RAF Bishops Court
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|RAF Bishops Court
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Location||Downpatrick, County Down|
|Elevation AMSL||30 ft / 9 m|
RAF Bishops Court is a former Royal Air Force airfield, radar control and reporting station located on the south east coast of Northern Ireland, approximately 5.8 miles (9.3 km) from Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland and 24.7 miles (39.8 km) from Belfast, Northern Ireland. A Marconi Type 84 radar was located on the airfield and a Type 80 radar was located at Killard Point, Ballyhornan (remote from the station itself). A Type 93 mobile radar was also located on the airfield from 1989 until the station closed.
A number of different units were based at the airfield:
- No. 664 Gliding School.
- No. 671 Gliding School.
- 819 Naval Air Squadron.
- No. 7 Air Observers School between (17 May 1943 and 15 February 1944.
- No. 12 Air Gunners School between 1 August 1943 and 31 May 1945.
- No. 7 (Observers) Advanced Flying Unit between 15 February 1944 and 31 May 1945.
- No. 7 Air Navigation School between 31 May 1945 and 4 June 1947.
- No. 2 Air Navigation School between 4 June and 1 October 1947.
- No. 3 Air Navigation School between 3 March 1952 and 14 April 1954.
- No. 671 Volunteer Gliding School between 22 January 1959 and September 1962.
- No. 664 Volunteer Gliding School between February 1987 and 31 October 1990.
RAF Bishops Court formed part of the UK Military Air Traffic Service, as one of four reporting stations it was to control its sector (North Atlantic) and was commanded by HQ Military Air Traffic Operations (MATO) at RAF Uxbridge and RAF Strike Command at High Wycombe. The site was known as Ulster Radar and had both a military and civil role. In its civil role the civilian personnel (using the military radar) controlled air traffic, primarily over the Atlantic to ensure correct height and separation.
The responsibilities of the site were assumed by the air traffic control centre at Prestwick, Scotland, in October 1978. The radar equipment was soon removed from the site, however the RAF remained. In the early 1980s new bunkers were constructed and a mobile radar was installed. The decision to close the 577 acre (2.3 km²) site was taken in the late 1980s and it was put up for sale in the period 1991–1995.
Alexander Galt the famous Scottish artist was stationed here during the war. While there he painted murals on the wall of the officers mess. The paintings are still visible.
Since the sale the land surrounding the runway has been used for agriculture, while the land at one end of the site (including some of the airfield runways) has been used for motor sport being called Bishopscourt Racing Circuit. Today at least one runway remains intact and is used by gliders, the married quarters are now civilian housing.
In 2003 it was reported that Bishopscourt was a contender for a Ryanair airfield in the south of Northern Ireland. While the site would require significant infrastructure works if this were to happen, the former RAF station would fit into the Ryanair business model (selecting airports some distance from a capital/major city with low landing fees etc. and providing transport to that city.)