Ok folks, so I love a good story about St. John’s history. And I know a lot of you do too. Did you know that you used to be able to fly right into Cruz Bay? Seriously, it’s true!
Getting to St. John isn’t easy, as we all know. (Click here to read our previous post: How to Get Here.) We have to fly into the airport on St. Thomas, and then we have to take a taxi and a ferry in order to arrive on St. John. Well for about 25 years or so, you could actually fly directly into St. John. Can you imagine watching planes land in Cruz Bay? That must have been a sight to see!
Antilles Air Boats launched in 1963, and provided air service between the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Tortola over the years. The first flights began out of St. John in 1967. From St. John, you could fly directly to both St. Thomas and St. Croix. Antilles Air Boats was founded by Charles F. Blair, Jr., the first person to fly solo over the North Pole.
The seaplane ramp was located in Cruz Bay on the land to the far right if you’re looking at the water from the beach. It was located at the end of the road that takes you to the Lind Point trailhead. In the early days, you actually had to take a small boat out to the seaplane in order to board it. Check out the picture below:
Antilles Air Boats soon became the world’s largest seaplane airline. It’s estimated that Antilles Air Boats completed about 40,000 flights a year.
Sadly Charles F. Blair, Jr. died in a plane accident near St. Thomas in 1978 along with three other passengers. At that time, his wife, movie star Maureen O’Hara, took over operations. She sold Antilles Air Boats to Resorts International the following year. Resorts International closed Antilles Air Boats in 1981. (Random fact: Donald Trump then acquired Resorts International in 1987. He sold it to Merv Griffin Enterprises the following year.)
Virgin Islands Seaplane Shuttle began service in 1982 and continued until Hurricane Hugo destroyed most of its fleet in 1989. The Virgin Islands Port Authority permanently closed the seaplane ramps in St. Thomas and St. Croix following Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. The Virgin Islands National Park closed the seaplane ramp on St. John soon thereafter. (The ramp was leased through the VINP.)
A businessman tried to launch a new seaplane service called St. John Air Taxi in 2004. The Federal Aviation Administration approved two routes at the time – one run between Frank Bay and Stevens Cay, and the other from Moorhead Point (beside Frank Bay) on an angle out toward Great Cruz Bay. This new service never came to fruition.
A seaplane landed in St. John several times in early 2021 – in Frank Bay and also in Round Bay on the East End. It caused quite the stir on social media and has not visited since to my knowledge.
So what do you think… Should seaplanes return to St. John? Please vote in the poll below.
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Tag: Is there an airport in St John
I used to fly the seaplane out of Isla Grande airport next to Old San Juan to Charlotte Amalie in the early 70’s
That is so cool! I would love to hear more about it! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any stories you would like to share.
Thank you so much for reading Island Tidbits!
I flew the goose.
30 minutes from Cruz Bay
To Isla Grande.
That’s so cool Sloop! By any chance, do you have any pictures?
Hi Jenn, My husband was a pilot for Antilles Airboats. I used to commute from St. Croix to St.John until they stopped flying. Would love to host a new company in Frank Bay. They would have no hassle from me! No photos…thanks to Hurricane Hugo…..
Hi Elaine! Hope all is good with you. Let’s get back in touch. My email address is still the same. Merry Christmas. Cathy O’Gara
Hi Elaine- I didn’t know your husband flew for Antilles Airboats. On my first visit to St. John back in the ’70’s they were still flying and I watched one taxi up the ramp in Cruz Bay. It must have made an impression on me because I became a seaplane pilot myself. Maybe I could hear a few stories next time we’re on island. Take care.
I didn’t know that. That’s so interesting! Thank you for sharing! 🙂
A close friend of mine in New York worked for the guy who owned the VI Seaplane Shuttle. She would get us free tickets all the time. Best was taking off from the runway at San Juan airport in the turbine-equipped Grumman Mallard and landing in the water at Cruz Bay.
Pics of the VI Shuttle from the 1980″s.
Wow! I never knew that!
Love reading your information!
That would be wonderful to fly from by Water Island to Cruz Bay. A new experience. When you have that ready let us know.
I remember picking up friends at the ramp in St John, must have been 1987 or 1988, before Hugo. In May, we took the seaplane from STX to Charlotte Amalie – and then ferried over to STJ. Since we now have a place on STX, would be great to be able to seaplane to STJ!
I was lucky to fly on the seaplane a couple of times. It was very adventurous for me, my husband and son. The last time we did it we only could fly in, they went out of business for the return flight.
We were in St. Croix Sept. 11 to the 16th, 1989 for our honeymoon. We scheduled a sea plane to take us to St. John for an add’l. 3 days after our 7 day in St. Croix, by Thurs. night the 14th we saw Hugo was going to change all that. We had to make arrangements to get out. I think we were one of the last planes out of there. Was the scariest thing I ever saw. Would love if they would bring back the sea planes.