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RAF Black Isle

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Hut remains, 2007
Hut remains
© Nick Ray

RAF Black Isle was a World War II airfield located about eight miles northeast of Inverness. The airfield was also known as Blackstand, and was the site of 42 Satellite Landing Ground (SLG).

The airfield had a grass runway of 110 yards, with field headquarters established in a farm cottage, and personnel billeted in Fortrose, a short distance to the south, until accommodation was completedat the field. The site suffered from sloping ground, which would cause later problems, but having been inspected, work started on clearing the ground, laying drainage, and removing fences and telephone lines on the approaches to the runway.

SLGs were designed to be secret places where replacement aircraft could be stored and kept safe from enemy attack. They were not to be referred to directly, but simply as airstrips, and were not equipped with features which would render them easily identifiable, such as control towers. Even windsocks were banned, and when landings were scheduled, gunpowder would be burnt in a stove to make smoke, and allow the pilots to judge the wind conditions at ground level. Blackstand was intended to store 46 Beaufighters, with a total capacity of between 50 and 60 aircraft.

The sloping nature of the ground meant that landings at the field were best described as interesting. Sheep and cattle had to be cleared from the runway prior to arrival, and new pilots were advised to familiarise themselves with the airfield before their first arrival. Because of the sloping ground, regular users would generally ignore the wind and preferred to make a diagonal approach to an uphill landing, judging the worst outcome of a nose over the boundary fence if they slipped to be better than the alternative. Landing downhill was not a preferred option for aircraft of the time, as this could considerably extend the stopping distance.

In early 1942, hard standing was prepared for medium sized aircraft, but the sloping ground caused problems, and resulted in a number of towing accidents. Later that year, a single Halifax is reported to have landed at the field, after which the exercise was never repeated.

In July 1944, the airfield recorded a peak stock of 117 aircraft.

With the end of the war in 1945, operations switched from storage to salvage, and the departure of a pair of Warwick reconnaissance aircraft in October 1945 marked the end of flying at Blackstand.

At least three buildings can still be identified on the south side of a track leading from the B9160 road to Blackstand farmstead, including a large wooden hut, the former guard house, and what appears to have been a toilet block. After the war, the wooden hut was utilised by the Forestry Commission while it was working on the replanting of trees in the area, and most of the former runway site has been planted with trees, but the commission left the area soon after the work was completed.

Aerial views now give no indication that the airfield ever existed on the site, as befits the secret nature of its original purpose.

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