Cold Bay Airport

Cold Bay Airport
Cold Bay Airport
Airport type Public
Owner State of Alaska DOT&PF - Central Region
Serves Cold Bay, Alaska
Hub for PenAir
Elevation AMSL 96 ft / 29 m
Coordinates 55°12′22″N 162°43′32″W / 55.20611°N 162.72556°W / 55.20611; -162.72556
Direction Length Surface
ft m
14/32 10,415 3,174 Asphalt
8/26 4,235 1,291 Asphalt
Statistics (2007)
Aircraft operations 3,794
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
Cold Bay Airport is located in Alaska
Cold Bay Airport
Location of Cold Bay Airport, Alaska
The airfield at Cold Bay, 1942, later named Fort Randall AAF, then Thornbrough Field

Cold Bay Airport (IATA: CDBICAO: PACDFAA LID: CDB) is a public-use airport located in Cold Bay, a city in the Aleutians East Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska.[1] It is owned by the state and is one of the main airports serving the Alaska Peninsula.



Cold Bay's main runway is the fifth-largest in Alaska and was built during World War II. Today, it is used by scheduled cargo flights (Alaska Central Express and Evergreen International Airlines), and is sometimes used as an emergency diversion airport for passenger flights across the Pacific Ocean.[2]

A common myth describes CDB as an alternate landing site for NASA Space Shuttles, but NASA has stated that CDB has never been so designated, and CDB is not within the entry crossrange capability of the shuttle for modern missions.

There is also a National Weather Service office (which sends up radiosonde balloons twice a day) colocated with the FAA Flight Service Station. The NWS ranks Cold Bay as the cloudiest city in the United States.

Air taxi operators fly in and out of the airport daily.

Airline and destinations

  • PenAir (Anchorage, False Pass, King Cove, Nelson Lagoon, Port Moller, Sand Point, Unalaska) [3]

Facilities and aircraft

Cold Bay Airport has two asphalt paved runways: 14/32 is 10,415 by 150 feet (3,174 x 46 m) and 8/26 is 4,235 by 150 feet (1,291 x 46 m). For the 12-month period ending July 13, 2007, the airport had 3,794 aircraft operations, an average of 10 per day: 53% air taxi, 35% general aviation, 9% scheduled commercial and 4% military.[1]


The airport was constructed during World War II as Fort Randall Army Airfield during the military buildup of Alaska in secret beginning in 1941. Disguised as civilian employees of the Blair Canning and Packing Company, Army personnel in civilian clothes were shipped to Cold Bay. Although construction began in December 1941, the airfield was ready for operation by March 1942. Because of the foresight of Alaska's military commanders, the new airfield, along with another new secret airfield Cape Field at Umnak, was ready to contribute during the Battle of Dutch Harbor in June 1942. The airfield at Cold Bay would continue to contribute throughout the war.

Known units assigned to Fort Randal AAF were:

  • 73d Bombardment Squadron, numerous short dates, 1942–1943
  • 344th Fighter Squadron, numerous short dates, 1942–1943
  • 54th Fighter Squadron, June–July 1942
  • 11th Fighter Squadron, May–September 1942

Fort Randall AAF was also used by the United States Navy during the Aleutian campaign. A two-gun 6-inch naval gun battery was located at Grant Point. One gun is on display near the town dump. A four-gun 155mm gun battery on Panama mounts was located at Mortensen's Lagoon at Thin Point. The HECP bunker still exists at Pride Lake.

After the war, the airfield was named Thornbrough Air Force Base in 1948 for Captain George W. Thornbrough, a U.S. Army Air Corps B-26 pilot. Captain Thornbrough fought during the Battle of Dutch Harbor in June 1942, bravely attacking a Japanese aircraft carrier that was launching strike aircraft at Dutch Harbor. Although his torpedo struck the carrier, it failed to explode. Captain Thornbrough returned to his airfield to refuel and rearm and then took off to rejoin the fight. The aircraft and entire crew were lost during their return from this mission, when they were unable to land back at Cold Bay. The wreckage of Captain Thornbrough's aircraft was found fifty miles from Cold Bay on the north side of the Alaskan Peninsula the following month.

It was redesignated from Army Air Base (AAB) to an Air Force Base (AFB) on 28 March 1948 along with seven other Army Air Bases in Alaska. It's chief assets were a 10,000 ft. runway and a deep water dock. It was controlled by the 5024th Air Base Squadron, Alaskan Air Command (AAC). It was logistically supported by the 39th Air Depot Wing at Elmendorf AFB. It's mission became supporting Military Air Transport Service (MATS) transport flights along the Great Circle Route from Japan, as well as supporting the 7th (later 9th) Weather Group which provided support for WB-29 Superfortress flights of the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Eielson AFB which operated over the Northern Pacific and Bearing Sea. Both the runway and dock have continued in service to this day serving as transportation hubs for airlines and shipping.

The 5042d ABS was discontinued on 1 January 1950 per AAC General Order Number 198, dated 13 December 1949 due to budget restrictions. Control of the base was taken over directly by AAC. It was planned for inactivation, however the transport demands by MATS flying to Japan to support the Korean War delayed the inevitable closing of the base until 1 September 1953 by AAC General Order 66.

Between 1956 and 1958, Cold Bay Airport was used as a logistics support base during the construction of Cold Bay Air Force Station, a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station for Alaskan Air Command during the Cold War. Today, the airport is used by the USAF 611th Air Support Group, based at Elmendorf AFB to support the unattended Long Range Radar (LRR) site A-08 just to the northwest of the airport.


On September 8, 1973 World Airways Flight 802 a Military Airlift Command cargo flight crashed into Mount Dutton when on approach to Cold Bay. All six people on board were killed.[4]

See also


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

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0-89201-097-5
  1. ^ a b c FAA Airport Master Record for CDB (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2009-08-27.
  2. ^ "Continental trans-Pacific flight makes emergency landing". The Associated Press. 2004-10-19. Archived from the original on 2004-10-19. 
  3. ^ 2010 Timetables. Peninsula Airways. Retrieved 24-January-2011.
  4. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF N802WA Cold Bay, AK". Aviation Safety Network. 

External links

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