Keflavík Airport Iceland was constructed by the Americans during World War II for military purposes and inaugurated on the 24 March 1943. The airport played a major role for the allies and is situated on the Reykjanes peninsula 50 kilometers south-west from Reykjavík the Capital.
The airport area is approximately 25 square kilometers, the runway system comprises of 4 runways, 02/20 (3065 m x 60 m) and 11/29 (3054 m x 60 m) and the airport is technically very well equipped (see Aerodrome Chart). During the war the airport was exclusively used for military purposes, but as the world recuperated it gained an important function for technical stops for the piston aircraft of yesterday, they did not have enough range to fly non-stop the north-Atlantic route between Europe and America. In those days it was quite common that an aircraft flying from, lets say Paris, had to stop in Shannon Ireland, then Keflavík, then perhaps over to Narsarsuaq or Söndrestrom Greenland, next stop was Frobisher Bay, Goose Bay or Gander Canada and then finally New York. As aircraft progressed, first came the turboprops such as Vickers Viscount, Vickers Vanguard, Britannia, Electra, Canadair CL-44, and then developed into jets during the sixties, such as the Comet, Boeing 707 and DC-8 and as technology advanced, Keflavík Airport became less important because aircraft had much longer range and did not need to stop for refueling. The aircraft of to-day have range up to 15,000 km.
Up to that time the Icelandic companies, Loftleiđir Icelandic which had gained a foothold in flying between New York and Luxembourg and Flugfélag Íslands, Icelandair which concentrated on flying between Iceland and continental Europe and the UK, had operated from Reykjavík Airport. At the dawn of the jet age both these companies moved to Keflavík Airport, Icelandic in 1962 and Icelandair in 1967 but domestic flights remained in Reykjavík. Those companies later merged.
This proved to be a beginning of a new chapter in the operation of Keflavík Airport, the business has increased considerably over the years, in 1958 passengers through Keflavík Airport were 43,775, in 1999 they were 1,315,209. In 1958 total freight was 1.218 metric tones, in 1999 it was 30,983 metric tones (see graph).Keflavik Airport is open for business 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. During the peak season there are about 1.000 civil aviation related jobs on the airport.
The Leifur Eiríksson Air Terminal was inaugurated in April 1987 and was initially 24,000 square meters large. A 15,000 square meters extention was completed in the spring of 2001 and is in compliance with the requirements of the Schengen Convention.
Keflavík Airport is a joint civil and military airport, operated by the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration and the US Navy. The participation of the ICAA contains the office of a Civil Airport Director, all Air Traffic Services and non military nav/appr. aids such as Radar, VOR, DME, ILS (LLZ/GP), and NDB.
In 1946 an agreement was signed between the Icelandic and the US Governments to the effect that all military personnel should leave Iceland and between 1947-1951 the airport was operated by US civilian contractors (American Overseas Airlines and Lockheed Aircraft Overseas Service) as an international airport, authorizing the USA to use it for military purposes. At that time the airport complex was one of the largest in the world. On May 5, 1951 following a request from NATO, in which Iceland was already a member since March 1949, a Defense Agreement was signed between Iceland and the United States where the US assumed the defense of Iceland and the areas around the country on behalf of NATO. This agreement played a big role during the cold war and in fact still does.
Since the détente the military activity has decreased considerably, the US Navy has a squadron of Lockheed P3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft and the US Air Force a few McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle fighters, furthermore C-130 Hercules, KC-135 Stratotanker and Sikorsky 60 rescue helicopters are stationed here.
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