Funafuti International Airport

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Funafuti International Airport
Air Force Hercules - Flickr - NZ Defence Force.jpg
A Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules aircraft landing at Funafuti International Airport
Airport typePublic
LocationFunafuti Atoll, Tuvalu
Elevation AMSL9 ft / 3 m
Coordinates08°31′30″S 179°11′47″E / 8.52500°S 179.19639°E / -8.52500; 179.19639Coordinates: 08°31′30″S 179°11′47″E / 8.52500°S 179.19639°E / -8.52500; 179.19639
FUN is located in Tuvalu
Location in Tuvalu
Direction Length Surface
m ft
3/21 1,524 5,000 Paved

Funafuti International Airport (IATA: FUN, ICAO: NGFU) is an airport in Funafuti,[1][2] in the capital city of the island nation of Tuvalu. It is the sole international airport in Tuvalu. Fiji Airways (trading as Fiji Link) operates between Suva and Funafuti.[3] Air Kiribati provides one flight a week from Tarawa to Funafuti.


Funafuti International Airport terminal building

Funafuti Airport was built by a Seabee detachment of the 2nd Naval Construction Battalion of the United States Navy in 1943 during World War II.[4][5]

The military airfield included an airstrip, control tower and facilities,[4][6] with a radio station at Tepuka, connected by cable to the airfield. The base headquarters buildings were at the present-day Teagai Apelu's residence, and a bunker is there to this day.

The first offensive operation was launched on 20 April 1943 when 22 B-24 Liberator aircraft from 371 and 372 Bombardment Squadrons bombed Nauru. The next day the Japanese made a predawn raid on the strip at Funafuti that destroyed one B-24 and caused damage to five other planes. On 22 April, 12 B-24 aircraft bombed Tarawa.[7] Marine Fighting Squadron 441 (VMF-441), flying the F4F Wildcat, operated from Funafuti from May to September 1943.[8][9]

The airfield became the headquarters of the United States Army Air Forces VII Bomber Command in November 1943, which directed operations against Japanese forces on Tarawa and other bases in the Gilbert Islands. The USAAF stationed two B-24 Liberator heavy bomber groups, the 11th Wing and 30th Bombardment Groups on Funafuti in the implementation of Operation Galvanic, which led to the Battle of Tarawa and the Battle of Makin in November 1943.[7]

By the middle of 1944, as the fighting moved further north toward Japan, the Americans began to withdraw. By the time the Pacific War ended in 1945, nearly all of them, with their equipment, departed.[4][10][11] After the war, the military airfield was developed into a commercial airport.


Maneapa and airport building

The airport is at an elevation of 9 feet (3 m) above mean sea level. It has one runway which is 1,524 metres (5,000 ft) in length.[1] The absence of runway lighting, minimal VHF radio and air navigation equipment means that operations are restricted to daylight hours.[3]

The runway was originally constructed using coral aggregate and has a sub-base layer of 8 cm thick coral gravel, surfaced with a 1–2 cm asphalt chip seal. It was resurfaced in 1992 and the runway was rated at 50 tonnes landing capacity; it was reduced to 20 tonnes landing capacity due to sub-surface water, deterioration of the sub-base and lack of surface maintenance.[3] However, the runway was resurfaced in 2015 so that the pavement would be re-rated.[12]

The deterioration of the runway's sub-base is a consequence of its low elevation and the hydrologic dynamics in the sub-surface of the atoll. There was extensive swamp reclamation during World War II to create the airfield. About half of Fongafale islet is reclaimed swamp that contains porous, highly permeable coral blocks that allow the tidal forcing of salt water through the sub-base of the runway.[13] This results in salt water pooling on the runway during spring tides.[14]

Tuvaluan children watching a plane land at Funafuti International Airport

In 2011 World Bank and the government of Tuvalu agreed to commence the Tuvalu Aviation Investment Project (TvAIP) for the purpose of improving operational safety and oversight of international air transport and associated infrastructure at Funafuti International Airport.[15][16] In November 2013 the World Bank approved US$6.06 million in finance for the TvAIP.[17] Further World Bank funding was provided in 2017.[18] TvAIP is intended to improve the runway so that it achieves a minimum pavement classification number (PCN) of 18 to provide a load-carrying capacity of the pavement that rates the runway for emergency flights. TvAIP also involved improvements of navigational aids and other safety and security facilities to meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements.[12]

The airport is somewhat unusual due to limited space on the island, the runway is used as a common area for sporting and social activities when not in use. Sirens sound when a plane is landing, warning civilians to stay clear of the runway.[19]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Fiji Link aircraft at Funafuti

Up to 1999 Air Marshall Islands operated a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 with a passenger load of 55. In 2001 the government purchased a share of Air Fiji, which provided Tuvalu with greater control of its airline access; however, Air Fiji ceased operations in 2009.[3]

Fiji Airways, the owner of Fiji Airlines (trading as Fiji Link) operates services 3 times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) between Suva (originating from Nadi) and Funafuti with ATR 72-600 aircraft, which has a capacity of up to 72 passengers.[3]

Air Kiribati provides one flight a week to Funafuti. The flight departs Tarawa at 12 pm on Wednesday and arrives in Funafuti at 3 pm; with the return flight departing Funafuti at 4 pm and arriving back in Tarawa at 7 pm. The service uses a Bombardier Dash 8 100 series aircraft, which has the capacity to take up to 35 passengers.[20]

Air Kiribati Tarawa
Fiji Link Suva

Plan for domestic air-services[edit]

In 2021, the government of Tuvalu plan to introduce domestic air-services to the outer islands. The project involves constructing the runways after concluding leases of the land and paying tree compensation to the landowners. On Nanumea, the people agreed to use the airfield constructed in during World War II by the American Marines.[21]


  1. ^ a b c Airport information for Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu (NGFU / FUN) at Great Circle Mapper.
  2. ^ Lal, Andrick. South Pacific Sea Level & Climate Monitoring Project - Funafuti atoll (PDF). SPC Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC Division of SPC). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-03.
  3. ^ a b c d e Andrew McIntyre; Brian Bell; Solofa Uota (February 2012). ""Fakafoou – To Make New": Tuvalu Infrastructure Strategy and Investment Plan" (PDF). Government of Tuvalu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Building the Navy's Bases in World War II History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1947. p. 236.
  5. ^ "To the Central Pacific and Tarawa, August 1943 - Background to GALVANIC (Ch 16, p. 622)". Retrieved 2010-09-03.
  6. ^ McKillop, Jack. "Ellice Islands". Funafuti, Naval Advance Base. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b James C. Olson; Wesley Frank Craven; James Lea Cate (eds.). "Chapter 9, The Gilberts and Marshalls". Army Air Forces in World War II: Vol. IV, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan - August 1942 to July 1944. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  8. ^ Sherrod, Robert (1952). History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Combat Forces Press. OCLC 1261876.
  9. ^ Crowder, Michael J. (2000). United States Marine Corps Aviation Squadron Lineage, Insignia & History – Volume One – The Fighter Squadrons. Paducah, Ky.: Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-56311-926-2.
  10. ^ Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b "Abbreviated Resettlement Action Plan for: Funafuti Airport and Road Tuvalu Aviation Investment Project (TvAIP)" (PDF). World Bank (SFG1582). April 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  13. ^ Nakada S, Umezawa Y, Taniguchi M, Yamano H (Jul–Aug 2012). "Groundwater dynamics of Fongafale Islet, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu". Groundwater. 50 (4): 639–44. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6584.2011.00874.x. PMID 22035506.
  14. ^ Nakada S.; Yamano H.; Umezawa Y.; Fujita M.; Watanabe M.; Taniguchi M. (2010). "Evaluation of Aquifer Salinization in the Atoll Islands by Using Electrical Resistivity". Journal of the Remote Sensing Society of Japan. 30 (5): 317–330. doi:10.11440/rssj.30.317. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Pacific Aviation Investment Program (PAIP) Environmental Management Plan - Funafuti International Airport(FUN) and Road Interim Working Document" (PDF). AECOM. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  16. ^ "World Bank Approves Additional Funds for Tuvalu". World Bank. 1 November 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Tuvalu Aviation Investment Project (TvAIP)". Government of Tuvalu/World Bank. 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Tuvalu's international airport to be upgraded". Radio New Zealand. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  19. ^ "A plane landing at Tuvalu's tiny airport in Funafuti in 2013". PT&I Video Hosting. 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Funafuti Service". Air Kiribati. 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Tuvalu Islands Concede To The Domestic Air-Service". Tuvalu Paradise - Issue No. 05/2021. 26 January 2021. Retrieved 8 March 2021.

External links[edit]