During World War II the United States entered into negotiations with Portugal to build an airport on Santa Maria. The Portuguese Government, despite the nation’s neutrality, authorized the building of the Airport. Initially the agreement was only part of a military strategy, but this move put the tiny island in the center of attention.
After World War II, Santa Maria Airport ceased to be a military base and became a civil airport of strategic importance, allowing international stops for refueling in the middle of the Atlantic. The Airport also became the center of life and development for the island. Travelers came from various parts of the world and contributed to the introduction of new cultural ideas on Santa Maria.
Several airlines had regular refueling and supply stops in their intercontinental services, including Pan American World Airways. Pan Am sparked interest for both inter-island and mainland routes in the Azores and that led to the creation of a local company to offer flight operations to the other islands of the Azores -SATA.
Air links between the islands were achieved through the Santa Maria Airport, as this was considered the center of civil aviation activity in the Azores, due to the connections with major airlines. In addition to U.S. the Azores became a touch down point for traffic from Europe to North and South America.
SATA began operations by connecting three islands , São Miguel , Santa Maria and Terceira. Its first flight was on June 15, 1947 between Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in a Beechcraft UC- 45B Expeditor ( CS -TAA ) called the Açor - or Goshawk.
Santa Maria Airport in the day had the right mix of infrastructure and charm, there was a Post Office and Customs Service and Border Control Service. The airport reduced the isolation of the Azores. It also offered telegraph services, aid service, aircraft maintenance and repair shop, and several stores and cafes. The airport was known for its wide tarmac to park planes and its 3 runways.