50 years ago: Arrival of first jets at Owen Roberts Airport has island abuzz

In the Dec. 21, 1966 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, George Town was the centre of the islandwide buzz about a very special “first.”

“What is probably the largest crowd ever to have congregated at the Owen Roberts Airport gathered on Saturday to greet first two jet aircraft ever to land in the Cayman Islands, and were thrilled by two perfect landings and takeoffs.

“As Mr. E.O. Panton, Master of Ceremonies, said, ‘This Saturday, Dec. 17, 1966, will go down in our memories as a great day. We pay a tribute to BWIA who have served us exceedingly well for many years.’

“It was an excited crowd that gathered from 9:30 a.m. onwards to await the silver object and smoke trail in the sky which would herald the arrival of our first jet. As an onlooker remarked, ‘The people who have been working so hard night and day on the airfield must feel very proud this morning.’ Indeed they must.

“As the Boeing 727 Sunjet was coming in, the U.S. Weather Bureau sent up a balloon on which were the words ‘Welcome to the Sunjet’ and there was a mighty cheer as the wheels of the 727 touched down on the resurfaced runway.

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“On this plane were William Wood, Allan Dixon, Ellington Bodden, Vance Crighton, Mrs. Rayal Bodden, Mr. Bill Banker, Mr. Lee Funk, Mrs. Isabell Warren, Mrs. Verna Henning and three children, and Mrs. Dora Watler with her nephew Hermon Thompson [and] Mr. Bob Wier, sales representative for BWIA.

“As they came off the plane, the Caymanians and others were interviewed by Mr. Panton and all agreed that they had a wonderful flight.

“A particular welcome was given to Capt. Fred Hamer who flew the first Viscount into the island in 1953 as copilot with Capt. Murray.

“Prior to the arrival of the second jet, a cocktail party was given by the government in the offices of Hadsphaltic and music was provided by Ken Davis and the Kiemanaires.

“The interviewing of incoming Caymanians and others was repeated for the second ceremony.

“Aboard this time were Mr. Walter Girling, General Manager of BWIA and his wife, Mr. T.E. McField, Veronica Watson, Roy Bodden, Francene Terry, Atlee Thompson, Cheryl McCoy, Vivian and Gordon McLaughlin and Lucille Ebanks, students coming home for their vacation, Mr. James A. Bodden, Mr. Tom Hubbell, Bing Thompson and Mr. A.B. Bush, MLA. who was returning from the Caribbean Met. Conference.

“Mr. Bush said that they had a wonderful flight on a wonderful aircraft, taking just 41 minutes from Kingston to George Town, travelling some of the time at 600 mph. He was privileged to ride in the cockpit and had a grandstand view.”


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