Port-adhair Ceann Loch
|IATA: CAL – ICAO: EGEC|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Highlands and Islands Airports Limited|
|Elevation AMSL||42 ft / 13 m|
|Sources: UK AIP at NATS
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority
RAF Machrihanish is a former Royal Air Force station located 3 NM (5.6 km; 3.5 mi) west of Campbeltown at the tip of Kintyre. It is now known as MoD Machrihanish and also incorporates Campbeltown Airport which has commercial flights to Glasgow, operated by Loganair.
The United States maintained a Navy SEAL commando unit, a 20 person team known as Naval Special Warfare Detachment 1 (The other overseas Naval Special Warfare Detachments, 2 and 3 were based at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, and Subic Bay, Philippines) at the base and the Royal Marines occasionally use the facility for training exercises. The civilian airport is located at the opposite end of the base from the hangars, bunkers and the SEAL building.
In July or August 1918, RAF Machrihanish opened for the first time operating as a sub-station of the RNAS airship station based at Luce Bay. The airfield was part of No. 25 Group RAF, North West Area, with No. 272 Squadron RAF stationed there. The station closed in December 1918, when the last squadron to be based there was disbanded. (Secret Scotland Wiki)
772 Naval Air Squadron arrived at Machrihanish in July 1940. Portland, its previous base, had become a prime target for the Luftwaffe since the fall of France. Thus the squadron and the anti-submarine school both moved north. 766 Naval Air Squadron (Operational Training Unit) arrived in August 1942. 768 Naval Air Squadron (Deck Landing Training) also arrived in the middle of 1943. In addition to its resident squadrons, records indicate a further ten front line squadrons were stationed there in spring 1942. A large number of other squadrons used the base for training for short periods. (Secret Scotland Wiki)
During the Cold War, Machrihanish was a strategically important North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) airfield, with its location giving immediate access to patrol & support naval operation over the North Atlantic. It was also valuable as a stopping point for transatlantic military flights.
At 3,049 m (10,003 ft), the original runway 11/29 at Campbeltown Airport is the longest of any public airport in Scotland. It was built between 1960 and 1962 as part of a major reconstruction for the airport's role in NATO. It was certified to accept NASA's Space Shuttle should it have needed to make an emergency landing in Europe.
The base is now on what is termed "care and maintenance" — this allows the airfield to be used by civilian airlines, which may conduct scheduled and charter flights from the aerodrome. The MoD are responsible for the upkeep of the aerodrome, which may sometimes be used by military detachments whilst on exercise. During times of conflict or national emergency, the aerodrome could revert to its intended military use. In 2005 the MoD was still reported to be considering reactivating the base.
On 14 May 2009, it was announced that the base would be made available for sale, and in 2012 was sold for £1 to a local consortium who hope to develop the site for the benefit of the local community.