Our La Paloma Airport

Update: December 2019

The La Paloma Airport stopped flights in 2018 because of the Civic Rebellion that continues to this day in Nicaragua. The economy is in a tail spin, so there is no telling how long the airport will be closed or if it will ever open again.

Our island was very tranquil, an oasis of peace. In 2003, we often walked along the beach from our house, through a winding, dusty horse path where an old airport strip was located. The runway was built by Cuba, but hadn’t seen any action since the war. The old airport strip washed out every rainy season, leaving holes the size of Mack trucks.

airport and Franchesco's house

In 2009, the path through the old airstrip, led us to Francheco’s new lemon yellow house. Side by side with horses and cattle, we wandered along the path to visit Francheco. IMG_3112Then in late 2009, we noticed a for sale sign on a fencepost at the old airport strip. Uh oh!  Francheco’s house was torn down piece by loving piece…a new airport was in progress. IMG_2060Soon, there was a buzz of activity with surveyors, numbered sticks planted in the old airstrip, and red paint splashed over ancient trees.  IMG_4503Then, the machines came. Big, loud earth moving machines.  It reminded me of The Lorax. For months we awakened to the beep, beep beeping of the earth movers leveling and gouging the old runway. They called this progress in the name of tourism. IMG_4873 Graders, backhoes, and dump trucks arrived by ferry. Experienced workers arrived from Managua. Promises were made to hire local workers and they filed to the new airport office to fill out applications. Sadly, no local people were ever hired to work on the new airport strip. IMG_4844Several months later, the runway was ready for asphalt.  IMG_4809In late 2010, asphalt smoothed and caressed the runway. IMG_5042The fence was installed around the perimeter of the runway to keep out the wandering cows and horses.  IMG_0485Last December, 2012, the custom-house was completed.  IMG_1491 Soon, the control tower will be finished. IMG_1487We’ve heard so many dates for the opening of the airport that our heads spin…2010…2011…2012. But, this is Nicaragua and we run on Tepe Time on the island…slow..no worries…no rush. The time for the grand opening will be sometime this year.  I’m still not sure what to expect when the airport opens, but as always I’ll post the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of our new La Paloma airport.

10 thoughts on “Our La Paloma Airport

  1. A small thing, but the pedant in me needs to point out that some locals were hired (at least local to Ometepe, if not La Paloma) – we know several people from here in Los Angeles who worked on the project for months, but they would not have had the skills to operate the heavy machinery, only to contribute labour. I understand that (many/most/all of) the taxi concessions have been given to off-islanders (and this has prompted protest by the local taxi drivers).

    We noticed that the landing lights have been installed.

  2. great photo history… bicycling home 2 nights ago….the newly installed runway lights were on! I expect expats from Costa Rica will find themselves here for their 3 day immigration trip. ahhhh… no more Frontiera. I also went through the road block 4 days ago. 8 vans had stopped all traffic. They were upset the 10 taxi concession permits were given to non-locals. At least that is what I thought was explained to me. the speed of change here can be a bit scary at times….but it means an improved standard of living for many locals.

    • Hi George,
      The lights are on! Now, we wait for the planes. I never thought about expats coming to Ometepe from Costa Rica for their 3 day immigration trip. Makes sense to me. Much better than the Frontiera. I can’t believe that 10 taxi concession permits were given to non-locals. That’s horrible. And I agree that the speed of change is a bit scary at times. We’ll see what happens when the airport opens. 🙂

  3. It’s nice to see some updates of that little island 🙂 I didn’t know what to expect (at all) when riding around on the motorcycle Robinson rented to me and Britney. We came across the airstrip and it seemed kind of funny . . . it looked ready to go, but was vacant. Tepe time indeed 🙂

  4. You’re right, John and Mary. We’ve had some horrible accidents on the island and if a plane can fly the victims directly to Managua it may save more lives. That constant beeping annoyed us to no end. Maybe the beeping was to warn the cows, pigs, and horses on the runway. I think I’d rather listen the croaking of cowboy frogs. 🙂

  5. Think on the bright side – some day a life flight plane will land there and get someone to a medical facility in time to save that person and it will all have been worth it. But, I bet the airport will be used for only a few flights a day and little will change.

    What I thought was the most funny thing was that some government official thought it was necessary to have the, “beep, beep, beep” backup signals on trucks on a remote island working in open fields. Like if someone could not hear the heavy machinery backing up, they would surely hear the beeper. Here in San Clemente I have never heard a truck beeping as it backed up. I could easily live the rest of my life without hearing that obnoxious sound again.

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