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Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport

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Title: Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport  
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Subject: List of former United States military installations in Panama, United States Air Forces Southern Command, Panama Canal, Alas Chiricanas Flight 901, Albrook "Marcos A. Gelabert" International Airport
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Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport

Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport
Aeropuerto Enrique Adolfo Jiménez
Airport type Public
Location Colón, Panama
Elevation AMSL 8 m / 26 ft
MPEJ is located in Panama
Location in Panama
Direction Length Surface
m ft
18/36 2,700 8,858 Concrete
Source: DAFIF[1]

Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport (ICAO: MPEJ) is a commercial airport located in Colón, Panama, offering scheduled airline flights to the national capital, Panama City, and to other destinations.[2]

Prior to its use as a civil airport, the facility was a United States Army (later USAF) military airfield, established in 1918. It was turned over to the Panama Canal Zone government in 1949, and was converted into a civil airport. United States control over the airport ended in 1979 with the turnover of the Panama Canal Zone to the government of Panama.


Initially established as Coco Walk Aerodrome in March 1918

Renamed France Field in 1918.
Renamed France Air Force Base on 26 March 1948
Closed on 1 November 1949

Major commands to which assigned

Redesignated: Caribbean Air Force, 5 August 1941
Redesignated: Sixth Air Force, 18 September 1942
Redesignated: Caribbean Air Command, 31 July 1946-28 May 1949

Major units assigned

Operational history

France Field, 4 December 1920. The sheds in the foreground became Coco Solo NAS.


What would become Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport has its origins before World War I, when on Sunday, 27 April 1913, the Isthmus of Panama was first overflown from a beach near Balboa, on the Pacific side, to the shores near Cristobal on the Atlantic side by an airplane. During the flight, an aerial camera was aboard the aircraft and a primitive motion picture was made of the Panama Canal, which was still not finished. It was realized by the United States authorities that it was possible that, in the future, an enemy of the United States could attack the canal, and possibly use bombs against it, carried on aircraft.

With the entry of the United States into World War I, concern for the security of the canal saw the first airborne forces of the Army being sent to the Canal Zone. Plans were made for the establishment of eight aeronautical stations, with a strength of two dirigibles and six or eight seaplanes for observation. The only site identified as immediately usable was at Coco Solo, near Colon. An emergency appropriation of $1,000,000 was rushed though Congress for this purpose. In addition to the airdrome, the facility would also house a Naval submarine base.

Initially garrisoned at Ancon, the France Field was named in his honor.

World War I

Almost from the beginning, it was realized that flying in the tropics was very different from in the United States. The 7th Aero Squadron flew patrols over the Canal, but only in very good weather. Patrols were flown three times a day over the Canal and in the coastal waters adjacent to the Atlantic entrance to the Canal. The aircraft used had little or no navigational equipment, basically a compass, and several aircraft were lost when the weather changed suddenly.

The early flights over the Canal Zone also performed mapping missions and both the Canal Zone and the isthmus were thoroughly explored and charted. A legacy which became quite valuable to Army and Navy personnel assigned there in succeeding decades.

With the end of the war in November 1918, the wartime forces of the United States were rapidly demobilized. In June 1919, the majority of men and aircraft of the 7th Aero Squadron were loaded onto steamers and returned home, leaving a small flight for duty at France Field.

Inter-War Years, 1919-1939

During the early 1920s, France Field was expanded, as the defense of the Panama Canal was the major overseas concern of the Air Service (more so than the defense of the Philippines or the defense of the Hawaiian Islands). Although the 7th Aero Squadron was reduced in size after World War I, the unit remained active in the Canal Zone, undergoing several redesignations in the 1920s and 1930s.

As a direct result of the lessons learned during World War I in France, the Air service reorganized its tactical elements in 1922. Units were designated "Pursuit", "Bombardment" or "Observation", depending on their assigned mission and the type of aircraft assigned. The 7th Aero Squadron became the United States Army Headquarters in the Canal Zone on 30 April 1922. However while organized, the squadrons did not actually activate until 25 January 1923.

The Army was concerned that France Field, being the only operational airfield in the Canal Zone, was vulnerable to potential attackers, as well as to weather conditions. In addition, France Field was remotely located from the Pacific entrance to the Canal as well as the administration buildings of the Panama Canal Department. A second Army Airfield was developed in 1924 near the Pacific entrance to the Canal, initially known as Balboa Fill Landing Field. This was renamed in honor of 1LT Frank P. Albrook who had died in an aircraft accident, with Balboa being renamed Albrook Field.

By 1930, the expanding Air Corps in the Canal Zone required a new organization. The 19th Composite Wing was established at France Field on 8 May 1929 to provide a central command and control authority. The Wing was activated on 1 April 1931. Units under the 19th Composite Wing were:

7th Observation Squadron
44th Observation Squadron (moved to Albrook, 1932)
25th Bombardment Squadron
24th Pursuit Squadron (Active)
77th, 78th, 79th, 80th Pursuit Squadrons (authorized, but inactive)


77th Pursuit Squadron activated on 1 November 1930 at Mather Field, California
78th Pursuit Squadron activated on 1 April 1931 at France Field
79th Pursuit Squadron activated on 1 April 1933 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana
80th Pursuit Squadron activated on 10 January 1942 at Mitchel Field, New York as part of the 8th Pursuit Group.

During the 1930s, France Field was modernized and the facilities upgraded over the decade and the number of assigned units increased as world tensions heightened. In 1935, the first monoplanes, Martin B-10s arrived, being assigned to the 25th Bomb Squadron. At the dawn of the United States entry into World War II, the units at France Field consisted of the following:

51st, 52d and 53d Pursuit Squadrons (P-40 Warhawks)
3d and 25th Bombardment Squadrons

During World War II, the mission of the units at France Field consisted of the protection of the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, and to fly antisubmarine missions over the Caribbean

With the end of World War II France Airfield was reduced in scope, with most units being moved to Albrook or Howard Fields. It was redesignated France Air Force Base on 26 March 1948, by the Department of the Air Force General Order Number 10.

Post military use

A Pan Am Boeing 307 Stratoliner, dubbed Clipper Flying Cloud, of the sort that would fly into Colón during the World War II years

France Air Force Base was deactivated on 1 November 1949 by the United States Air Force due to budgetary reductions, and turned into a civil airport in the United States Canal Zone and renamed Colon Airport. The USAF, however, maintained jurisdiction over the airport until 31 December 1973, and it was occasionally used as a satellite field of Albrook AFB.

As Colon Airport, it was served by Boeing 307 Stratoliners and other early airliners flying Pan Am routes from Miami to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Havana, Cuba and Kingston, Jamaica into Cristobal and Colón, then continuing south via Lima, Peru, into Buenos Aires. Being located near the midpoint of this route and at the point where it intersected the Panama Canal made this location a useful one for north-south airline services.

With the return of the Canal Zone to Panama on 1 October 1979, the airport was renamed for Enrique Adolfo Jiménez, who served as Panamanian president from 1945 to 1948.

On August 20, 2013. Panamanian President Ricardo M. open the new Enrique A. Jimenez International Airport. The new terminal can serve up to 1000 passengers on peak period and the new runway can land aircraft B757 type.

Airlines and Destinations

Airlines Destinations
Air Panama Charter: Panama City-Albrook

Incidents and accidents

In 1994, this airport was the departure point for Alas Chiricanas Flight 00901, later downed by terrorists.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ Airport information for MPEJ at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
  2. ^ Enrique Adolfo Jimenez Airport, Colón, Panama

External links

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