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A Little History on the St Thomas Airport

A couple of pictures popped up on my Facebook feed this week that brought back some awesome memories and led me to do a little bit of research on the history of the airport here in St Thomas. As you may or may not know, I started my career as a flight attendant for American Airlines back in 1988 as a very young girl from Texas. The extent of my travel were family vacations driving to various parts of the United States and RV camping. Not exactly the world traveler.

It was love at first site for me the minute I stepped off the plane on the maiden voyage from my base in New York City to St Thomas. On my days off, I would take the early morning non-stop down, spend the day at Lindbergh Bay, then fly back on the last flight back to NYC. Not a bad gig, that's for sure!

To the right is the photo that flooded me with memories. I can clearly recall being inside this building, flush from a day at the beach, a little tipsy, and always sad to leave. At the time, this hangar served as the passenger terminal for the Harry S Truman Airport. The airport was known as Harry S Truman Airport until 1984, when it was renamed to honor Cyril Emmanuel King, the second elect governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. A new passenger terminal opened in November 1990 and retained the name, Cyril E. King Airport.

Below is the area that would become Harry S. Truman Airport and eventually Cyril E. King Airport. You can clearly see what is currently Lindbergh Bay. This area used to be known as Mosquito Bay, named because of the large mosquito infested pond that once occupied the space. It was at Mosquito Bay that the German Moravian, Mr. Dober, toiled in the early 1700's while trying to establish the first Moravain church in the Caribbean. Dober Elementary School was named after him.

Prior to all that, this was Bourne Field. Bourne Field, comprised two 1600 foot sod-surfaced runways which were used by the Marines as an outlying training field; the radio station was a minor installation, ant the submarine base had long since been abandoned as such.

The initial program called for improvements and additions to existing facilities to accommodate a Marine squadron of 18 planes on a permanent basis and a waterfront development to serve one patrol-plane squadron in a tender-bases status.

The main east-west runway at Bourne Field was extended to a length of 4800 feet, and a 100-foot extension was added to the steel hangar, together with additional quarters, an administration building, additional gasoline storage, a cold-storage building and commissary, extensions to roads and services, and a new 60-bed dispensary and hospital. A concrete ramp, hangar, and utility shop were also built to accommodate seaplane operations in Lindbergh Bay.

Special thanks to the St Thomas Historical Trust and Dexter Tyson for images and historical records.

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