The new international airport for Panama’s central provinces will be built in Rio Hato, about an hour and a half from Panama City.
Although Aguadulce, Anton, Penonome, Santiago and Chitre all wanted the airport, President Martinelli confirmed that the selection of Rio Hato is definite.
“We are going to invest in the construction of an international airport in Howard, in the central provinces in Rio Hato and improve the structures of the Enrique Malek [airport] in David,” Martinelli said, adding that Santiago’s airport would be expanded and a smaller airport built in Santa Catalina.
The US Army first leased the Rio Hato airfield for $1 a year in the 1930s. In 1937, the rental increased to $2,400 a year and doubled the following year. In 1938, Major General David L. Stone, in command of the Panama Canal Department, wrote:
“We see in Rio Hato all the basic requirements for operations of planes of all types under any conditions of weather that we may expect. Its potentiality for expansion into a very large field is such that I consider it indispensable to the contemplated Air Corps expansion program in this Department.