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Provincetown Municipal Airport.

More than 300 acres were taken out of the Province Lands to permit construction of the Provincetown Municipal Airport (PVC), a project begun in 1947. Burns & Kenerson were the original architects. With a scene-stealing display of a Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star jet fighter, the airport was formally dedicated on Sunday, 31 October 1948. Its macadam-paved runway — designated Runway 7/25 — was 3,500 feet long and 100 feet wide, suitable for “an airplane large enough to carry 24 passengers,” the Airport Commission reported. The Cape Cod Flying Service, owned by John C. Van Arsdale, was the original lessee and operator of the facility, paying the town $1,800 annually, plus 2 cents a gallon for all the retail gasoline it sold. The next year, Cape Cod Flying Service organized a division called the Provincetown-Boston Airline. The two services carried a total of 2,495 passengers between Provincetown and Boston in 1949.

The first hangar was completed in 1950. In 1953, the combined assets of Cape Cod Flying Service and its Provincetown-Boston Airline division were sold to a new entity, the Provincetown-Boston Airline Inc., which assumed responsibility for airport operations. Annual passenger traffic passed the 6,000 mark in 1954, which was also when air mail service began to Provincetown as a result of lobbying by Senator John F. Kennedy. PBA passed the 7,000 passneger mark in 1955, the 10,000 mark in 1957, and the 11,000 mark in 1959 — not coincidentally the year the airport got its first proper passenger terminal. A 4,000-foot-long taxiway, parallel to the runway, was completed in 1963. That year, PBA carried more than 12,000 passengers between Provincetown and Boston. An instrument landing system was initiated in 1966 and more than 14,000 passengers traveled to and from Boston aboard PBA. A year later, the airline broke the 17,000 mark. In 1968, PBA began flying 32-passenger Douglas DC-3s, but it was only then that potable water first arrived at the field by a hookup with town service. It’s a measure of how remote the area remained that the airport grounds were still traipsed by local hunters in search of rabbit and deer in the early 1970s. Pheasants were also stocked in the area by the Highland Fish and Game Club, working with the state fish and game agency.

The old hangar was replaced in 1973. By 1984, 20,000 passengers annually were flying the Provincetown-Boston route aboard PBA, the largest commuter carrier in the nation. But that apogee was the year in which the airline’s rapid collapse began, following a crash on 7 September in Florida that killed one person and injured five others. A second and far more serious crash in Jacksonville three months later, killing 13 people, sealed the airline’s doom as an independent entity. It soon filed for bankruptcy, emerging in May 1986 under the budget airline People Express, which was swallowed up four months later by Continental Airlines, which ended Provincetown-Boston service in 1988.

The next year, Cape Air, founded by Daniel A. Wolf, stepped in. It has provided the critical link to Logan ever since, with up to a dozen flights daily on its 10-passenger Cessna 402s. It also runs the airport. The passenger terminal was renovated in 1998, three years before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Subsequently imposed  airport security measures have strained the terminal and the municipal payroll.

¶ Last updated on 11 March 2017.



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