Pago Pago International Airport

Coordinates: 14°19′41″S 170°42′43″W / 14.32806°S 170.71194°W / -14.32806; -170.71194
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pago Pago International Airport
Sign at terminal entrance
Airport typePublic
OwnerAmerican Samoan Government
OperatorDepartment of Port Administration
ServesPago Pago
LocationPago Pago, American Samoa, United States
Elevation AMSL32 ft / 10 m
Coordinates14°19′41″S 170°42′43″W / 14.32806°S 170.71194°W / -14.32806; -170.71194
WebsitePPG website
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
Direction Length Surface
ft m
05/23 10,000 3,048 Asphalt
08/26 3,800 1,158 Asphalt
Statistics (2010)
Passenger change 09–10Increase0.4%
Aircraft movements6,841
Movements change 09–10Increase0.3%
Source: 2010 World Airport Traffic Report.,[1] Federal Aviation Administration[2]

Pago Pago International Airport (IATA: PPG, ICAO: NSTU, FAA LID: PPG), also known as Tafuna Airport, is a public airport located 7 miles (11.3 km) southwest of the central business district of Pago Pago, in the village and plains of Tafuna on the island of Tutuila in American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States.

3,099 flights arrived at Pago Pago International Airport in 2014, down from 3,665 in 2013. Incoming flights carried 55,728 passengers in 2014, while flights carrying 57,355 passengers took off from the airport. 1,800,000 pounds (820,000 kg) of cargo and 1,300,000 pounds (590,000 kg) of mail were brought in by commercial carriers.[3]

Hawaiian Airlines flights leave from Pago Pago International Airport 2-3 times per week.


Tafuna Airfield[edit]

The site and location of the current airport was originally known as Tafuna Airfield.[4] It was part of U.S. Naval Station Tutuila - Samoa Defense Group Area[5] and was partially constructed before war broke out in the Pacific on December 7, 1941. Two airstrips were completed and opened on March 17, 1942.[6]

The airfield was first utilized on March 19, 1942, by U.S. Marine Fighting Squadron VMF-111[7] which arrived by ship from San Diego, California. VMF-111 aircraft were off loaded in Pago Pago harbor and trucked to Tafuna airfield.[6] The first planes from MAG-13 also arrived at Tafuna Airfield on April 2, 1942 at which point they assumed responsibility for the air defense of American Samoa. Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron VMO-151[6][8] arrived in early May 1942 at Tafuna Airfield where all three squadrons were based during the early part of the Pacific War. VMF-111 was eventually transitioned and based at Faleolo Airfield[6] in Western (British) Samoa after Faleolo airfield was completed in July 1942[9] to protect Upolu and Savai'i islands.

WW II to Pre-1964 Runways
Runway length Width Type Operational Years Usage
9/27 6,080 feet (1,853 m) 500 feet (152 m) Compact Coral 1942–1964 Primary runway
14/32 3,000 feet (914 m) 200 feet (61 m) Compact Coral 1942–1950 Secondary runway

The original runway alignments were 09/27 (6,080 feet (1,853 m) x 500 feet (152 m)) and 14/32 (3,000 feet (914 m) x 200 feet (61 m))[10] and were constructed of compact coral with capability to handle 65 fighter aircraft and 12 medium to heavy bombers. The runways were lighted.[10] The main terminal airfield buildings, a large hangar and control tower[11] were located at the edge of today's runway 08/26 and at what is today the Tafuna Industrial Park area.

Leone Airfield[edit]

In conjunction with the airstrip at Tafuna, an emergency Bomber airstrip was also constructed in the village of Leone, known then as Leone Airfield in early 1943.[12] It was situated on what is today Leone High School and Midkiff Elementary School on the western edge of Tutuila Island. Leone Airfield was 6,000 feet (1,829 m) x 500 feet (152 m)[9] and was completed on September 30, 1943. It had a short life during the war. The airfield was abandoned in early 1945 due to turbulent air currents and lack of use. Only two aircraft were recorded to have landed and taken off from the airfield. A visual outline of Leone Airfield can be seen from the air today with a straight clearance road starting from the WVUV-AM radio tower to Midkiff Elementary School.

Pago Pago International Airport[edit]

Pago Pago International Airport, as seen from A'oloau facing south, is on the left-hand side along the water.

Pre-jet service[edit]

Pago Pago International Airport and the original Tafuna Airfield military facilities were first used for commercial trans pacific air service in November 1946 when Pan American Airways resumed service from Honolulu to Australia and New Zealand. Pan American utilized Douglas DC-4s, and eventually upgraded to Douglas DC-7C aircraft in 1956 (when Pago Pago International Airport was upgraded as a commercial airport) for its Honolulu / Canton Island / Pago Pago / Nadi / Auckland and Sydney route. This service was conducted using the outbased DC-7C aircraft Clipper Seven Seas N743PA[13] and Clipper Pacific Trader N744PA [14] on the route and continued until November 1965.

Pre-jet/Pre-1964 Airlines
Started Ended Airline Name Aircraft Route
1946 1965 Pan American Airways DC-4 & DC-7 Honolulu / Canton Island / Pago Pago / Sydney and Auckland
1954 1965 TEAL (Air New Zealand) DC-6 & Lockheed L-188 Electra Auckland / Nadi / Pago Pago / Papeete
1959 1970 Polynesian Airlines DC-3 Apia (Faleolo) / Pago Pago

It was also used for inter island air service between Faleolo, Western Samoa and Pago Pago in 1959 by newly formed, Apia-based Polynesian Airlines and short-lived, Pago Pago-based Samoa Airways using ex-military Douglas C-47B-45-DK (DC-3D) type aircraft.

Tasman Empire Airways Limited, or TEAL, the predecessor to what is now Air New Zealand, offered Douglas DC-6 (eventually using Lockheed L-188 Electra aircraft in 1960) flights from Nadi to Pago Pago[15][16] and onwards to Tahiti in 1954 as part of its Coral Route Service.

The Jet Age[edit]

Pago Pago International Airport went through major re-construction in 1963 under the U.S. President Kennedy administration. The WW II military-era runway designated 14/32 was converted to a taxiway and ramp area, and a new runway was constructed and designated 05/23 with a paved length of 9,000 feet (2,743 m) and width of 150 feet (46 m).

Evolution of Runways at Pago Tafuna Airfield
Runway length Width Type Operational Years Last Major Improvement Usage Max Type Aircraft
9/27 6,080 feet (1,853 m) 500 feet (152 m) Compact Coral 1942–1964 (Closed) 1950 (sealed tar runway) Primary Runway DC-7 and Lockheed L-188 Electra
5/23 9,000 feet (2,743 m) 150 feet (46 m) Asphalt 1964 - Current 2001 (Runway extension) Primary runway Boeing 747 / Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
14/32 3,000 feet (914 m) 200 feet (61 m) Compact Coral 1942–1950 (converted to taxiway to runway 5/23 in 1963) 1942 Secondary runway Small WW II Fighter Aircraft

The terminal buildings at the airport were dedicated on November 23, 1965. Dignitaries attending included Senator Henry M. Jackson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs; Representative Michael J. Kirwan, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Appropriations, Interior and Insular Affairs; Malietoa Tanumafili II; and Prince Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV, Prime Minister of Tonga.[17]

Runway designation 09/27 which was the primary runway for commercial air service in the 1950s and early 1960s was deactivated after the newer, longer runway 05/23 was open for aircraft flights. Pago Pago International Airport was opened to jet service in 1964 to stimulate tourism and a new local economy.

Trans Pacific jet service and height of commercial aviation[edit]

A USAF C-141 at Pago Pago International Airport in July 1968. An Air New Zealand DC-8 is loading passengers in the background.

South Pacific jet services between Sydney (Australia), Auckland (New Zealand), Honolulu (Hawaii) and Papeete (Tahiti) were first offered by Pan American World Airways in 1964 using Boeing 707 aircraft. Air New Zealand, which was already flying the Auckland / Nadi / Pago Pago / Papeete route using Lockheed L-188 Electra aircraft shifted to Douglas DC-8 aircraft in November 1965. In 1970 American Airlines[18] began flying the Honolulu / Pago Pago / Sydney route using Boeing 707 aircraft.[19] UTA French Airlines began Douglas DC-10 service in 1975 between Noumea, New Caledonia and Papeete, Tahiti via Pago Pago. Continental Airlines also began DC-10 service from Honolulu to Sydney and Auckland via Pago Pago in 1979.

Pago Pago International Airport went through its peak in aviation between 1975 and 1985. During this period Pan American (using Boeing 747s), Air New Zealand (using DC-8s), UTA French Airlines (using DC-10s), Continental Airlines (using DC-10s), Hawaiian Airlines (using a DC-8), South Pacific Island Airways (using Boeing 707s), Samoa Air (using a Boeing 707), Arrow Air (using a DC-8), Air Nauru (Boeing 737 and Boeing 727), and Air Pacific (using a BAC One-Eleven) were all plying the South Pacific via Pago Pago. One could travel between Pago Pago and Honolulu for an airfare of US$99 one-way.

Jet Era/Post-1964 Airlines
Started Ended Airline Name Aircraft Route
1964 1982 Pan American Airways (defunct) Boeing 707 & Boeing 747 Honolulu / Pago Pago / Sydney, Auckland, Papeete
1965 1978 Air New Zealand DC-8 Auckland / Pago Pago / Honolulu
1970 1972 American Airlines Boeing 707 Honolulu / Pago Pago / Sydney and Auckland
1975 1977 UTA French Airlines (Merged with Air France) DC-10 Noumea / Pago Pago / Papeete
1979 1983 Continental Airlines (merged with United Airlines) DC-10 Honolulu / Pago Pago / Sydney & Auckland
1983 Current Hawaiian Airlines DC-8, L-1011, DC-10, Boeing 767, Airbus A330 Honolulu / Pago Pago / Papeete, Nukualofa, Auckland (no longer services these three routes from Pago Pago)
1980 1987 South Pacific Island Airways (defunct) Boeing 707 Pago Pago / Honolulu / Papeete / Auckland / Apia (Faleolo) / Sydney / Vancouver / Anchorage / Port Moresby
1984 1985 Samoa Air (defunct) Boeing 707 Pago Pago / Honolulu
1982 1985 Arrow Air Boeing 707 Honolulu / Pago Pago
1978 1985 Air Nauru (downsized and renamed Our Airline) Boeing 737 and Boeing 727 Nauru / Pago Pago
1977 1982 Air Pacific BAC-111 Nadi / Pago Pago

Cargo commercial aviation[edit]

Towards the end of its peak commercial passenger aviation period, Pago Pago International Airport also became an ideal refueling stopover for cargo carriers due to the low cost of fuel and landing fees at the time. Cargo carriers such as Kalitta Air, Evergreen International Airlines, and Polar Air Cargo would provide at least daily Boeing 747 cargo flights to Pago Pago from the US and from Asia Pacific between 1990 and 2006.

All-Cargo Carriers
Started Ended Cargo Airline Name Aircraft Route
1990 2006 Kalitta Air Boeing 747 Honolulu / Pago Pago / Sydney and Auckland
1994 2004 Evergreen International Airlines Boeing 747 Honolulu / Pago Pago
1993 2002 Polar Air Cargo Boeing 747 Honolulu / Pago Pago / Sydney / Hong Kong
2006 Current Asia Pacific Airlines Boeing 757 Honolulu / Pago Pago / Sydney

Downturn in airport usage and travel[edit]

The airport was a vital link to the Samoan Islands until the runway at Faleolo International Airport in Independent Samoa was improved and lengthened to handle larger than Boeing 737 type aircraft in 1984. With a population that is 3.5 times greater than American Samoa plus greater emphasis that was put on tourism growth, international airline traffic particularly from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific island countries began to shift from Pago Pago to Faleolo airport. Airlines with flights from the US to Australia and New Zealand also started utilizing aircraft that did not require a refueling stopover in Pago Pago. By the late 1980s and due to heavy competition and economics, only one passenger air carrier (Hawaiian Airlines) remained to serve the Pago Pago trans pacific route.

Runway and facility expansion[edit]

Runway 09/27 was the primary commercial runway for aircraft in the 1950s and early 1960s. The runway was deactivated after runway 05/23 was constructed and activated in 1964. In the mid-1970s, runway 09/27 was rehabilitated, repaved and reactivated as runway 08/26 with 3,800 feet (1,158 m) (length) by 100 feet (30 m) (width) to function as a secondary runway and taxiway. Runway 08/26 is widely used today by air taxi operators flying to Apia (Fagali'i and Faleolo), Ofu or Tau.

The Departure and Arrival terminal also went through a major expansion in the mid-1970s where buildings and space was doubled in size to handle more passengers.

To facilitate aircraft with large payload requirements and long distance flights, runway 05/23 was expanded in early 2001 from an original runway length of 9,000 feet (2,743 m) to the current 10,000 feet (3,048 m).

Jet-Era post 1964 Runways
Runway Length Width Type Operational Years Last Major Improvement Usage Max Aircraft Type
5/23 10,000 feet (3,048 m) 150 feet (46 m) Asphalt 1964 - Current 2001 Primary runway Boeing 747 / Lockheed C-5 Galaxy / Antonov An-225 Mriya / Airbus A380
8/26 3,800 feet (1,158 m) 100 feet (30 m) Asphalt 1979 - Current 1979 Secondary runway Dash-8 / Dornier-328 / C-130
Antonov 225 on final approach to Pago Pago International Airport Runway 5/23.

On October 13 and 19, 2009, the world's largest and heaviest aircraft, the Antonov An-225 landed at Pago Pago International Airport to deliver emergency power generation equipment[20] during the 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami.

Apollo space program[edit]

Locations of Pacific Ocean splashdowns of American spacecraft.

Pago Pago International Airport had historic significance with the U.S. Apollo Program.[21] The astronaut crews of Apollo 10, 12, 13, 14, and 17 were retrieved a few hundred miles from Pago Pago and transported by helicopter to the airport prior to being flown to Honolulu on Lockheed C-141 Starlifter military aircraft.[22]


Hawaiian Airlines is the only major airline serving Pago Pago International Airport. In 2004, with assistance from the American Samoan government to promote and bring additional air carriers to Pago Pago, Aloha Airlines opened a Honolulu / Pago Pago / Rarotonga route. However, the airline lasted 11 months and eventually pulled out of Pago Pago and other South Pacific routes it served due to financial issues.

The airport covers 700 acres (283 ha) of land.[2]

In 2014, there were 2,628 flights between Pago Pago and Samoa, and 162 flights between Honolulu and Pago Pago.[3]

A weekly cargo flight from Honolulu, Hawaii is provided by Asia Pacific Airlines.

Pago Pago International Airport is a frequent stopover for United States military aircraft flying in the South Pacific and is the only airport in the area with TACAN capabilities.

Daily inter-island flights between the Samoas are offered by Samoa Airways and Talofa Airways.

The American Samoan government is looking into legal means to overcome current US cabotage rules that forbid foreign carriers from entering and serving the Pago Pago – Honolulu or Pago Pago – Los Angeles routes.

There are regular buses that run between the airport and downtown.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu
Samoa Airways[23] Apia, Fitiuta, Ofu
Talofa Airways Apia, Nuku'alofa


Asia Pacific Airlines Honolulu

Status and expansion[edit]

A new US$12 million Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) Fire Crash station was completed in 2005.

A US$18 million Hot Fire/Crash Training facility was constructed and completed in 2008 and was to be used to train ARFF personnel, and other Fire Crash personnel from various airports in the South Pacific.

In 2010, Pago Pago International Airport underwent a US$1 million terminal remodeling and modernization with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The departure terminal, immigration, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security and lounge areas were completely renovated and expanded to increase passenger capacity and flow.

A new control tower has been planned since 2006,[24] but has been delayed due to arguments over funding[25] and lack of traffic.[26] Currently international traffic to Pago Pago is controlled from Faleolo International Airport in Samoa.[27]


Terminal and gates[edit]

Airport Terminal Facilities
Area Number Description/Comments
Passenger Terminals 1 Combination of 8 buildings inter connected
Aircraft Gates 3 A, B, C
Aircraft Stands 3 Ramp/Tarmac area

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On January 30, 1974 at about 11:41 pm Samoa local time, a Boeing 707 operating as Pan Am Flight 806 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Los Angeles, California with en route stops in Pago Pago and Honolulu, clipped trees at an elevation of 113 feet (34 m) and about 3,865 feet (1,178 m) short of the runway 05 threshold. The first impact with the ground was about 236 feet (72 m) further along the crash path. The aircraft continued through the jungle vegetation, struck a 3-foot (0.91 m)-high lava rock wall, and stopped about 3,090 feet (940 m) from the runway threshold. There were 97 fatalities out of 101 occupants on the aircraft.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Airport Council International's 2010 World Airport Traffic Report
  2. ^ a b FAA Airport Form 5010 for PPG PDF, effective June 21, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "(Page 148)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 6, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  4. ^ "Building the Navy's Bases in World War II". Department of the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks, Pg 208-212. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  5. ^ "The U.S. Naval History of the Samoan Defense Group" (PDF). Lt. Commander John Buake, USNA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d "History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II". Hough, Ludwig, Shaw - Chapter 3: The Southern Lifeline, pg 90. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  7. ^ "National Register of Historic Places - American Samoa's Defenses: Blunts Point Battery". Erwin N. Thompson, Historian. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  8. ^ "VMF-124 and VMF-151 Reunion Website". Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Building the Navy's Bases in World War II". Department of the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks, pg 212. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  10. ^ a b "The U.S. Naval History of the Samoan Defense Group, pg 8" (PDF). Lt. Commander John Burke, USNR. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  11. ^ "Tafuna Airfield bunker and tower WW II Photo with Mt. Matafao in background". Department of the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks, Pg 208-212. Retrieved February 17, 2011.
  12. ^ Freeman, Paul. "Leone Airfield, Taputimu, American Samoa". Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Western Pacific Islands. Archived from the original on September 4, 2014. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  13. ^ "Pan American Clipper Seven Seas DC-7C (c/n 44885) / N743PA". Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  14. ^ "Pan American Clipper Pacific Trader DC-7C / N744PA". September 4, 2005. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  15. ^ "Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) - Other routes". Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  16. ^ "TEAL - Coral Route". Webster's Online Dictionary. Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
  17. ^ Sunia, Fofo I.F. (2009). A History of American Samoa. Amerika Samoa Humanities Council. Page 285. ISBN 9781573062992.
  18. ^ "Timetables & Route Maps - American Airlines - September 14, 1970". Airchive. Retrieved February 2, 2011.
  19. ^ "American Airlines April 29, 1973 Route Map". Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  20. ^ "An-225 Mriya, NATO: Cossack". Goleta Air and Space Museum. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  21. ^ "Apollo Splashdowns Near American Samoa". Tavita Herdrich and News Bulletin. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  22. ^ "Apollo 17 Lunar Surface Journal - Kevin Steen". Eric M. Jones. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  23. ^ "Destinations We Fly To". Samoa Airways. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  24. ^ "American Samoa's Governor urges Congressman to support building of air traffic control tower". RNZ. July 31, 2006. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
  25. ^ "American Samoa and FAA at odds over air traffic control tower". RNZ. September 28, 2007. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
  26. ^ "No air traffic control tower in Pago due to not enough traffic". Samoa News. August 30, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
  27. ^ "Rep. Amituanai disappointed that we dont have a control tower". Talanei. September 13, 2017. Retrieved January 28, 2022.
  28. ^ "Aviation Safety Network Pan American World Airways Flight 806". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved January 1, 2009.

External links[edit]