Narsarsuaq Airport (Kalaallisut: Mittarfik Narsarsuaq) (IATA: UAK, ICAO: BGBW) is an airport located in Narsarsuaq, a settlement in the Kujalleq municipality in southern Greenland. Alongside Kangerlussuaq Airport it is one of two airports in Greenland capable of serving large airliners. It is also the only international airport in southern Greenland. The settlement it serves is small, with the airport primarily functioning as a transfer point for passengers heading for the helicopter hubs of Air Greenland in Qaqortoq and Nanortalik.
World War II
The airfield at Narsarsuaq was first built by the American Department of Defense (then known as the War Department) as an army airbase, its construction beginning in July 1941 and the first aircraft landing in January 1942. During World War II the airbase−codenamed Bluie West One−hosted squadrons of PBY Catalina flying boats and B-25 Mitchell bombers with the assignment to escort allied convoys and track and destroy German submarines.
A military hospital with 250 beds was completed in 1943. Approximately 4,000 people were stationed at the base during the war. It is estimated that during that time more than 10,000 aircraft were ferried through the airbase. On 6 July 1942 the supply ship "SS Montrose" was wrecked on a cliff in the Tunulliarfik Fjord southwest of the airbase. The first aircraft from the Danish Air Force stationed at Narsarsuaq was a PBY Catalina in 1947 and a B-17 Flying Fortress in 1948.
After the War
Civil air traffic began in 1949 with DC-4s from the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) and Icelandair. USA and Denmark signed The Agreement related to the defense of Greenland on 27 April 1951, with both countries agreeing to share the Bluie West One airbase. In 1952 the Danish Air Force stationed Airgroup West with a PBY Catalina at the airport.
The US Air Force left Bluie West One in November 1958, and the airbase was closed. In January 1959 M/S Hans Hedtoft of Denmark and all onboard were lost near the southern tip of Greenland. The Danish Authorities decided to reopen the airport soon after. From November 1959 Danish Air Force had 3 PBY Catalinas stationed at Narsarsuaq with the assignment to make ice-observations along the coast of Greenland, and these observations was broadcast to ships in the area.
In 1960 Greenlandair (since 2002 known as Air Greenland) was formed as a regional airline of Greenland. It began operations with a Sikorsky S-55 and a Douglas DC-4. From 1962 Greenlandair was using PBY Catalinas and Twin Otters on domestic routes in Greenland, and from 1965 with the Sikorsky S-61 helicopters.
In the 1960s and 1970s Greenlandair and SAS were operating with Douglas DC-6s and Icelandair with B727s in Greenland, and in the 80's SAS was using DC-8s at Narsarsuaq. Since 1 January 1988 the Narsarsuaq Airport has been operated by Mittarfeqarfiit, the Greenland Airport Administration. Ice-observations are still based at Narsarsuaq and carried out with the AS350 Eurocopter aircraft.
The airport served as a regional focus city for Air Greenland until the late 2000s, when tough economic conditions forced the airline to raise the low season prices several times. In 2009 the airline announced the sale of Kunuunnguaq, a Boeing 757-200, one of two airliners in the fleet, serving the Narsarsuaq-Copenhagen route. Later the same year, the airline announced the acquisition of two new STOL aircraft, de Havilland Dash-8 200, one of which would serve the newly opened triangular route between Narsarsuaq, Nuuk, and Reykjavík-Keflavík.
The new route was closed before the first flights could commence, adding to resentment amongst businesses and the community of South Greenland. The declared demand for the direct connection with Iceland was not reflected in ticket sales numbers, which contributed to the pullout decision.
With the Boeing airliner sold on 26 April 2010, the entire Kujalleq municipality, and southern Greenland in general remains without prospects for a direct connection to Copenhagen. The financial crisis of 2008-2010, the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption both contributed to lower passenger demand, while competition from Air Iceland on the route to Iceland rendered the prospected route unprofitable, leading directly to the decline in traffic in southern Greenland. Re-establishment of the direct route to Copenhagen is unlikely to happen in 2011.
Airlines and destinations
Accidents and incidents
On 21 September 1977, Douglas C-47 N723A of NJ Airlines crashed at Narsarsuaq Airport.
In the terminal there is a large cafeteria, a duty-free 'Nanoq' shop, as well as a small tourist office, which helps coordinate general aviation activities at the airport.
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