José María Córdova International Airport

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José María Córdova International Airport
Aeropuerto Internacional José María Córdova
Aeropuerto Jose Maria Cordova-Exterior2.JPG


MDE is located in Colombia
Location of airport in Colombia
Airport type Commercial
Operator AirPlan
Serves Medellín Metropolitan Area
Location Rionegro
Hub for Avianca Cargo and Viva Colombia
Elevation AMSL 2,142 m / 7,027 ft
Coordinates 06°10′02″N 75°25′36″W / 6.16722°N 75.42667°W / 6.16722; -75.42667
Direction Length Surface
m ft
01/19 3,557 11,483 Paved
Statistics (2015)
Passenger movement 6,903,820
Cargo (tonnes) 118,583
Aircraft movements 77,375

José María Córdova International Airport (IATA: MDEICAO: SKRG) is the second largest airport in Colombia after El Dorado International Airport of Bogotá in terms of infrastructure and passenger service. It is located in the city of Rionegro, 45 minutes away from the city of Medellín.

It is the most important airport in the department of Antioquia, and in terms of infrastructure, it is the most important in western Colombia. It's also the main hub for low cost airline Viva Colombia. It serves several international destinations, one of the busiest being the route to Miami International Airport. It also serves the most flown route within Colombia: Rionegro-Bogota, which is mainly operated by Avianca, Copa Airlines Colombia, Viva Colombia and LAN Colombia. In recent years, significant technology and infrastructure upgrades (like LCD screens) have been made, making it one of the most recognized airports in Colombia. It now has service to destinations in Europe and has added new destinations in South and Central America, and the Caribbean.

International destinations include the United States, Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Curaçao and Spain, El Salvador, The airport also serves domestic flights to most major Colombian cities such as Bogota, Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta and San Andres Island. Freight transport is also one of the strengths of the terminal, providing air transportation to most of the flower exports (and other products) from eastern Antioquia bound to South, Central and North America, and Europe.

Since its inauguration in 1985 until 1990, the terminal had heavy passenger and cargo movement, in part because the Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport, located in Medellín proper, was closed during this time. When it reopened, traffic reduced. Since 1993, however, there has been a steady increase in traffic as well as an increase in the number of airlines flying into the airport, including American Airlines, LATAM, TACA, Aerogal. As for cargo airlines, Martinair, Centurion Air Cargo, ABSA, and Florida West International Airways and national freight airlines such as Tampa Cargo, LANCO, AeroSucre have increased their flights to the terminal. The airport is currently undergoing a comprehensive renovation.


The airport serves all major international and domestic routes in contrast to Olaya Herrera Airport which serves the Medellín area with regional flights and airlines. José María Córdova is set for a major expansion which will include new international terminals and an expansion on the cargo terminal this is set to start next year according to the Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics. The airport is named after José María Córdova, a Colombian army general who was a native of Ríonegro City, sometimes spelled Córdoba.

The José María Córdova International Airport is the second in Colombia in total passenger and cargo also international, national and international after the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota. The runway is also used by the nearby military base in the Air Force of Colombia located in Rionegro, named Air Combat Command No. 5 (CACOM 5), where all types of military and national police aircraft arrive and depart.

The airport has air navigation aids such as VOR, NDB, ILS, which allows greater ease of operation for pilots making navigation and landings safer in bad weather. In January 2006, the Airbus A380, landed at the air terminal (first time on Colombian soil) to conduct technical tests of the engines. Antioquia's exports, most which are flowers, and other products from the region depart en route to international destinations from these terminals. The main Cargo operator TAMPA, has its main base at the airport which operates flights to a variety of countries in South, Central and North America. Tampa cargo has a ramp that can accommodate up to ten aircraft. All types of aircraft, including Boeing 747, Douglas DC-10, Boeing 767 are among the most common arrivals at the terminal. In addition, the terminal is near the customs area and Airline hangars Tampa Cargo.

The airport has three restaurants and a shopping area, where there are banks, ATMs, money exchange and car rentals. Also the airline Avianca has a VIP room inside the facilities serving domestic and international flights. Outside the main building with a parking lot with a capacity for 250 cars and an area for motorcycles. Long term parking is also provided. You can arrive to your final destinations in a variety of manners such as taxis which you can rent for yourself or share with other passengers, and busses known as collectivos.


Sculpture El Sol by Edgar Negret in the foreground and control tower in the background

Between 1930 and 1932, three wealthy families in the metropolitan area of Medellin began with the idea of providing the city with an airport, as they were part of the Colombian Air Navigation Company which sought to carry passengers and mail from the city of Medellin to Puerto Berrio, along the Magdalena River and ultimately connect the cities of Medellin and Bogotá. One of the most important was Gonzalo Mejia, who in a very colloquial manner determined what would be the only place where an airport could be built; this location was later confirmed by the Curtiss Wright firm based in New York.

After several obstacles, the city of Medellín finally accepted the construction of an unpaved runway about 974 m long, what would later become Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport. Companies like Saco and Scadta from the cities of Barranquilla and Bogotá soon began service. Then in the 70s the need for a larger airport for the province of Antioquia arose due to saturation and limitations of Olaya Herrera Airport. Two sites were proposed for the new airport: one in the vicinity of the municipality of Barbosa northeast of the city, and another in the valley of San Nicolas in Rionegro, east of the city. The latter was selected and construction was executed signature CES-DARC-TAMS.

The airport opened in 1985. During the same year, Avianca conducted test flights of its Boeing 747, first in the original runway at Olaya Herrera Airport, and then at Rionegro's new José María Córdova. During this time the airport had significant movement of cargo and passengers, as the operations from the Olaya Herrera airport declined to almost zero (both airports today have traffic, José María Córdova being the main airport for cargo and passengers in Medellin).

The airport is named after José María Córdova who, aside from being a native of Rionegro, held senior positions in the Colombian Armed Forces and administration, and played important roles in the history of the nation.


Main building of José María Córdova Intl. Airport

In José María Córdova Airport anticipates the modernisation plan that includes various infrastructure projects, that will make this an airport terminal very attractive for tourists as for airlines.

Within the works, too modernisation passengers will find security systems, flight information via digital displays, high-tech communication, passenger arrival lounges with shopping, improving health services Airport, improvement in firefighting services, improving baggage handling systems. The objectives of the modernisation and expansion plan are: to ensure aviation safety and comfort of passengers and their companions; meet the requirements of ICAO - International Civil Aviation, the AEROCIVIL - Colombian Civil Aviation Authority, and IATA-International Air Transport Association. Finally, with the transformation of José María Córdova International Airport it also seeks to contribute to the country's competitiveness through: the creation of spaces that enable optimal connectivity with other cities in the world, the development of new areas that are attractive to airlines, the creation of zones that favour the encounter of citizens and, of course, compliance with new policies of quality for passengers to enjoy the best service at time of travel.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations Terminal
Aeroméxico Mexico City 1
Air Panama Panama City–Albrook 1
American Airlines Miami 1
Avianca Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Santa Marta 2
Avianca Madrid, Miami, New York–JFK
Seasonal: Punta Cana
Avianca El Salvador San Salvador 1
Avianca Peru Lima 1
Avior Airlines Valencia (VE) 1
Copa Airlines Colombia Panama City–Tocumen 1
Delta Air Lines Atlanta 1
Iberia Madrid1 1
Insel Air Curaçao 1
Insel Air Aruba Aruba 1
JetBlue Airways Fort Lauderdale 1
LATAM Colombia Bogotá, Cartagena, San Andrés Island 2
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale 1
Venezolana Maracaibo 1
Viva Colombia Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena, Monteria, San Andres Island, Santa Marta 2
Viva Colombia Miami, Panama City-Balboa 2
  • 1Iberia's flight from Medellin to Madrid makes a stop in Cali. However, the airline does not have traffic rights to transport passengers solely between Medellin and Cali.

Cargo airlines[edit]


Busiest domestic routes (roundtrip) out of Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (Jan-Aug) (2015)[citation needed]
Rank City Passengers Top carriers
1 Bogotá, Cundinamarca 1,843,205 Avianca, Copa Airlines Colombia, LAN Colombia, Viva Colombia
2 Cartagena, Bolívar 372,226 Avianca, Viva Colombia, LAN Colombia
3 Cali, Valle del Cauca 312,137 Avianca, Viva Colombia, LAN Colombia
4 Barranquilla, Atlántico 222,678 Avianca, Viva Colombia
5 San Andrés 190,015 LAN Colombia, Viva Colombia
6 Santa Marta, Magdalena 154,924 Avianca, Viva Colombia
Busiest international routes (roundtrip) out of José María Córdova International Airport (Jan-Aug) (2015)[citation needed]
Rank City Passengers  % Change Top carriers
1 Panama Panamá, Panama 222,781 Increase 0.47% Copa Airlines Colombia
2 United States Miami, USA 132,281 Decrease 6.70% American Airlines, Avianca
3 United States Fort Lauderdale, USA 114,935 Decrease 3.89% JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines
4 Spain Madrid, Spain 39,784 Increase 18.39% Avianca, Iberia
5 Mexico Mexico City, Mexico 37,902 Increase 104.2% Aeromexico
6 United States New York, USA 35,579 Increase 13.27% Avianca
7 Peru Lima, Peru 28,008 Decrease 19.51% Avianca Perú
8 Curaçao Willemstad, Curaçao 11,162 Increase 2.21% Insel Air
9 Aruba Oranjestad, Aruba 4,357 Decrease 23.10% Insel Air Aruba
10 El Salvador San Salvador, El Salvador 3,823 Increase 36.20% Avianca El Salvador

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On December 21, 1996, an Antonov An-32B aircraft (registration HK-4008X) crashed while on final approach to runway 36. The aircraft had taken off from Bogota for its usual cargo flight to José María Córdova Airport with 6 tons of cargo. During the approach phase, the plane veered three miles to the left of the glide slope, then turned sharply right, finally crashing more than five miles from the south end of the airport. The crash killed all four occupants of the aircraft.
  • On December 22, 1998, an Antonov An-32B aircraft (registration HK-3930X) crashed while on final approach to runway 36. The aircraft had taken off from Bogota for a cargo flight to the airport in Rionegro. The accident occurred at dawn and weather conditions were very bad due to the dense fog that was present in the area. The accident killed all five occupants of the aircraft. A similar incident had occurred two years earlier, with a plane of the same company in similar circumstances.
  • On October 15, 2004, an aircraft type Douglas DC-3 (registration HK-1503) belonging to the company Aerovanguardia Villavicencio took off at 6:30 am for a cargo flight to the airport José María Córdova. At 7:30, air traffic control informed the pilots that the airport was closed due to poor visibility caused by fog. The pilot of the aircraft decided to fly to the alternate Olaya Herrera Airport, but the aircraft collided with power cables during descent, crashing in a wooded area near the town of Santa Elena, west of Rionegro, killing all three occupants of the aircraft.[1]
  • On June 7, 2006, a Tradewinds Airlines Boeing 747-200F (registration N922FT) had an engine failure on takeoff at José María Córdova International Airport. The pilot aborted but the plane overran the runway. None of the 6 on board were injured. The plane was substantially damaged. The event was captured on airport surveillance cameras[2][3]
  • On January 3, 2009, American Airlines flight 924, a Boeing 737-800, took off from Jose Maria Cordova Airport and had to make an emergency landing due to fire in one of its engines. Upon landing, the pilot was forced to use the maximum braking, causing the brakes to overheat and one of the tires to explode. The airport was closed for four hours, but none of the 148 passengers on board were injured in the emergency.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]