Gerald Cheek, now retired from his position as Falkland Islands Director of Civil Aviation, has addressed a letter to the Penguin News clarifying some details about the 'Unwelcome visits from aircraft', clearly in reference to episodes of Argentine aircraft incursion and landing in the Islands.
This was motivated by an article in the Penguin News about the flight of Argentine-Irish pilot Miguel Fitzgerald solo flight in a Cessna 185 aircraft to the Islands in 1964, where he landed at the Stanley racecourse.
In effect, Mr. Cheek says that what did puzzle him was the distance stated by Fitzgerald, 550 miles from the coast of the mainland to the Islands. I believe the distance is in fact 300 miles. Perhaps he didn't fly direct.
But the real interesting part is that shortly after this unusual event the Colonial Secretary Mr. WH Thompson ordered the racecourse to be blocked off in order to prevent any further aircraft from landing there. However the obstructions were removed at a later date and just about exactly two years later another aircraft landed on the racecourse.
This time though it turned out to be somewhat more dramatic than Fitzgerald's arrival as this was an Aerolineas Argentinas DC 4 airliner. The DC 4 had been on a domestic flight from Bahia Blanca to Rio Gallegos during which it was hijacked by a bunch of militants protesting about the Islands being occupied by the British etc. However neither the pilot or indeed anyone on board the aircraft were aware that there was no airport anywhere on the Islands and when the aircraft arrived over Stanley it had insufficient fuel to enable a return flight back to Argentina.
Therefore the pilot elected to land on the racecourse which he did with considerable skill given the size of this aircraft and the relatively small racecourse. However shortly after landing the aircraft not surprisingly became bogged down and it took about ten days have it de-bogged when it taxied down to the grandstands was turned around and finally took off to continue its flight to Rio Gallegos.
Probably needless to say but when the aircraft did take off, it being a fine Saturday afternoon, most of the residents of Stanley witnessed the event.
Yet again and a further two years on during 1968 Fitzgerald returned again but this time in a twin engine Grand Commander aircraft. He apparently intended to land on the racecourse again but due to a strong southerly wind, i.e. crosswind, he decided to land on Eliza Cove road but as the aircraft`s undercarriage was wider than the road he crashed, fairly gently though damaging the main and nose wheels of the aircraft. So on this occasion Mr Fitzgerald didn`t fly back to the mainland instead he was transported courtesy of the Royal Navy on board HMS Endurance.
Well that was the end of illegal and uninvited flights at least until April 1982 when we seem to receive quite a lot of them.