PEARLS AIRPORT

CREATING YOUR AUDIENCE

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RMODESTE

FIRST CONTESTANT RICHIE MODESTE

Pearls Airport was an airport located at the North Eastern Corner of the island, 19 miles north-east of the main town and capital of Grenada. The runway was set at a direction 082 degrees/262 degrees and 5,200 feet. It was Grenada’s first airport. It was built by the British and was opened in 1943 under the management of the Grenada Airports Authority. Pan American Airways did not operate in the Windward Islands because of an excluding agreement made by the British Government to protect British West Indian Airways, this meant the airport was not in daily operation.

Pearls located in Grenville, Grenada’s second largest town, until 1984 was the primary airport for Grenada. It was approximately a 45-minute drive through a very windy, steep and convoluted mountainous pass to St. George’s where almost all the island’s hotels were and still are today. Furthermore, one could only fly into Pearls during the day because of the mountains behind and the ocean in front of it. If one wanted to travel from the Americas or Europe, one had to fly into Barbados or Trinidad and Tobago, stayed overnight and then take an island hopper to get to Pearls. No passenger jets could land in Grenada until the new airport was finally constructed in 1984 at Point Saline, just a few minutes’ drive south of St. George’s.

Pearls Airport was used by the Allies for military aircraft during World War II. After the war, the airport reverted to civilian operation and the runway was extended and paved to its final length. The airport’s principal commercial carrier was Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), which linked Grenada to nearby islands with its 48-passenger turboprop aircraft. The airport’s surrounding hills and its distance from the capital city of St. George’s made it unsuitable for further improvements.

On October 25th,1983, Marines from the 8th Marine Regiment landed nearby by helicopters and “captured” Pearls Airport during the invasion of Grenada, meeting only light resistance. The airport then consisted of a cinder block terminal/operations building and a fuel storage facility. The Marines seized two parked aircraft. One was an AN-26 Cubana Airlines turboprop which had arrived the day before from Havana with two high-level Cuban officials. The other was an AN-2R biplane, a gift to Grenada from the Soviet Union, ostensibly for agricultural spray use. During the ensuing period of hostilities, the Marines used the airfield as a base for offensive operations to complete subjugation of the eastern side of the island. The principal American base was at Point Saline where a 9,000-foot runway and new terminal were nearing completion.

Today, you can take a trip up to Pearls to witness local drag racing.   

        

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Posted in

I Am Grenada

5 Comments

  1. Hubert Philbert on 03/15/2021 at 11:36 am

    This piece is a very important one for our youthful population. It brings to focus relevant historical information for the students of our country. This site has been doing very good work on Grenada, it’s history and more providing a real source for information. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

  2. Penny Rennie on 03/15/2021 at 3:57 pm

    Thank u for the history of pearls air port

  3. Agnes Stafford on 03/15/2021 at 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the history and updates.

  4. I Am Grenada on 03/16/2021 at 10:53 pm

    My Dad knows about this and his stories are interesting. I heard that most Grenadians never went to that airport unless a relative or close friend was arriving or departing. It’s an airport that was in the most rural part of Grenada and driving there was an experience. One would see lots of very poor areas in Grenada. What’s funny was that to go there, one will dress up like when going to church?
    We went there on our last visit and all I remembered seeing were cows and a security guard. We should try to preserve our history. Wishing i was around at that time.

  5. Daniel on 03/18/2021 at 8:35 am

    Thanks for sharing this lovely article. We flew out from there in 1980 twice. We flew back into MBI and was very emotional on arrival knowing where we came from. You’re doing an awesome job. Keep up the good work. Most people would not do what you’re doing for our small island. Wishing you good success.

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