The Island of Benbecula lies between North Uist and South Uist and its airport serves both, as well as Benbecula itself. The airport is located on a spit of machair, grassy dune land, at the north-west corner of Benbecula, adjacent to the main village of Balivanich (Baile Mhanaich).
Aircraft have operated from Benbecula from the late 1930s, and in 1939 an air ambulance was based here. In June 1942 an RAF base was established at Balivanich and for the rest of the war a variety of maritime patrol aircraft operated from here, guarding Atlantic convoys and hunting U-boats.
At the end of the war, RAF Benbecula became Benbecula Airport, helping link Benbecula and the Uists with the rest of Scotland. At the end of the 1950s the military returned to expand the airport and build an Army base nearby. This serves as the headquarters for the missile ranges off the west coast of South Uist.
Travellers using Benbecula Airport today find an attractive terminal, complete with a cafeteria that is worth bearing in mind even for those not planning to travel by air. The terminal is an indication that the airport continues to develop, though the most recent additions are less obvious but equally important barriers to protect the airport from Atlantic storms.
Benbecula Airport is operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL), a public corporation wholly owned by the Scottish Ministers which in total operates 11 airports throughout the Scottish islands and on the mainland. These comprise Islay, Tiree, Barra, Benbecula and Stornoway in the Western Isles; Campbeltown, Dundee, Wick and Inverness on the mainland; Kirkwall in Orkney; and Sumburgh in Shetland.