In 1941 the United States obtained rights to construct an air force base in the St. George’s Bay area of Newfoundland. The U.S. 76th Congress approved the 99 year lease and in April 1941, construction began. The air force base was originally referred to as Stephenville Air Base however, it was renamed Ernest Harmon Air Force Base on June 23, 1948, in honor of Captain Ernest Emery Harmon. Harmon was a U.S. Army Corps ace who was killed in an air crash in 1933.
The Early Days On September 1, 1943, the Newfoundland Base Command transferred control of the Harmon Field to the North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command. The base became a part of the Northeast Air Command in October, 1950. Then in April of 1957, the Strategic Air Command assumed control. The mandate of the base was to maintain a tanker alert force and its capability to meet and refuel Strategic Air Command jet bombers on route to targets. The KC-97 was employed in this task. The base was also used as a refueling stop for transatlantic military flights. In addition, Harmon supported three Air Defense Command units. In 1957, the Canadian Department of Transportation constructed an air terminal building to accommodate Trans Canada Airlines. 1966 saw the closure of the U.S. Air Force Base in Stephenville. The airport is now owned and operated by a local airport authority.
Airbus Airplane Stephenville Airport was officially designated as an alternate in the Trans Oceanic Plane Stop (TOPS) program on July 23, 1970. On April 1, 1990 the airport was further designated for alternate use, fueling only, by international scheduled air transport and for international general aviation regular use. In recent years, Stephenville has become a favorite technical stop for international flights on route to Europe. In 1989 the consulting firm SYPHER:MUELLER International (SMI) was commissioned to develop ‘A Market Niche and Strategy for Stephenville Airport.’ The study identified a number of market opportunities for the Stephenville Airport associated with expansion of scheduled air services, specific niches in serving trans Atlantic transient traffic and as a location for aviation based activities.
The SMI recommended the formation of the Stephenville Airport Corporation (SAC) to provide an integrated focus for development action. In 1990, SAC was incorporated and was given the task of marketing the Stephenville Airport and facilitating the development of associated businesses. To date, SAC has succeeded in promoting the use of Stephenville Airport as as awareness of the high service level and competitive prices increases our customer base continues to expand. The establishment of a first class FBO facility and a fueling service that provides competitive prices has acted as the impetus that has seen the level of corporate technical stops increase 400 % over the 1990 level.