Sondrestrom AB, Greenland in 1965

Photo by Don Wilkerson, Firebird Pilot, circa 1965

Beginning in September of 1941, Sondrestrom Air Base was built under the guidance of the famed Arctic explorer and aviator Bert Balchen. During World War II Sondrestrom was known as Bluie West 8 or BW-8. During the war Narssarssuaq, Bluie West 1, was the primary Greenland base for the ferrying of aircraft to England and BW-8 was an alternate. Bluie West 8 soon became one of the most important stopover sites for flying missions between the USA and Europe, due to the fine flying conditions for which Sondrestrom became known.

Early in 1941, on April 9th, Greenland's security was entrusted to the USA by the Danish Ambassador, Henrik Kauffmann, in Washington, as Denmark was unable to insure Greenland's security and supplies while Denmark was under German occupation.

After the Second World War was over, in 1950, Bluie West 8 was given back to Denmark, and on April 27, 1951, the base reverted to the USA when Denmark and the USA signed a new defense agreement, and the Americans reopened Bluie West 8 using the name of Sondrestrom Air Base.

In the period between November 15, 1954, and October 1, 1965, the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) used Søndre Strømfjord for stopovers on the route between Copenhagen and Los Angeles. The non-stop route linking Copenhagen and Søndre Strømfjord had thus been created and, besides being an American military base, the airport became the gateway to Greenland. In 1960, the civil aspect of the base was established with the addition of a hotel to the SAS terminal

During the post-war period, which saw the onset of the cold war between the two world powers, the USA and the USSR, DEW (Distant Early Warning) radar stations were set up by the Americans from 1958 until far into the 1970s: the DYE-2 and DYE-3 stations on the inland ice, DYE-1 at Sisimiut and DYE-4 at Kulusuk. Sondrestrom's main mission since that time has been to supply the DEW stations, with both Greenlandair and USAF collaborating on the supply work.

When the USA and USSR began to disarm in 1989, the Pentagon made the decision to close down the DEW radar stations in 1990-91. Soon afterward the decision was made to shut down the American base. On September 30, 1992, the USAF left Sondrestrom Fjord. And, on October 1, 1992, the entire airport came under Greenland Home Rule and was given its first Greenlandic name, Kangerlussuaq. Kangerlussuaq Airport is currently operated by the Airport Authority under Greenland's Home Rule.




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