A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam

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From A Hut and Seaplanes to an International Hub and Jet Planes Celebrate Airport Week 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

In recognition of Airport Week 2011 and the 35th Anniversary of the creation of the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, the island celebrates the past and present of Guam’s Airport facility and the growth of its aviation industry.

From a hut and seaplanes to an international hub and jet planes, “the island should be extremely proud of its regional and international role in aviation”, stated Mary C. Torres, Executive Manager. “We are now at another surge of development in this industry, and looking back, we can see that Guam has always been at the forefront in terms of putting the necessary infrastructure in place. When you think of air travel, you think of airports, and we have a lot of history in the progress of Guam’s Airport.”

How It All Began…

Civil aviation first began in 1936 with flights of the famous Pan American China Clipper, which stopped in Apra Harbor enroute to its Far East destinations. During the Japanese occupation, Tiyan Field, the forerunner to Guam’s present day landing field was cleared through Chamorro forced labor. In post war Guam, a modest quonset building operated by the US Navy served as the Guam’s first air terminal for flights in 1946. In those times, air travel was restricted by the US Navy who imposed security clearance requirements for travel to Guam. This restriction was lifted in 1962. This set in motion Guam’s journey in building Guam’s Airport and its aviation industry.

Our Connection to the World: Guam’s Three Air Terminals

Guam’s first civilian airport, the $1.6M Guam International Air Terminal became operational on March 11, 1967. Beautifully designed, the terminal consisted of two buildings flanking an attractive mall with latte stone caps featured in the roof architecture. A public viewing area on the 2nd floor was the location of many enthusiastic welcomes and tearful goodbyes as travelers arrived and departed. The terminal was equipped with a departure and arrivals facility, and the restaurant at the Terminal became a landmark and favorite local eatery. Only a couple months later, the first group of 109 tourists arrived from Japan and were processed through Guam’s new air terminal facility.

Guam’s second airport, the new $43M Guam International Air Terminal was opened on January 19, 1982. Referred to as a white elephant, there was some skepticism of ever reaching capacity in the new terminal. Fortunately, Guam was blessed with rapid expansion of air services and activity on Guam, benefitting and capitalizing on the Asian economic boom in the ‘80s.

With $242M in bond financing, the Airport Authority completed the expansion and construction of Guam’s third Airport in September 1998. Currently, 7 airlines and 2 commuter operators service Guam, with over 2.3M passengers arriving and departing this past fiscal year. Major development has occurred in the Tiyan Business Park and Airport Industrial Park, diversifying airport revenue and building the air cargo business to meet the anticipated needs of the military buildup, an increased population and to support efforts in developing a regional distribution center.