History of Nielson Field in Makati

From the years 1935 to 1946 the country was a commonwealth of the United States.  Historically, the thoroughfare, Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas Avenue holds the distinction of being the runway of the former Nielson Field airport, the only private commercial flight server of the country constructed in the 1930s.

On the 26th of February 1941, Philippine Airlines came to form headed by businessman Andres Soriano Sr and former Senator Ramon Fernandez.

On the 15th of March 1941, the airline’s first flight took place at Nielson Field in the municipality of Makati, the province of Rizal.     It operated daily domestic flights from the city of Manila to the city of Baguio, with a 9-passenger twin engine plane flown by American pilots.

Upon the outbreak of the Pacific War on the 8th of December 1941 and eventually the start of the Second World War, the commercial services of Philippine Airlines came to a halt until the year 1945.  The American Military forces took over operations of the Nielson Field temporarily as an attached military base to the existing Nichols Field.

The commercial pilots of Philippine Airlines were commissioned into military service and were utilized to evacuate American fighter pilots to Australia.

During the era of the Second World War, the airport was taken over by the Japanese Imperial forces.

On the 14th of February 1946, Philippine Airlines resumed operations at the Nielson Field Airport in the municipality of Makati.   Inasmuch as the airport was heavily damaged during the war, it was refurbished and modernized at a hefty cost of approximately over a million pesos.

Afterwards, it immediately became the official port of entry for air passengers into the country.   Likewise, a wholly owned subsidiary of the airline, namely the Manila International Air Terminal, was created to manage and operate the airport.

In the year 1946, the Philippines was proclaimed a republic ending the US Commonwealth period.   By the year end of 1948, the US Air Force turned over the military airport, Nichols Field, to the Philippine government.

Former President Manuel Roxas ordered the conversion of Nichols Field, the site of the former U.S. Air Force base, into a new international airport for Manila.   Following the government’s decision, PAL was required to move its base of operations and passenger terminal from Nielsen Airport.

The transfer resulted to intense lobbying and opposition from the Ayala and Soriano families due to the cost and expenditures about to be undertaken.

The transfer was eventually accomplished over a five (5) month period from January 31 to June 28, 1948.  Philippine Airlines invested an additional P600, 000 in ground installations and improvements to Nichols Field to become a viable domestic and international airport of the country.

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