Owen Roberts International Airport

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Owen Roberts International Airport
Observation Deck at the Owen Roberts International Airport.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner Cayman Islands Government
Operator Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA)
Location George Town, Grand Cayman
Hub for Cayman Airways
Elevation AMSL 8 ft / 2 m
Coordinates 19°17′33″N 081°21′33″W / 19.29250°N 81.35917°W / 19.29250; -81.35917Coordinates: 19°17′33″N 081°21′33″W / 19.29250°N 81.35917°W / 19.29250; -81.35917
GCM is located in Cayman Islands
Location in the Cayman Islands
Direction Length Surface
m ft
08/26 2,136 7,008 Asphalt
Sources: CIATCA[1]

Owen Roberts International Airport (IATA: GCMICAO: MWCR) is an airport located in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. It is the main international airport for the Cayman Islands as well as the main base for Cayman Airways. The airport is named after British Royal Air Force (RAF) Wing Commander Owen Roberts, a pioneer of commercial aviation in the country, and is one of the two entrance ports to the Cayman Islands. Owen Roberts International Airport was the only international airport remaining in the Caribbean to have an open-air observation "waving gallery" until January 2017 when it was closed due to reconstruction. The new upgraded Owen Roberts International Airport terminal will no longer have an observation "waving gallery".


Wg Cdr. Owen Roberts was a Wing Commander in the Royal Air Force, during World War II. Following the war, Roberts retired and later founded Caribbean International Airways (CIA). By 1950, Roberts had established regular service between Cayman and Tampa, Florida; Kingston, Jamaica; and Belize. He worked to lobby Cayman Islands Commissioners Ivor Smith and Andrew Gerrard to build airfields on all three of the Cayman Islands. In 1952, construction started on an official airstrip at an estimated cost of £93,000 to construct airports on all three Cayman Islands, a 5,000 ft (1,524 m) runway, along with a terminal was constructed on Grand Cayman at the cost of £100,000. Owen Roberts had acquired two used Lockheed Lodestar twin prop airliners purchased to keep up with the competition whose interest was now piqued by the soon-to-be completed airfield at George Town.

The inaugural flight of CIA, Ltd. from Kingston, Jamaica to Grand Cayman was set for 10 April 1953. Tragically, however, the Lodestar piloted by Roberts crashed on takeoff from Palisadoes Airport. 13 people, including the 40-year-old Roberts, were killed. The only survivor of the crash was Roberts' brother-in-law, Lt. Col. Edward Remington-Hobbs. Roberts was survived by a wife, Patricia, and their two daughters, in London. His Grand son unfortunately passed before him, his name was Will Roberts. He died in a car crash in East End with his best friend Spencer Grainger. The Grand Cayman Island Airport was later named after the late Wg Cdr. Roberts in his honour.

Previous Expansion Projects[edit]

In 2007, the Cayman Islands Government announced plans to expand and upgrade the existing airport. Plans include the expansion of the check-in area, the purchase of a new X-ray machine and baggage screening machine as well as the employment of additional passenger screening staff. Phase 1 of the project, the expansion of the airport's car parks and the airport's pick-up and drop-off locations have already been completed. Additional renovations completed in 2012 include refurbishing the departure hall interior and livening up the passport control and customs hall with aquatic paintings and use of an aggressive digital advertising campaign in the baggage claim area.[2]

Current Expansion Projects[edit]

In 2014, Airport Authority unveiled a new plan to perform major renovations at Owen Roberts International Airport as part of a master plan to renovate and redevelop all three Cayman Islands airports. The new plan would expand the current terminal building, passenger parking, public parking, staff parking, aprons, Taxi area, extend the current runway and in the middle to long term build a second terminal building called the Greenspace Terminal and a parallel taxiway. This new expansion will allow passenger airlines to fly their newer and larger aircraft to Owen Roberts International. British Airways (BA) currently serves the airport with Boeing 777-200 wide body aircraft.[3] The BA operated 777 is the largest aircraft operating scheduled passenger service from Owen Roberts at the present time with flights to and from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) via an intermediate stop in Nassau, Bahamas in both directions.[4] The expansion will also allow other airlines with wide body, long haul aircraft the opportunity to fly to Cayman such as Virgin Atlantic which currently operates Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 787-9 wide body jetliners. Virgin Atlantic currently does not serve the airport.

The expansion work began in 2015 with a temporary extended departure hall being added to accommodate passenger traffic while the tendering process is completed and construction commenced. On March 9, 2015, the Florida-based company RS&H, who are partnered with the Cayman Island Airport Authority, unveiled a new design for Owen Roberts International. This new design is based mostly around the design criteria created by Canadian firm WS&P in 2014. Work on Owen Roberts estimated to cost around some $55 Million KYD. On 23 June 2015 it was confirmed by CIAA CEO Albert Anderson that construction work will start early August 2015, and is estimated to be finished in generally 2 years. Late in August 2015 it was determined that work would have to be delayed to early September. A ground breaking ceremony took place on 10 September 2015. In late Oct 2015 it was announced that phase 2 of the expansion is expected to start in the early part of 2016. Phase 1 of the expansion was completed on time and on budget by June 2016. Phase 2 began in July 2016. Part of the phase 2 reconstruction was the removal of the famous and only A-frame open-air observation "waving gallery" in the region as it was closed to public in January 2017.

Cayman Airways[edit]

Cayman Airways, the national flag air carrier of the Cayman Islands, has its operational base at the airport. The airline began flights in August 1968 following the purchase of 51% of Cayman Brac Airways by the Cayman Islands Government from LACSA, an air carrier based in Costa Rica. The first aircraft type operated by Cayman Airways was a Douglas DC-3. International service was initially operated to Miami with a leased Douglas DC-6 propliner and the first jet operations were flown between the airport and Kingston, Jamaica with a British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven leased from LACSA.[5] In 1972, the airline was operating its own stretched BAC One-Eleven series 500 jets on nonstop flights to Miami and Kingston as well as operating Douglas DC-3 service between Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.[6] Cayman Airways began nonstop flights to Houston via Intercontinental Airport in the late 1970s and by 1982 had replaced its BAC One-Eleven twin jets with Boeing 727-200 jetliners.[7] Other aircraft types operated by the airline over the years included Boeing 727-100, 737-200, 737-400 and Douglas DC-8 jets. Cayman Airways currently operates Boeing 737-300 jetliners with nonstop service to destinations in Cuba, Honduras, Jamaica and the U.S. as well as local flights to Cayman Brac. Cayman Airways has upgraded their fleet of aircraft to include one Boeing 737-800NG with orders for four Boeing 737 MAX 8 which will then enable the eventual retirement of their 737-300s. Cayman Airways Express operates two commuter de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter and two Saab 340B turboprop aircraft between Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Cayman Airways Express is to eventually retire both of its DHC 6-300 Twin Otters and was also planning to add another Saab 340B to its fleet. Cayman Airways Express was also planning to expand on short haul regional flights but has not yet announced any new schedules.[8]

The initiation of Cayman Airways flights to Panama City, Panama was anticipated to allow Brazilian tourists to travel to the Cayman Islands via Copa Airlines flights to Panama with connecting passengers then continuing on Cayman Airways flights to the airport.[9] However, Cayman Airways are no longer serving Panama.[10]

Historical airline service[edit]

Grand Cayman was being served with scheduled passenger flights by the early 1950s when British West Indian Airways (BWIA, which is now Caribbean Airlines) in association with British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC, which is now British Airways) was operating one round trip flight a week on a routing of Kingston, Jamaica - Grand Cayman - Belize City, Belize with a Vickers Viking twin prop aircraft with this service being timed to connect to other BOAC and BWIA flights in Kingston.[11] LACSA (which now operates as Avianca Costa Rica) was providing service by the mid-1950s with two round trip flights a week, one with a routing of San Jose, Costa Rica - Grand Cayman - Miami flown with a Convair 340 and the other with a routing of San Jose, Costa Rica - Grand Cayman - Havana, Cuba - Miami flown with a Curtiss C-46.[12] By 1957, BWIA in association with BOAC had added Montego Bay, Jamaica as a stop on their Kingston-Belize route flown weekly via Grand Cayman.[13] BWIA then introduced nonstop flights to Miami and in 1958 was operating Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft on a round trip routing of Kingston - Montego Bay - Grand Cayman - Miami twice a week.[14] By 1963, British West Indian was operating daily Viscount propjet service into the airport with a round trip routing of Miami (MIA)-Grand Cayman (GCM)-Montego Bay (MBJ)-Kingston (KIN)-San Juan (SJU)-Antigua (ANU)-Barbados (BGI)-Port of Spain, Trinidad (POS).[15] In 1964, LACSA was operating Douglas DC-6B propliner flights on a routing of San Jose, Costa Rica - Grand Cayman - Miami with round trip service twice weekly.[16]

The jet age arrived in Grand Cayman during the late 1960s when BWIA introduced Boeing 727-100 "Sunjet" service with a routing of Port of Spain, Trinidad - Barbados - Antigua - St. Lucia - San Juan, Puerto Rico - Kingston, Jamaica - Grand Cayman - Miami operated twice a week with a third weekly flight also being flown with the 727 nonstop between Grand Cayman and Miami.[17] By 1970, LACSA had introduced jet service as well flying British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven twin jets nonstop to Miami eight times a week and also nonstop to San Jose, Costa Rica twice a week.[18] LACSA continued to serve Grand Cayman through the late 1970s with nonstop flights to Miami operated with stretched BAC One-Eleven series 500 jets.[19] By 1980, Air Jamaica was operating McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 jet service nonstop to Kingston three days a week with a nonstop flight from Montego Bay being operated once a week.[20] Another international airline flying from the airport was Faucett Peru which in 1985 was operating Douglas DC-8 jetliners between Peru and Miami three days a week via an intermediate stop in Grand Cayman.[21] In 1993, SAHSA, an air carrier based in Honduras, was operating nonstop Boeing 737-200 jet service to La Ceiba, Honduras twice a week with continuing direct service to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.[22] By 1994, Air Jamaica was operating Boeing 727-200 jet service on a routing of Montego Bay - Kingston - Grand Cayman three days a week while Trans-Jamaican Airlines (which subsequently became Air Jamaica Express) was flying ATR 42 propjets on a routing of Montego Bay - Kingston - Grand Cayman - Belize City, Belize - Cancun, Mexico twice a week.[23]

The first U.S. based air carrier to serve Grand Cayman was Southern Airways which began service during the mid-1970s with nonstop Douglas DC-9-10 jet service between the airport and Miami.[24] By the late 1970s, Southern was also operating a weekly nonstop between Fort Lauderdale and Grand Cayman flown with the DC-9 in addition to its daily nonstop service to and from Miami.[25] Southern then merged with another U.S. airline to form Republic Airlines (1979-1986) which in 1979 was continuing to serve the airport with nonstop McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 flights to Miami.[26] During the early and mid-1980s Republic was operating larger McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 jetliners on its Grand Cayman-Miami route.[27] In 1986 Republic was acquired by and merged into Northwest Airlines which in turn continued to serve Grand Cayman. In 1987, Northwest was flying McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 jets from the airport to Miami, Memphis and Montego Bay, Jamaica with daily nonstop service to all three destinations.[28] U.S. based commuter air carriers Red Carpet Airlines and successor AeroSun International operated service on a once a week or twice a week basis between the airport and Tampa with Convair 440 prop aircraft during the early 1980s.[29][30]

By 1989, American Airlines, Eastern Air Lines and Pan Am had joined Northwest with regard to operating daily nonstop service between Grand Cayman and Miami with American, Eastern and Pan Am all flying Boeing 727-200 jetliners on the route.[31] Locally based air carrier Cayman Airways was also continuing to fly nonstop service with Boeing 737-400 jets on its core Grand Cayman-Miami route at this time in the face of considerable competition posed by these four U.S. based airlines with all five airlines operating a combined total of sixty (60) departures a week from the airport to Miami in December 1989.[32] By 1994, American had added daily nonstop service to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina flown with a Boeing 727-200 and had also introduced Boeing 757-200 jetliners on the Grand Cayman-Miami route while USAir (which was subsequently renamed US Airways and has now been merged into American Airlines) was operating nonstop flights to Charlotte, North Carolina three days a week as well as nonstop service to Tampa flown four days a week with both routes being operated with Boeing 727-200 jets.[33]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations
Air Canada Toronto–Pearson
American Airlines Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
Seasonal: Philadelphia
British Airways London–Heathrow, Nassau
Cayman Airways Cayman Brac, Havana, Kingston–Norman Manley, La Ceiba, Miami, New York–JFK, Roatán, Tampa
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Montego Bay[34]
Charter: Managua, Santo Domingo, Los Angeles
Cayman Airways Express Cayman Brac, Little Cayman
Delta Air Lines Atlanta
Seasonal: Detroit, Minneapolis/St Paul
JetBlue Airways New York–JFK
Seasonal: Boston
Southwest Airlines Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby (begins June 9, 2018)[35]
United Airlines Houston–Intercontinental
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Newark, Washington–Dulles
WestJet Toronto–Pearson


Airlines Destinations
Cayman Airways (operated with Convair 580 turboprop freighters) Miami
IBC Airways Miami


  1. ^ "Our Airports". Cayman Islands Air Traffic Controllers Association. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "cayCompass.com :: Airports authority unveils new advertising programme". Compasscayman.com. 2012-04-30. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 
  3. ^ http://www.ba.com
  4. ^ https://www.britishairways.com, Flight Information
  5. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 December 1970 LACSA system timetable, Cayman Airways (KX) Grand Cayman-Kingston flight schedules
  6. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 July 1972 Cayman Airways system timetable
  7. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 15 December 1979 Cayman Airways system timetable
  8. ^ https://www.caymanairways.com, 2017 Summer Schedules
  9. ^ "cayCompass.com :: Panama link welcomed by tourism body". Compasscayman.com. 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 
  10. ^ https://www.caymanairways.com, 2017 Summer Schedules
  11. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 July 1953 BWIA system timetable & 1 July 1953 BOAC system timetable
  12. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 October 1955 LACSA system timetable
  13. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 August 1957 BWIA system timetable
  14. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 Nov. 1958 BWIA system timetable
  15. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, Feb. 1, 1963 BWIA system timetable
  16. ^ http://www.timetablemages.com, 1 March 1964 LACSA system timetable
  17. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 28 April 1968 BWIA system timetable
  18. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 December 1970 LACSA system timetable
  19. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 15 November 1979 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Miami schedules
  20. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, 1 November 1980 Air Jamaica system timetable
  21. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 2 February 1985 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Miami schedules
  22. ^ October 1993 OAG Desktop Flight Guide, Worldwide Edition
  23. ^ 15 September 1994 OAG Desktop Flight Guide, Grand Cayman schedules
  24. ^ 1 February 1976 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Grand Cayman schedules
  25. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 1 July 1978 Southern Airways system timetable
  26. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 15 November 1979 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Miami schedules
  27. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 1 April 1981 & 15 February 1981 editions, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Miami schedules
  28. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 7 September 1987 Northwest Airlines system timetable
  29. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, April 1, 1981 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Tampa flight schedules
  30. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, Red Carpet Airlines & AeroSun International system timetables
  31. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 15 December 1989 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Miami schedules
  32. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, 15 December 1989 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Miami schedules
  33. ^ 15 September 1994 OAG Desk Top Flight Guide, Grand Cayman schedules
  34. ^ https://www.caymancompass.com/2017/07/10/cayman-airways-begins-twice-weekly-flights-to-montego-bay/
  35. ^ https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/southwest-airlines-publishes-summer-2018-flight-schedule-300548315.html

External links[edit]

Media related to Owen Roberts International Airport at Wikimedia Commons