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.
Although most U.S. airports use the same three-letter location identifier for the FAA and IATA, Saipan International Airport is assigned GSN by the FAA and SPN by the IATA (which assigned GSN to Mount Gunson, South Australia, Australia).
Facilities and aircraft
Saipan International Airport covers an area of 734 acres (297 ha) which contains one paved runway (7/25) measuring 8,700 x 200 ft (2,652 x 61 m).
For 12-month period ending December 31, 2005, the airport had 39,542 aircraft operations, an average of 108 per day: 61% air taxi, 19% general aviation, 18% scheduled commercial and 1% military.
Airlines and destinations
Today's Saipan International Airport was a prewar airfield on Saipan that was originally constructed by Japanese forces in 1934 and named Aslito Field.
World War II
The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) assigned two squadrons of Mitsubishi A6MT Zeros to the airfield in mid-June 1944. These squadrons took part in their defense 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 seized by the United States Army 27th Infantry Division on the night on June 16–17, 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 had fallen to the Americans. As it landed it was fired upon and it crashed 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).
The first B-29 arrived on Saipan on October 12, 1944, and 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 Curtiss 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.
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 back to being called Aslito Field.
In 2005, Japan Airlines suspended its services from Japan to SPN. Routes to Osaka and Nagoya were taken over by Northwest Airlines. The airport was also renamed after former Lt. Gov. Francisco C. Ada that year.
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