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70th Anniversary of FIGAS

The Falkland Islands Government Air Services (FIGAS) has been an
integral part of Falkland life since 1948. Nowadays, by common consent,
it is referred to solely in the singular as, the FI Govt Air Service.
The service has gradually evolved from air ambulance, mail service and
carriage of officials to passengers, freight, fishery patrol and scenic

In 1938 Governor Sir Herbert Henniker-Heaton had recognised the need for
an air service. However, it was not until 1946 that Governor Sir
(Geoffrey) Miles Clifford came to appreciate how isolated the islands
population could feel living in remote communities, especially at times
of illness. As the small population of the Falklands couldn’t finance a
road system it was decided that the way forward was to establish a
Government backed air ambulance service and in 1948 the FI Government
purchased two light single engine Auster aircraft.

Captain Vic Spencer was appointed as the first FIGAS pilot along with
Maurice Smith as first engineer. The aircraft arrived in the Falklands
in November and were assembled at the Stanley racecourse which was
originally used to take off and land. The first test flight was
conducted from there by Vic Spencer on 19 December 1948. Shortly after
this first test flight, on 24 December, a small girl suffering from
Peritonitis was flown from North Arm settlement to Stanley. This
resulted in the first passenger/medical flight undertaken in the

As a result of poor and often soft airstrips and the proximity of all
settlements to the sea, it was decided to convert in the UK one of the
two Austers G-AJCH (VP-FAA) to a floatplane: the other, G-AJCI (VP-FAB)
remained as a landplane. Another two floatplanes, an Auster 5 (VP-FAC)
and a Norseman V (VP-FAD) both formerly with FIDS (Falkland Islands
Dependencies Survey), were added to the fleet and the increased capacity
enabled the fledgling air service to develop and passengers began to be
carried on a more regular basis.

In 1953 FIGAS officials realised that replacement aircraft needed to be
procured and the rugged and reliable De Havilland (Canada) DHC-2 Beaver
was selected. The Beaver, when equipped with floats, would fulfil FIGAS
requirements for the foreseeable future. The first Beaver entered
service in August 1953 with a second in 1955. When the last Auster was
retired in 1956 Beavers were the sole aircraft type operated by FIGAS
until 1979.

In 1977 a FIGAS review committee was formed to consider suitable types
of twin engine landplanes for future operations. Landplanes were
considered to be more economical to operate than seaplanes and easier to
maintain as they were less prone to salt water corrosion. The
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander emerged as the most appropriate aircraft.
One was subsequently ordered (VP-FAY) and it landed at the recently
opened Stanley Airport on 4 October 1979.

Immediately post the 1982 Falklands conflict, due to the lack of any
serviceable FIGAS aircraft, a former Argentine UH-1H Iroquois helicopter
(VP-FBD) was unofficially dallied with followed by a temporary Beaver
VP-FBE which was used initially as a floatplane but latterly as a
landplane prior to an Islander fleet being adopted as standard.

FIGAS remains an essential part of the Falklands transport
infrastructure and way of life. The fleet now consists of five
Islanders, one of which is a dedicated Maritime Patrol aircraft. Flying
is becoming increasingly more seasonal with ground-based tourists;
Cruise Liner passengers and local passengers making up most of the
traffic. Round Robin flights, freight, fishery zone surveillance
patrols, commercial charter operations and scenic flights complement the
core business.

The FIGAS flight operations are maintained to a very high standard and
supported by the FIGAS Maintenance Section which is responsible for the
servicing of the aircraft at Stanley Airport.

Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of FIGAS this stamp issue features 4 of
the aircraft operated by FIGAS over the years.

G-AJCI (VP-FAB) Auster 4 31p

Constructed in 1944 the aircraft was purchased by the FI Government and
arrived in Stanley November 1948 and test flown by Vic Spencer, FIGAS’
first pilot who can be seen on the stamp holding a map, the following
March. The aircraft remained marked as G-AJCI until late 1949 when the
FI Registration Certificate (VP-FAB) was issued but the FI Registration
Letters were never worn. Its last known flight was 30 October 1951,
after which it was withdrawn from service.

VP-FAD Norseman V 76p

Purchased by FIDS in 1949 for an Antarctic rescue mission VP-FAD was
involved in the rescue of 5 of 11 men who had become marooned on
Stonington Island, Graham Land. After this it was loaned to and then
purchased by FI Government in 1950. It was withdrawn from service in
1953 due to advanced corrosion.

VP-FAH DHC-2 Beaver £1.01

VP-FAH was purchased new by the FI Govt for FIGAS. Wearing a
"Consolidated Blue" cheat line on a silver airframe, it was shipped on
'Fitzroy' to Stanley, arriving there in July 1958. Unpacked and
assembled as a floatplane prior to being flight-tested from Stanley
Harbour by Jim Kerr of FIGAS on 19 August 1958. Despite being damaged in
1960 at Shell Point, Fitzroy, when it was driven on to a rocky beach at
high tide whilst being maneuvered through some narrows, it was repaired
and remained in service until 1967 when it was sold.

VP-FBM BN-2B-26 Islander £1.22

VP-FBM entered service in May 1989 and is one of the 5 Islanders
currently in service with FIGAS.

We acknowledge with thanks the help and assistance of Falkland Islands
Museum & National Trust, BAS, Douglas A. Rough and Vernon Steen.

Technical details:

Designer Bee Design

Printer Cartor Security Printing

Process Stochastic Lithography

Perforation 13 ¼ x 13 ½ per 2cms

Stamp size 42 x 28mm

Sheet Layout 10

Release date 19 December, 2018

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