prove more beneficial compared to Ushuaia is likely to be seen. The non-stop flight connection is already a first step in this direction. Photo: Michael Wenger

With the knowledge that a non-stop flight to Europe is now possible, tourism in the Falklands could also hope for better times. But yet, the Falkland Islands would also have to increase their capacity logistically. Whether this can be implemented in the near future is written in the stars.

Source: Air Tanker Ltd. / Mercopress

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