Atkinson Air Force Base, now known as Cheddi Jagan International Airport and formerly as Timehri International Airport, was a United States Army Air Forces installation during World War II. It is now the national airport of Guyana. The airport is located on the right bank of the Demerara River in the city of Timehri, 41 kilometres (25 mi) south of Guyana's capital, Georgetown. It is the larger of the two international airports serving Georgetown with the other airfield being the Ogle Airport.
History[edit | edit source]
The United States obtained rights to locate military facilities in British Guiana as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement with the United Kingdom in 1941. On 14 June 1941, the first United States Army forces arrived to survey land for a bomber airfield near Georgetown.
Atkinson Field was built 28 miles (45 km) from Georgetown on 68 acres (28 ha) of land formerly known as Hyde Park, on the Demerara River. The forest was cleared and hills were levelled and a long concrete runway was constructed. On 20 June 1941 the airfield officially opened with the activation of a weather station. The station was named after Lieutenant Colonel Bert M. Atkinson, a United States Army Air Service World War I aviator. Colonel Atkinson was the commander of the 1st Pursuit Wing on the western front in 1918. Colonel Atkinson retired from the Army in 1922 after a distinguished career and died on 27 April 1937.
The mission of the station was the defense of the colony against German U-Boats. The airfield was also a major staging point for American aircraft crossing the Atlantic Ocean heading to the European Theatre on the South Atlantic transport route. Aircraft supplied to the British forces by the United States were flown to Atkinson where they were turned over and ferried to North Africa. With the discovery of bauxite deposits in northeast Brazil in 1943, the mission of the airfield was expanded to protect the coastline of northeast South America and prevent any submarine landings by Axis forces on the continent.
United States Army Air Forces 430th Bombardment Squadron 9th Bombardment Group was assigned to Atkinson field from 4 November 1941 to 31 October 1942 flying anti-submarine sorties in Douglas B-18 bombers. The 430th was replaced by a detachment of the 35th Bombardment Squadron (25th Bombardment Group) from 1 November 1942 to 7 October 1943. After the detection of U-Boat activity was taken over by the United States Navy, the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron (344th Reconnaissance Group) was assigned to the airfield during 1944 and 1945 flying the F-10 photo-recon version of the B-25 Mitchell bomber on various mapping missions.
At the end of the war, Atkinson Field was reduced in scope to a skeleton staff. The facility was opened for all air travel, including commercial air flights on 1 October 1946. The same year, British West Indian Airways (BWIA, now Caribbean Airlines) was operating nonstop passenger service to Port of Spain, Trinidad. The military airfield was designated Atkinson Air Force Base on 26 March 1948 by Department of the Air Force General Order Number 10. The base was ordered closed on 31 July 1949 due to budgetary cutbacks. The final military cadre was 3 officers and 25 enlisted men upon closure, and the base was officially turned over to British authorities on 1 August 1949.
A modern terminal building was built and opened on 15 March 1952. When the new building was ravaged by fire on 5 August 1959 the old terminal building was renovated and used again until the destroyed building was replaced. The airport had jet service in 1961 when Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) was operating Boeing 707 flights with a weekly round trip routing of Paramaribo - Georgetown - Port of Spain - Barbados - New York City. At this same time, Pan Am was also operating weekly Douglas DC-6 propliner service on a routing of Belem - Cayenne - Paramaribo - Georgetown - Port of Spain - Caracas - Curacao - Port Au Prince - Miami. Also in 1961, British West Indian Airways (BWIA) was operating all flights from the airport with Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft with nonstop service to Port of Spain with direct one stop service to Barbados. BWIA then introduced jet service with Boeing 727-100 aircraft during the mid 1960s and by 1966 was operating all of its passenger service into the airport with the 727 on nonstop flights to Port of Spain and also to Paramaribo in addition to all-cargo flights nonstop to Port of Spain and direct to Miami operated with Douglas DC-4 prop aircraft. The lease of the facility by the United States was formally terminated on 26 May 1966 (Guyana's Independence Day). Because the lease was terminated 74 years before its end date, a new agreement was reached giving certain specified rights to the United States in relation to the air base for the next 17 years.
Facilities[edit | edit source]
The airport sits at an elevation of 95 feet (29 m) above mean sea level. It has two asphalt paved runways: 06/24 measuring 7,448 by 148 feet (2,270 m × 45 m) and 11/29 measuring 5,002 by 148 feet (1,525 m × 45 m). The terminal has six ground level gates and four boarding bridges.
References[edit | edit source]
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Jan. 1, 1946 British West Indian Airways system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Aug. 1, 1961 Pan American World Airways system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, April 10, 1961 British West Indian Airways system timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Sept. 1, 1966 British West Indian Airways system timetable
- Cite error: Invalid
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[edit | edit source]
- Cheddi Jagan International Airport, official site
- Current weather for SYCJ at NOAA/National Weather Service
- Accident history for GEO at Aviation Safety Network
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