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Wake Island map overlaying a enhanced astronaut photograph taken from ISS Expedition 33 on September 27, 2012. Atribution: Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center.


Wake Island Airfield.
Category. Statistic.
Location. Wake Island, USA.
Opened in. 1935.
Closed in. Still in use.
Operated by. PanAm (1935-1941), Imperial Japanese Aiarforce (1941-1945), USAAF (1945-47), PanAm (early Cold War era)), USAF\PanAm ( - 1972) and USAF (1972 to date).
Owned by. PanAm (1935-1941), Empier of Japan (1941-1945), the Department of the Interior and the FAA ( 1945-1972), and the DoD (1972 to date).
Outside links. http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Wake_Island, http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Wake_Island_Airfield, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wq.html, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2006/09/mil-060914-afpn03.htm, http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/micronesia/about_destin/marshall_wake.html and http://www.pacificwrecks.com/airfields/wake/index.html.


Wake Island Airfield (IATA: AWK, ICAO: PWAK) is a military airport located on Wake Island, which is known for the Battle of Wake Island during World War II. It is owned by the U.S. Air Force and operated by the 611th Air Support Group.

It is primarily used as a mid-Pacific refueling stop for military aircraft and as an emergency landing area.

The 9,800-foot (3,000 m) runway is the longest strategic runway in the Pacific islands as of 2014.


The first intention to build an air base surfaced in 1935, when Pan American World Airways (PAA) selected Wake Island as an intermediate support base for their seaplane routes to the Far East, especially the Philippines. A year prior, jurisdiction over Wake Island was passed to the Navy Department, which cooperated with PAA in updating topographical surveys, due to the potential military value of having a suitable air base relatively near the USSR eastern border.

Between the 5th and 29th of  May 1935, Pan American's air base construction vessel, North Haven, landed supplies and equipment on Wilkes Island for eventual rehandling to Peale Island which, because of its more suitable soil and geology, had been selected as site for the PAA seaplane base. By the time of North Haven's return to Wake, after a month's voyage westward to Manila, the project was well under way and, three months later on 9 August 1935, a Pan American Sikorsky S-42 flying boat made the first aerial landing at the atoll.

From 1935 until 1940, when two typhoons swept Wake with resultant extensive damage to the now elaborately developed Pan American facilities, development and use of the base were steady but uneventful. A hotel was built, farm animals imported, and hydroponic truck farming commenced. The seaplane base on Peale Island was too limited to support realistic military activity on the atoll, thus supporting plans for development of a full-scale military air base with runway for land based aircraft.

On 26 December 1940, implementing the Hepburn Board's recommendations, a pioneer party of 80 men and 2,000 short tons (1,800 t) of equipment sailed for Wake Island from Oahu. This advanced detachment commenced establishment of a naval air station on Wake Island. Construction plans included a runway to be used by F4F Wildcat airplanes and commercial airliners of greater size, which couldn't land on water. Support craft arrived at Wake on 9 January 1941, laid-to off Wilkes Island, and next day commenced landing naval supplies and advance base equipment for development of the base. The company contracted to build the base was Morrison-Knudsen Co. (acquired by Washington Group International) which, together with seven other companies, built many of the U.S. naval bases throughout the Pacific Ocean. During the construction several military personnel were already deployed. Nearly a year later the Battle of Wake Island began.


The Battle of Wake Island occers between the USA and Imperial Japan.

Cold War[]

After pioneering air service into Wake Island in 1935, Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) continued to serve the airfield for many years. In 1950, Wake Island was a stop on Pan Am's round the world service between San Francisco and New York City with the airline operating double-decker Boeing 377 Stratocruiser propliners into the airfield. Westbound Pan Am flights continued on to Guam, Tokyo and other destinations in Asia before proceeding to Europe and New York City while eastbound flights operated a Henderson Field (Midway Atoll)-Honolulu-San Francisco routing. By 1969, Wake Island was a scheduled stop on a round trip transpacific flight operated by Pan Am between San Francisco and Saigon in the former country of South Vietnam. This passenger service was operated twice a week with a Boeing 707 intercontinental jetliner. These flights also served Honolulu and Guam nonstop from Wake Island. At the same time, Pan Am was operating daily all cargo flights into Wake Island with a Boeing 707 jet freighter. Depending on the day of the week, this all cargo service was flown into Wake Island on a westbound route that included New York City, Los Angeles, Travis Air Force Base in northern California (which was a flag stop for military cargo and mail), San Francisco and Honolulu. Continuing all cargo service was operated by the Pan Am 707 jet freighter westbound to Guam, Tokyo, Saigon and Hong Kong. Pan Am subsequently discontinued all flights into Wake Island by the early 1970s thus ending many years of passenger and cargo air service. Wake Island was one of the smallest destinations, population-wise, ever to receive scheduled Pan Am jet service.

Japan Airlines (JAL) used both Wake Island and Honolulu as stops on its initial Tokyo-San Francisco service using Douglas DC-6s in the mid-1950s. The Wake Island technical stop on this route disappeared with the introduction of Douglas DC-8 jetliners by JAL.

British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC, which subsequently became British Airways) also used Wake Island as a refueling stop. During the late 1950s, BOAC operated Bristol Britannia turboprop aircraft on their twice a week westbound service between the U.K. and Asia via the U.S. The routing of these flights was London-New York-San Francisco-Honolulu-Wake Island-Tokyo-Hong Kong. The Wake Island stop was discontinued when BOAC replaced the Britannia propjet with Boeing 707 aircraft on the same route as part of their around the world services. 

Real Transportes Aereos, a Brazilian airline, also used the airfield as technical stop for its flights between South America and Japan during the early 1960s. In 1961, Real was operating weekly Douglas DC-6B round trip service with a routing of São Paulo-Rio de Janeiro-Manaus-Bogota-Mexico City-Los Angeles-Honolulu-Wake Island-Tokyo. 

Another airline that operated into Wake Island was Philippine Airlines with Douglas DC-8 jetliners on a daily westbound service from San Francisco and Honolulu to Manila during the early 1970s. The airfield was a technical stop for fuel for this Philippine Airlines flight as the DC-8 did not have the range to fly nonstop from Honolulu to Manila.

On June 24, 1972, responsibility for the civil administration of Wake Island was transferred from the FAA to the United States Air Force under an agreement between the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Air Force. In July 1972, the FAA turned over administration of the island to the Military Airlift Command (MAC), although legal ownership stayed with the Department of the Interior and the FAA continued to maintain the air navigation facilities and provide air traffic control services. On December 27, 1972, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF) John D. Ryan directed MAC to phase out en route support activity at Wake Island effective June 30, 1973. On July 1, 1973, all FAA activities ended and the U.S. Air Force under Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), Detachment 4, 15th Air Base Wing assumed control of Wake Island.

Post-Cold War[]

It survived the 31 August 2006, the super typhoon Ioke (class 5) and remained mostly intact and was soon repaired.

Also see[]

  1. Airports
  2. Wake Island
  3. Bikini Atoll
  4. MASH Units
  5. Vietnam War
  6. Dustoff crews
  7. Midway Island
  8. Johnston Atoll
  9. Noteworthy Air bases
  10. 1950–1953 Korean War
  11. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands