Mercedita Airport

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Mercedita Airport
Aeropuerto Mercedita
Mercedita Airport.JPG
GPS: 18.00'30"N, 66.33'47"W
Airport type Public
Owner Puerto Rico Ports Authority
Serves Ponce, Puerto Rico
Location Barrio Vayas / Barrio Sabanetas, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Elevation AMSL 29 ft / 9 m
Coordinates 18°00′30″N 66°33′47″W / 18.00833°N 66.56306°W / 18.00833; -66.56306Coordinates: 18°00′30″N 66°33′47″W / 18.00833°N 66.56306°W / 18.00833; -66.56306
PSE is located in Puerto Rico
Location of airport in Puerto Rico
Direction Length Surface
ft m
12/30 6,904 2,104 Asphalt
Statistics (2014)
Aircraft operations 6,211
Based aircraft 20
Passenger movement 201,645
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
Manager: José Riollano Irizarry[2]

Mercedita Airport (IATA: PSEICAO: TJPSFAA LID: PSE) is a public use airport located three nautical miles (6 km) east of the central business district of Ponce, Puerto Rico.[1] The airport covers 270 cuerdas (approx. 262.2 acres) of land[3] and has one runway.[4] It was inaugurated as an international airport on November 1, 1990.[4][5][6] Mercedita is Puerto Rico's largest airport in terms of military personnel volume and the second largest in terms of military freight.[7] The airport is certified under part 139 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, (3) § 121.555(b) (14 C.F.R. § 121.555).[2]

As per Federal Aviation Administration records, the airport had 110,159 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008,[8] 90,267 enplanements in 2009, and 97,660 in 2010.[9] It is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a primary commercial service airport (more than 10,000 enplanements per year).[10] Mercedita was the only one of Puerto Rico's three international airports to see an increase in passenger flow in 2012.[11] The municipality of Ponce has been attempting to gain ownership of the airport from the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as it believes local management of the airport will help the municipal and regional economy.[12]


Early history[edit]

Built in 1939, Mercedita was originally a modest aerodrome used for the airborne irrigation of sugarcane fields belonging to Destilería Serrallés.[4] The airport took the name of the sugarcane plantation that it was part of, Hacienda Mercedita. The founder of the plantation, Juan Serrallés, had named his plantation in honor of his wife Mercedes.[13] To commemorate this, a portrait of Mrs. Mercedes Serrallés was unveiled in the airport on 30 December 1992 by then-governor of Puerto Rico Rafael Hernandez Colon.[14]

The takeoff/landing strip was then only 850 feet (260 m) long by 50 feet (15 m) wide.[4] During World War II it was turned into a military airport, and in 1947 the U.S. Navy ceded the airport to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority.[4] The airport officially started operations in April, 1948.[15]

In 1949, however, it was determined that the runway of the Ponce Airport at the nearby Losey Field[16] (today, Fort Allen,[17] Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico) no longer met the newer and more stringent minimum airport safety requirements, and airport operations were suspended. As a result, studies were initiated for the construction of a new airport in Ponce.[4] A wall plaque inside the airport states the airport was built with funds from both the Government of Puerto Rico and the Government of the Autonomous Municipality of Ponce and that it was inaugurated in November 1955.

The US Air Force 32nd Fighter Squadron at Mercedita Airport during World War II

The first scheduled commercial flights at Mercedita occurred in 1965 when domestic flights started. International flights started in 1971.[18]

On August 12, 1981, an Air Florida plane with 125 Haitian refugees aboard landed at Mercedita en route to the Fort Allen facility in Juana Diaz, part of the 1981 Haitian refugees exodus.[19]

New airport[edit]

The airport has been enlarged on various occasions. One of the architects credited with the airport's construction is Raúl Gayá Benejam.[20] One major construction project, in particular, took place in 1963 when the runway was extended from 3,000 feet (910 m) to 3,900 feet.[4] In 1967, a master plan was adopted for the systematic development of the airport. In 1971 the runway was again extended, to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) to allow for the use by Boeing 727 aircraft. In 1987 the runway was once again extended, this time to 6,900 feet (2,100 m). The passenger terminal was also remodeled, a platform was built for use by general aviation as was a new building for the Air Rescue Unit of the Puerto Rico Police.[4]

1990s expansion work[edit]

In the fall of 1992, the runway was extended to make it possible for American Airlines to run flights to Miami, Florida. The cost of the expansion was $3 million. The expansion provided 1,900 feet (580 m) additional length, as well as 50 ft (15 m) additional width.[21] Also in the fall of 1992, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority spent another $6 million in improvements to the terminal building. These included an additional 14,500 square feet (1,350 m2) space in the baggage claim, immigration, customs, passenger waiting areas, vending areas, and Department of Agriculture installations.[22]

Recent events[edit]

After Ponce's mayor Rafael Cordero signed a contract to build a major seaport in the area, Mercedita's directors decided to expand the airport's runway to 8,000 ft (2,438 m) to accommodate anticipated growth in airline traffic.

On June 17, 2005, JetBlue Airways began daily, non-stop service between John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Mercedita Airport. On November 17, 2005, Continental Airlines also commenced non-stop service between Newark Liberty International Airport and Ponce.[23] This service ended on January 17, 2008. On June 3, 2006, Delta Connection began servicing the airport, with twice-weekly, regional jet service to Atlanta, Georgia. The service ended on January 20, 2007. JetBlue has also added daily, non-stop service between Ponce and Orlando International Airport.

During 2007, more passengers passed through the airport than the population of the entire city of Ponce itself. "Ponce's Mercedita airport served 251,000 passengers in 2007, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year."[24]

Passenger movement at the airport in FY 2008 was 278,911, a 1,228% increase over fiscal year 2003 and the highest of all the regional airports for that 5-year period.[25]

In February 2009, Ponce mayor María Meléndez sought transfer of the airport from the Puerto Rico central government to the Ponce Municipal government amidst discontent with the bureaucracy at the central government that could be avoided if the airport was locally managed.[26][27][28]

In early 2010, members of the Ponce Chamber of Commerce strongly criticized the Puerto Rico Ports Authority and its director Alvaro Pilar Villagran after failure to execute on a legally binding agreement of November 2008, whereby the Ports Authority agreed to an investment of $8 million to build an airport drainage system needed as part of any additional expansion work.[29]

The Puerto Rico Ports Authority recently announced an investment of 7 million dollars to extend Mercedita's runway to 8,000 feet (2,400 m). Construction began in February 2011.[30] In 2012 the Authority installed two boarding bridges among other terminal improvements.[31]

Facilities and aircraft[edit]

Mercedita Airport covers an area of 274 acres (111 ha) at an elevation of 29 feet (9 m) above mean sea level. It has one runway designated 12/30 with an asphalt surface measuring 6,904 by 150 feet (2,104 x 46 m).[1] Most of the airport is located in Ponce's Vayas barrio, but the western end of the runway (west of Calle la Esperanza) extends into the Sabanetas barrio.

For the 12-month period ending August 14, 2010, the airport had 11,171 aircraft operations, an average of 30 per day: 50% general aviation, 28% air taxi, 14% scheduled commercial, and 8% military. At that time there were 30 aircraft based at this airport: 53% single-engine, 23% multi-engine, and 23% helicopter.[1]

The airport is also home of the southern aerial division of the Puerto Rico Police Department.

Airline and destinations[edit]

The following airline offers scheduled passenger service:

Airlines Destinations
JetBlue Airways New York-JFK, Orlando

Realtime departures and arrivals information is available online.[32]


Carrier shares (January 2014 - December 2014)[33]
Carrier Passengers (arriving and departing)
Top U.S. passenger destinations (departing only) (January 2014 - December 2014)[33]
Rank City Airport Passengers
1 Orlando, FL Orlando International Airport (MCO) 53,990
2 New York, NY John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) 42,630

Air service history[edit]


International air service history at Mercedita has been as follows:[4]

  • In 1965, Eastern Airlines, together with Caribair, started direct connecting service at the airport. Airport starts the first scheduled domestic commercial service, providing service between Ponce and Mayagüez.[28]
  • In 1971, Eastern Airlines held hearing in Ponce with the intention of starting non-stop service to the United States. The Puerto Rico Ports Authority, in anticipation of such service, extended the runway to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) to permit the landing of Boeing 727 aircraft. The airport starts the first scheduled commercial international flights from Ponce to the United States.[34]
  • In June 1975, Eastern Airlines started a weekly direct flight to New York City with a stop-over in San Juan. In the same year the Puerto Rico Ports Authority built a new runway, access road, parking lot, and shoulder.
  • In 1990, Eastern Airlines started operations in Ponce with a flight to New York, but it ceased a year later, in January, 1991.
  • In 1990, Carnival Airlines also started operations in Ponce, and flew to New York and Miami until February 1998.
  • Meanwhile, American Airlines started to flew to Miami from November 1, 1992, until March, 1994.
  • On November 17, 2005, Continental Airlines began daily non-stop service from Newark Liberty International Airport and Ponce.[35] This service ended on January 17, 2008.
  • In November 2007, Spirit Airlines started daily non-stop service from Fort Lauderdale. This service ended on September 2008.
  • On June 3, 2006, Delta Connection began servicing the airport, with twice-weekly, regional jet service to Atlanta, Georgia. The service ended on January 20, 2007.
  • Jet Blue started service to New York in June 2005. Some time later it also started flying to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale[36]


In addition, several carriers have flown intra-island from Ponce:[4]

  • During the 1970s, the airport had extensive domestic daily service by Prinair. Prinair kept on flying there until it ceased operations in 1984.[citation needed]
  • American Eagle Airlines flew from Ponce to San Juan, but halted operations in January, 2001, "after many years of service."
  • Cape Air offered service to San Juan from 2000[37] flying to Mercedita until April 30, 2011.[38]


Federal Express and DHL operate out of this airport for the distribution of surface freight.[4]


On June 24, 1972, Prinair Flight 191, which took off from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, crashed while attempting to land at Mercedita Airport.[39][40]

On July 1, 2011, a Cessna 185 that was supposed to land at Mercedita airport with a family of five on board, registration number N8438Q, crashed while on its way from Culebra. One body was found in Humacao. The other four passengers are presumed dead.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d FAA Airport Master Record for PSE (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective April 5, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Surge pugna sobre futuro de Mercedita. Reinaldo Millán. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 31. Issue 1527. Page 12. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  3. ^ Jason Rodríguez and Omar Alfonso. El Aeropuerto: otro diamante sin pulir (in Spanish). La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 30. Issue 1480. Page 8. April 11, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Regional Airports: Mercedita Airport (Ponce)" (in Spanish). Puerto Rico Ports Authority. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Aeropuerto Internacional Mercedita" (in Spanish). Municipality of Ponce. Archived from the original on February 14, 2010. 
  6. ^ Terminal Building Improvements Bids. Vol. 29, No. 14 (April 19, 2010), page 747 (Bid No. 30-90; BPR No. 50602). San Juan, Puerto Rico: Industrial Publishers, April 19, 2010. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
  7. ^ Jose Valdes. Ponce Podria Administrar el Aeropuerto Mercedita (in Spanish). El Nuevo Dia. November 12, 1997.
  8. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.  External link in |work= (help)
  9. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.  External link in |work= (help)
  10. ^ "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010.  External link in |work= (help)
  11. ^ Fuera de peligro aeropuerto Mercedita. Omar Alfonso. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. 23 February 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013 (Printed edition publication data: Recortes en la FAA: Fuera de peligro el Aeropuerto Mercedita. Year 31. Issue 1526. Page 14. 27 February 2013.).
  12. ^ Piden estudio para traspaso de Mercedita. Reinaldo Millán. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 30. Issue 1492. Page 14. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  13. ^ History. Destilería Serrallés. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  14. ^ "No le Hace (el Parentesco), Segun el Gobernador" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Dia. December 31, 1992. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  15. ^ AirNav: Mercedita Airport. Information current as of February 11, 2010. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  16. ^ "Losey Army Airfield". Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  17. ^ Cristobal Colon. "A mis amigos de la Universidad Catolica" (in Spanish). Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas Inc. 1993. Page 71.
  18. ^ Ponceños pedirán control de Aeropuerto (in Spanish). La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. March 23, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
  19. ^ Carmen Cila Rodríguez. Fuerte Allen: calvario con rostro haitiano (in Spanish). "El Sur en la Historia." In, La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. October 12, 2011. Page 18. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  20. ^ Archivo y Centro de Investigacion Institucion Academica. Archivo de Arquitectura y Construccion de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  21. ^ "Abre sus puertas el Ponce Hilton" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Dia. October 24, 1992. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Mejoras en el aeropuerto de Ponce por $6 millones" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Dia. September 21, 1992. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  23. ^ Continental to start daily non-stop Newark/Puerto Rico service. American Shipper/Howard Publications, Inc. August 23, 2005. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  24. ^ [dead link] 28% increase in passenger traffic
  25. ^ [dead link] Transfer of operations from PPPA to Municipal Government Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  26. ^ "Buscan municipalizar aeropuerto de Ponce" (in Spanish). San Juan, Puerto Rico: El Nuevo Dia. February 23, 2009. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Busca munipalizar aeropuerto Mercedita" (in Spanish). San Juan, Puerto Rico: WAPA-TV. February 23, 2009. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  28. ^ a b "Proyecto del Senado 405: LEY, Para transferir la jurisdicción del Aeropuerto Internacional Merceditas de Ponce, de la Autoridad de Puertos del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico al Municipio Autónomo de Ponce." (PDF) (in Spanish). Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico. Senado de Puerto Rico. 16ta Asamblea 1ra Sesión. Legislativa Ordinaria. February 20, 2009. Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  29. ^ Jason Rodríguez Grafal. Revés para Aeropuerto Mercedita: Crece malestar por posposición de expansión (in Spanish). Ponce, Puerto Rico: La Perla del Sur (newspaper). January 2010 (section: Noticias Locales). Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  30. ^ Jason Rodríguez Grafal. Con inversión de $7 millones: Luz Verde a la expansión del Aeropuerto (in Spanish). Ponce, Puerto Rico: La Perla del Sur (newspaper). April 14, 2010 (section: Noticias Locales). Retrieved April 16, 2010.
  31. ^ "Siguen las labores en el aeropuerto Mercedita". Primera Hora (in Spanish). May 3, 2012. 
  32. ^ Our Airports: Ponce's Mercedita Airport. website. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
  33. ^ a b "Ponce, P.R.: Mercedita (PSE)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), U.S. Department of Transportation. December 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2015. 
  34. ^ "Fin a cisma entre Ciudad y aeropuerto" (in Spanish). Ponce, Puerto Rico: La Perla del Sur. March 28, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2012.  (English translation)
  35. ^ "Continental Airlines Announces Daily Nonstop Service Between Newark and Ponce, Puerto Rico". PR Newswire. August 22, 2005. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  36. ^ "JetBlue announces services between South Florida and Puerto Rico". Press release. JetBlue Airways. July 24, 2007. 
  37. ^ Se fortalece Cape Air en Ponce y Mayagüez. El Nuevo Dia. 31 March 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  38. ^ Suspenden subsidios a línea aérea en Aeropuerto Mercedita. El Sur a la Vista. Ponce, Puerto Rico. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  39. ^ "Prinair Flight 191 Accident Description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  40. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report – Puerto Rico International Airlines (Prinair), Inc., DeHavilland DH-114, N554PR, Ponce, Puerto Rico, June 24, 1972" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. December 17, 1975. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  41. ^ Miguel Rivera Puig. Hallan cadáver de tripulante (in Spanish). El Vocero. July 4, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Essential Air Service documents (Docket OST-1999-6592) from the U.S. Department of Transportation:
    • Order 2005-3-2 (March 7, 2005): selecting Hyannis Air Service, Inc., d/b/a Cape Air to provide essential air service (EAS) at Mayaguez and Ponce, Puerto Rico, for the two-year period through April 30, 2007; establishing an annual subsidy rate of $688,551, beginning when the carrier inaugurates service at Mayaguez; and establishing an annual subsidy rate of $622,056 for service at Ponce, retroactive to January 1, 2005.
    • Order 2007-4-18 (April 20, 2007): selecting Hyannis Air Service, Inc., d/b/a Cape Air to provide essential air service (EAS) at Mayaguez and Ponce, Puerto Rico, for the two-year period through April 30, 2007; establishing an annual subsidy rate of $688,551, beginning when the carrier inaugurates service at Mayaguez; and establishing an annual subsidy rate of $622,056 for service at Ponce, retroactive to January 1, 2005.
    • Order 2009-3-1 (March 3, 2009): re-selecting Hyannis Air Service, Inc., d/b/a Cape Air, to continue to provide subsidized essential air service (EAS) at Mayaguez and Ponce, Puerto Rico, for the two-year period beginning May 1, 2009, at the annual subsidy rates of $980,980 for Mayaguez and $740,416 for Ponce.
    • Order 2010-12-31 (December 23, 2010): requesting proposals, by January 21, from carriers interested in providing essential air service (EAS) at Mayaguez, for a new two-year period beginning May 1, 2011, with or without subsidy. For several years, Mayaguez and Ponce have been handled under the same contract because the communities are on the same island, receiving service provided by the same carrier. However, with respect to this order, we are soliciting proposals for service to Mayaguez only. In addition to the service provided by Cape Air, Ponce receives subsidy-free jet service on a daily basis – one round trip to Orlando and one round trip to New York – provided by JetBlue, with 150-seat Airbus A-320 aircraft. That level of service far exceeds Ponce's EAS requirements; therefore, consistent with program practice, we will not seek proposals for replacement service at this time, but, rather, we will rely JetBlue's subsidy-free service to continue connecting the community to the national air transportation system. We note that Ponce's receiving subsidy free service does not change its status as an EAS community.
    • Order 2011-4-24 (April 28, 2011): granting the motions to file a petition for review of staff action of Order 2010-12-31, December 23, 2010, and upon review, denying their petition.

External links[edit]