History of Barbados Aviation

For over eight decades Barbados has enjoyed a rich and varied aviation history. Today this country boasts a fully-appointed world-class airport, but aviation in Barbados first took flight in 1929. In actuality, aviation first landed on Good Friday, March 29th  in that year when a single-engine Auro Avain from Guadeloupe, piloted by Captain William Lancaster, touched down on the fifth fairway of the Rockley Golf Club in the parish of Christ Church.


A mere ten years later, and only a few weeks shy of that first milestone in Barbados' aviation history, the first passenger service was inaugurated on 6th February 1939. This passenger service departed from the Seawell International Airport, located almost on the edge of the southern tip of Barbados, in the parish of Christ Church. Five months previously the wheels of Seawell Airport's first scheduled flight kissed the grassy strip of the airfield. This was a KLM Royal Dutch Airliner, a mail shuttle from neighbouring Trinidad.


Thirty-seven years later tragedy struck, when Cubana Airways Flight 455 ploughed into the waters off the west coast of Barbados. None of the 73 passengers and crew, including the sixteen-member Cuban championship fencing team, survived the crash of the Douglas DC-8 on October 6, 1976. The flight had only minutes earlier departed Seawell Airport. A memorial currently stands in Payne's Bay, St. James on Barbados' west coast, in remembrance of the lives lost in, what was for decades, the Western Hemisphere's most deadly terrorist airline attack.


Also that same year the Seawell Airport was renamed in honour of the First Premier of Barbados, Sir Grantley Herbert Adams.


In the following year, 1977, the supersonic aircraft, British Airways' Concord, marked its first arrival into the island in order to return Her Majesty the Queen home to England.


Indeed Barbados was only one of four regular destinations for The BA's Concord and, until its final flight to Barbados decades later, the supersonic jetliner made frequent scheduled flights into and out of the country, with Barbados also used as a stop for repairs. The final departure of British Airways' Concord on November 17 2003 signalled the end of an era. The Concord left a lasting legacy in the pages of Barbados’ aviation history with the donation of the first Concord to grace these shores, designation G-BOAE. Visitors to Barbados can take part in an attraction "The Barbados Concord Experience" which gives one more look at the legendary aircraft. The attraction, located on the extended Grantley Adams Airport complex offers not only a thrilling and detailed tour of the supersonic craft, but a history of aviation.


More recently another historic chapter was created, with Barbados marking the arrival of the first Ghanaian International Airlines commercial jet on February 1, 2008. The charter, flight number B757-200, carried 160 passengers from Accra, Ghana, West Africa via a fuel stop in Sierra Leone.


Today, approximately nineteen international and regional passenger carriers, as well as a number of charters and cargo carriers, have regular scheduled flights arriving and departing the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA). Spectacular aerial tours of Barbados are also available through Horizon Helicopters. Aviation enthusiasts can also frequent the Barbados Light Aeroplane Club, located at the South Ramp of the GAIA.




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