Palma Airport PMI

Palma International Airport

Palma de Mallorca Airport, also known as Son Sant Joan International Airport or simply as Palma Airport (IATA: MIP, ICAO: LEPA) is a Spanish airport in Aena, 5 miles from the center of Palma de Mallorca. It is strategically located between the summer areas of Palma Bay (S’Arenal) and the city, on the site of an old military base still existing. It was inaugurated in the 1960s, the time of the great tourist boom in the Balearic Islands, to replace the old Son Bonet Airport (still in operation). The Son San Juan Air Base, operated by the Air Force and with which it shares leads, is also nearby.

It has been expanded successive times, the last of which was in 1997 by the Mallorcan architect Pere Nicolau Bover. It has a single passenger terminal divided into four blocks that can be used independently (A, B, C, D), as well as two parallel tracks (06L-24R and 06R-24L) of 3270 and 3000 meters length respectively with ILS on their headboards, usable in low visibility conditions, allowing a high number of operations to be maintained time.

The construction of the third runway, paralyzed by the Majorcan Territorial Plan, is pending.

It is easily accessible from Palma de Mallorca via the Levante motorway and two bus lines. Recently it has been proposed to create a tram line between the center of Palma and the airport.

It is Spain’s third largest airport by volume of passengers and the most profitable in the country, being only surpassed in traffic by Madrid-Barajas Airport in Madrid and Barcelona-El Prat Airport in Barcelona. It receives a large number of charter flights from Europe (especially Germany and the United Kingdom).

Air Berlin, the main airline operating at the airport, used the airport as a hub or hub to link flights from Germany and Spain. During 2016, for economic reasons of the company and the strong competition, it stopped using the Majorcan airport as a hub of operations between the two countries by eliminating flights between Son Sant Joan and the Iberian Peninsula, while maintaining flights from Germany.

The Government’s interest in developing air mail led, at the end of the first decade of the 20th century, to consider the establishment of a postal airline in the Balearic Islands. Finally, in 1921, the company Aeromarítima Mallorquina (Mallorcan Aircraft Company) awarded the postal line Barcelona-Palma, using for the service hydroplanes that landed in the port of Palma. Before the start of the line, test flights had been carried out in the fields of Son Sant Joan and Son Bonet, where a private aerodrome was finally installed. In 1934, the company Aero-Taxi de Mallorca was created in order to organize tourist flights to Mallorca. This company opens a pilot school using the existing aerodrome in Son Sant Joan as a flight site. A year later, he set up a pilot school at Son Bonet aerodrome.

In May 1935, the company LAPE (Spanish Postal Air Lines), the forerunner of Iberia, was established. Months later, in August, the first regular line between Palma and Madrid, with a stopover in Valencia, is opened, using Son Sant Joan airport as an airport. One year later, this line is replaced by Palma-Barcelona. Three years later, Lufthansa and Iberia inaugurate new airlines based on the Son Bonet airfield, as the Sant Son Joan airfield is used by military aviation.

In 1954, with Son Sant Joan still a military air base (and Son Bonet the airport used for commercial transit), the expansion and asphalting of its flight runway were carried out to allow the operations of Sabre F-86 reactors, which forced the road from Palma to Llucmajor to be previously diverted.

The aircraft parking platform and the parallel rolling street were built in these years, and the first large European tourist groups arrived in Son Bonet at the hands of the BEA, Air France and Aviaco companies.

Airport control tower.

The increase in traffic and the inability to expand Son Bonet airport led the drafters of the 1958 National Airport Plan to propose the construction of a large commercial airport at Son Sant Joan airbase. The National Airports Board approved these works within the national investment program and, by ministerial order of 29 July 1959, authorized the transfer of commercial traffic from Son Bonet to Son Sant Joan. In 1958, a VOR was installed on the island and a VHF communications center was installed at Son Sant Joan itself, while the aeronautical easements of Son Bonet were published.

A temporary passenger terminal and an aircraft parking platform, independent of the military platform, were built in Son Sant Joan to accommodate commercial flights. An order of 7 July 1960 opened Son Sant Joan airport for domestic and international traffic, which was classified as a first administrative category.

Just two weeks after its opening to traffic, the necessary expansion of the aerodrome was declared public utility and urgent on 21 July. The expansion of the flight runway began in the summer of 1961 and was accompanied by a parallel running street. At the end of that year and the beginning of the following year, the power plant, the communications center and the rescue and fire park were launched.

Airport consolidation

The Airport Plan 1964-67 paid special attention to Palma, an airport that has surpassed one million passengers per year since 1962. The project included the expansion of the runway, a further expansion of the parking space to accommodate 28 medium-type aircraft, a terminal building for more than five million passengers and all additional works and facilities for lighting, communications and navigation aids, with a total budget of almost five hundred million pesetas.

New terminals

ATR 72 of Iberia Regional (Air Nostrum) at the airport with maintenance hangars of Iberia in the background.

In the summer of 1965, work on the new passenger terminal (terminal A) started and, at the end of the following year, air navigation services were complemented by the installation of a surveillance radar.

The unprecedented growth in traffic  which in 1965 already exceeded two million passengers a year  advised the construction of a new terminal to service non-scheduled flights, while studies were initiated to build a second parallel flight runway. In late 1970, work on this second runway began and, early next year, on the modular station for non-regular traffic, as well as a new aircraft parking in front of this terminal. This work was completed in 1972, when the so called terminal B came into service. The work on the second flight runway continued over the next two years, with its extension and reinforcement of the airline firm of up to 450 tons.

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