Saipan International Airport
Saipan International Airport
Francisco C. Ada Airport
|Owner||Commonwealth Ports Authority|
|Location||Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands|
|Elevation AMSL||215 ft / 66 m|
Saipan International Airport (IATA: SPN, ICAO: PGSN, FAA LID: GSN), also known as Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, is a public airport located on Saipan Island in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The airport is owned by Commonwealth Ports Authority. Its airfield was previously known as Aslito (during the Japanese South Pacific Mandate) and Isley Field (during the American World War II and later period).
This airport is assigned a three-letter location identifier of GSN by the Federal Aviation Administration, but the International Air Transport Association (IATA) airport code is SPN (the IATA assigned GSN to Mount Gunson Airport in Australia).
World War II
Saipan International Airport was a sugarcane field before the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) constructed a temporary landing field on the site in 1933. The landing field was used for training purposes and had two runways configured in an "L" pattern. In 1937, the Navy began upgrading the airfield for full military use, despite an international law ban on constructing military facilities within the South Pacific Mandate. Following the attack against the United States in 1941, the field was named Aslito Field (アスリート飛行場), based on the indigenous Chamoru name for the area of its location, As Lito.
The IJNAS assigned two squadrons of Mitsubishi A6M5a-52 Zeros to the airfield in mid-June 1944. These squadrons took part in the occupation of the Mariana Islands during the Battle of the Philippine Sea later that month, being almost wiped out by the American forces during the battle.
The airfield was liberated by the United States Army 27th Infantry Division on June 18, 1944 during the Battle of Saipan. During the battle, a Zero from Guam actually landed at Aslito Airfield, the pilot being unaware that the field was under American control. As it landed, the aircraft was fired at and damaged, crashing at the end of the runway. The pilot survived and the plane was captured. The field was renamed Isley Field after United States Navy Commander Robert H. Isley who was killed on June 13, 1944, while strafing the base.
Once in American hands, Isley Field was expanded considerably to support Twentieth Air Force B-29 Superfortress operations. The XXI Bomber Command had been assigned the overall responsibility of the B-29 operations out of the Marianas bases, and Isley Field was to be used by the 73rd Bombardment Wing (which consisted of the 497th, 498th, 499th, and 500th Bombardment Groups).
On October 12, 1944 the first B-29 Joltin Josie The Pacific Pioneer piloted by Brigadier General Haywood S. Hansell commanding General of XXI Bomber Command and copiloted by Major Jack J Catton of the 873d Bombardment Squadron arrived at Isley Field. By November 22, over 100 B-29s were at Isley. The XXI Bomber Command was assigned the task of destroying the aircraft industry of Japan in a series of high-altitude, daylight precision attacks.
After several months of disappointing high level bombing attacks from Isley (and the other Twentieth Air Force airfields on Guam and Tinian), General Curtis LeMay, Commander of Twentieth Air Force issued a new directive that the high-altitude, daylight attacks be phased out and replaced by low-altitude, high-intensity incendiary raids at nighttime, being followed up with high explosive bombs once the targets were set ablaze. These nighttime attacks on Japan proved devastatingly effective, and the Superfortress missions from Isley Field led to massive destruction of industrial targets in Japan, with large industrial areas of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka being repeatedly attacked by waves of American bombers flying from the Marianas until the war's end. In response to these attacks, most of the Japanese air attacks on the Mariana Islands between November 1944 and January 1945 targeted Isley Field.
The airfield and surviving World War II facilities were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 as the "Isley Field Historic District", and are a contributing element of the National Historic Landmark District Landing Beaches; Aslito/Isley Field; & Marpi Point, Saipan Island, which was designated in 1985.
With the end of the war the wing's four bomb groups were all returned to the United States, with their B-29s either being flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines for scrapping, or were flown to storage facilities in Texas or Arizona. The 73d Bomb Wing was reassigned to the United States in December 1945. The airfield was returned to civil control and it reverted to being called Aslito Field.
Saipan International Airport commenced operation on July 25, 1976 taking over from the nearby Kobler Field. Continental Micronesia (originally Air Micronesia) initially had its main hub at Kobler Field and then Saipan Airport. As time passed, the airline's general traffic to and from Saipan had decreased due to the breakup of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; because the territory was subdivided into smaller political units, fewer people needed to travel to Saipan, the former capital of the trust territory. On July 15, 2008, the airline's Manila-Saipan flight, the final remaining Continental Micronesia directly-operated flight, ended.
Japanese tourists began visiting Saipan in large numbers during the 1970s. The airfield and terminal were significantly upgraded in 1975 to handle widebody aircraft.
Northwest Airlines historically served Saipan from Tokyo-Narita using McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 747 aircraft, while Japan Airlines (JAL) served Saipan from Narita and Osaka-Kansai using DC-10 and Boeing 767 aircraft respectively. In 2005, JAL suspended its services from Japan to SPN; routes to Osaka and Nagoya were taken over by Northwest. The airport was also renamed after former Lt. Gov. Francisco C. Ada that year.
Delta Air Lines inherited Northwest's Saipan routes following its acquisition of Northwest in 2008. In 2018, Delta decided to withdraw from the Saipan market, simultaneously with terminating its service to Palau and one month after ending its service to Guam. Delta cited lower demand, as well as needs for additional Boeing 757 aircraft on domestic US flights, as reasons for the withdrawal. Northwest and Delta served Saipan for a total of 29 years.
Accidents and incidents
- A Star Marianas plane crashed during takeoff on November 17, 2012 on its return from Tinian. One person was confirmed dead.
Facilities and aircraft
Airlines and destinations
|Asiana Airlines|| Busan, Seoul–Incheon|
|Beijing Capital Airlines||Hangzhou|
|China Eastern Airlines|| Beijing–Capital|
|HK Express||Hong Kong|
|Hong Kong Airlines||Hong Kong|
|Japan Airlines||Charter: Tokyo-Narita|
|Jeju Air||Busan, Seoul-Incheon|
| Philippine Airlines|
operated by PAL Express
|Sichuan Airlines||Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai–Pudong|
|Skymark Airlines||Charter: Tokyo-Narita|
|Star Marianas Air||Rota, Tinian, Guam|
|1||Guam||51,940||Star Marianas, United|
|2||Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands||30,520||Star Marianas|
|3||Rota, Northern Mariana Islands||12,610||Star Marianas, United|
- This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.
- Dorr, Robert F. B-29 Units of World War II. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-285-7
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Peacock, Lindsay. "Boeing B-29...First of the Superbombers". Part One. Air International, August 1989, Vol 37 No 2. ISSN 0306-5634. pp. 68–76, 87.
- Rust, Kenn C. Twentieth Air Force Story...in World War II. Temple City, California: Historical Aviation Album, 1979. ISBN 0-911852-85-9.
- FAA Airport Master Record for GSN ( PDF), retrieved 2007-03-15
- "Airline and Airport Code Search". International Air Transport Association (IATA). Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- "Saipan International (IATA: SPN, ICAO: PGSN, FAA: GSN)". Great Circle Mapper. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- "Mount Gunson Airport (IATA: GSN, ICAO: YMGN)". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- Hammel, Eric (2010-01-22). Air War Pacific: Chronology: America’s Air War Against Japan in East Asia and the Pacific, 1941–1945. Pacifica, California: Pacifica Military History. p. 383. ISBN 1890988103.
- Peacock Air International August 1989, p. 87.
- "History". Commonwealth Ports Authority. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
- "GAO-10-778T Issues Raised by the Proposed Merger of United and Continental Airlines." Government Accountability Office. Page 4. Retrieved on October 7, 2010.
- Vergara, Jaime R. "Celebrating the de-inauguration of CO 895." (Opinion page) Saipan Tribune. Monday July 21, 2008. Retrieved on October 13, 2010.
- Deposa, Moneth G. Continental shuts down Saipan office." Marianas Variety News & Views. July 17, 2008. Retrieved on February 25, 2009.
- "Northwest's B747 flies to Saipan". Saipan Tribune. 1999-10-04. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
- "Japan Airlines to close Northern Marianas office at month's end". Radio New Zealand. 2005-10-25. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved June 25, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Cabrera, Bea (2018-02-08). "Delta to end flights to Saipan, Palau". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
- "Skymark to offer Tokyo service to Saipan and Palau". Nikkei Asian Review. 2018-06-20. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
- Administrator. "BREAKING NEWS: Plane crash at Saipan International Airport". Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
- Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno, "1 killed in Saipan plane crash," Pacific Daily News, November 20, 2012, http://www.guampdn.com/article/20121120/NEWS01/211200301/1-killed-Saipan-plane-crash?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFrontpage
- "HK Express schedules Guam / Saipan debut in W16". Routesonline. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
- "Jin Air Adds New Guam / Saipan Service in S16". airlineroute. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
- "PAL Express converts Saipan service to seasonal service in S17". airlineroute. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
- "T'Way plans Saipan launch in Dec 2016". routesonline. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
- "RITA | BTS | Transtats". Transtats.bts.gov. 2017-05-10. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saipan International Airport.|
- Commonwealth Ports Authority: Saipan International Airport
- Aviation Photos: Obyan – Saipan International (SPN / GSN / PGSN) from Airliners.net
- (PDF), effective February 28, 2019
- Resources for this airport: