Cheddi Jagan International Airport (IATA: GEO, ICAO: SYCJ), formerly Timehri International Airport, is the national airport of Guyana. The airport is located on the right bank of the Demerara River in the city of Timehri, 41 kilometres (25 mi) south of Guyana's capital, Georgetown.
The United States obtained rights to locate military facilities in British Guiana as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement with the United Kingdom in 1941. On June 14, 1941, the first United States Army forces arrived to survey land for a bomber airfield near Georgetown.
Atkinson Field was built 28 miles (45 km) from Georgetown on 68 acres (280,000 m) of land formerly known Hyde Park, on the Demerara River. The forest was cleared and hills were levelled and a long concrete runway was constructed. On June 20, 1941 the airfield officially opened with the activation of a weather station. The station was named after Lieutenant Colonel Bert M. Atkinson, a United States Army Air Service World War I aviator. Colonel Atkinson was the commander of the 1st Pursuit Wing on the western front in 1918. Colonel Atkinson retired from the Army in 1922 after a distinguished career and died on April 27, 1937.
The mission of the station was the defense of the colony against Nazi U-Boats. The airfield was also major staging point for American aircraft crossing the Atlantic Ocean heading to the European Theatre on the South Atlantic transport route. Also aircraft sold to the British forces by the United States were flown to Atkinson where they were turned over and ferried to North Africa. With the discovery of bauxite deposits in northeast Brazil in 1943, the mission of the airfield was expanded to protect the coastline of northwest South America and prevent any submarine landings by Axis forces on the continent.
Assigned United States Army Air Forces units to Atkinson field were the 430th Bombardment Squadron (9th Bombardment Group) from 4 November 1941 - 31 October 1942 flying anti-submarine sorties in Douglas B-18 bombers. The 430th was replaced by a detachment of the 35th Bombardment Squadron (25th Bombardment Group) from 1 November 1942 - 7 October 1943. After the detection of U-Boat activity was taken over by the United States Navy, the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron (344th Reconnaissance Group) was assigned to the airfield during 1944 and 1945 flying the F-10 photo-recon version of the B-25 Mitchell bomber on various mapping missions.
At the end of the war, Atkinson Field was reduced in scope to a skeleton staff. The facility was opened for all air travel, including commercial air flights on October 1, 1946. The military airfield was redesignated Atkinson Air Force Base on March 26, 1948, by Department of the Air Force General Order Number 10. The base was ordered closed on 31 July 1949 due to budgetary cutbacks. The final military cadre was 3 officers and 25 enlisted men upon closure, and the base was officially turned over to British authorities on August 1.
A modern terminal building was built and opened on 15 March 1952. When the new building was ravaged by fire on 5 August 1959 the old terminal building was renovated and used again until the destroyed building was replaced.
The lease of the facility by the United States was formally terminated on 26 May 1966 (Guyana's Independence Day). Because the lease was terminated 74 years before its due end, a new agreement was arrived at giving certain specified rights to the United States in relation to the air base for the next 17 years.
In 1965 and 1968 additions were made to the airport facilities. On the 1 May 1969 the Atkinson Aerodrome was renamed the Timehri International Airport - "Timehri" is a Carib word for rock motifs located deep in the Guyana hinterland that pre-date the arrival of Europeans in the New World. The airport featured murals employing Amerindian motifs by Guyanese painter Aubrey Williams.
In March 1997, following the death of President Dr. Cheddi Jagan, then-President Samuel Hinds decided to rename the airport the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The proposition to rename the airport was tabled in the Parliament (National Assembly) by the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Vibert De Souza, who noted that it would be a fitting tribute to a man who had spent his life committed to the betterment of Amerindian people and fighting for the freedom and unity of all Guyanese. A plaque bearing the new name was unveiled on May 21, 1997 by the Prime Minister, Janet Jagan.
Airlines and destinations
The airport resides at an elevation of 95 feet (29 m) above mean sea level. It has two asphalt paved runways: 06/24 measuring 7,448 by 148 feet (2,270 × 45 m) and 11/29 measuring 5,002 by 148 feet (1,525 × 45 m).
The terminal currently has six ground level gates.
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