The new travel blog on Slate, “Atlas Obscura,” recently featured the abandoned planes of Pearls Airport in Grenada—a reminder of an important historical moment in the Caribbean:
Two derelict Antonov planes — Soviet skeletons once gifted to Cuba — lie on the grass at the former Pearls Airport in Grenada. Scavenged and sun-bleached, they are a rare visual reminder of Cuba’s presence in Grenada from 1979 to 1983.
Pearls Airport, the island’s first airstrip, was replaced by Maurice Bishop International Airport in 1984. The construction of the newer airport was a catalyst for the U.S. invasion of the Grenada: Ronald Reagan cited its extra-long, military-aircraft-friendly runway as evidence that Cuba and the USSR planned to fly in a stockpile of weapons and endanger American citizens. It is now understood that the airport was built solely for civilian aircraft.
Pearls Airport and its two Soviet planes were abandoned following the U.S. invasion in 1983. The single-engine biplane and twin-engine turbo-prop, their fuselages ransacked and rusting, have sat beside each other in a field ever since, sniffed by the occasional goat or cow. Though no longer used by planes, the airstrip still sees regular action: it has become a drag-racing spot for the Grenada Motor Club.