History of BIA
BEFORE THE BEGINNING
Bonaire’s first airport was situated at Tra’i Montaña near Subi Blanku and crossed what is now the road between Kralendijk, the capital of the island, and Rincon, the island’s oldest community which lies in in the northern part of Bonaire. The name airport is a fancy name for the facility that had been constructed in that location. It was rather an airstrip with a little shed and nothing else. However, this was the place where the history of air navigation started on Bonaire in 1936.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE AIRSTRIP
Construction work started on September 23, 1935. The main road between Kralendijk and Rincon crossed the runway in the middle. The intention was to build an airstrip that was 475 meters long. It was not possible to make it longer because the eastern part of the land was rather low. It was necessary to condition a part of this area, particularly where the plane would touchdown during landing and take-off. This area covered 100 meters of the airstrip which should be hardened using grit and natural stone from the island for compacting operations.
THE FIRST FLIGHT WITH AN ORIOL ON BONAIRE
KLM decided to take the risk and to complete the first flight to Bonaire on May 9, 1936. The plane Oriol, registration PJ A10, which was a sister plane of the Snip, was chosen for this trial flight. The airport station in this case was a vehicle of a model that was known in those days as a “panel body.” This first experimental landing was a historical moment indeed and was highly successful. Consequently, KLM took the decision to make the first official scheduled flight with passengers on board, days later on May 31, 1936. American soldiers arrived at Bonaire in the second half of 1943, and their commander insisted that a new airport should be built. In December, 1943 the construction of this airport began in the area where the current airport is situated.
The new airport, named “FLAMINGO AIRPORT,” was put into service in 1945. This was a great improvement. It had a small terminal building which was perfectly suitable for the number of passengers in those days. This airport terminal remained in service until the middle of 1976.
Construction works for a new runway started in the last months of 1953 and was completed in 1955. The small terminal building was expanded with a terrace where baggage could be delivered. The runway was lengthened and widened next, in fact, for a number of times. In 1960, the runway had a length of 1430 meters and width of 30 meters. Hotels and interested parties abroad kept insisting on an important lengthening of the runway for charter flights from the USA, which had to be carried out by DC8 and B707 types of planes. In 1970, the runway had a length of 1750 meters and a width of 30 meters. Consequently a DC9 could at last land and take-off fully loaded.
On June 7, 1974 public tendering took place for the construction of a new terminal building. This building became operational in 1976. Meanwhile hotels and foreign investors kept insisting on the construction of a longer runway. This was a firm requirement before more hotels could be built.
A runway with a length of 2400 meters and a width of 45 meters was inaugurated in 1980 and the first flight Bonaire-Miami took place on April 19, 1980. In October, 2000, the runway was expanded to the length of 2880 meters. The current runway is long enough for flights with maximum take off weight to Europe. In 2002, KLM started flights to Peru and later to Ecuador with a fuel-stop in Bonaire. In the last years, the facilities of the airport have been upgraded and expanded. A new departure hall was constructed together with a new wide body platform and a fuel farm. Today, Flamingo Airport offers full services and is a destination for many tourist flights.