Latitude 01°04'33"S Longitude 146°52'47"E



Lodger facilities on a U.S. Navy airstrip for RN Forward Aircraft Pool and Air Train test flight.



 May 1945



17 September 1945




 Lt. Commander (A) D. A. HORTON RNVR (P)  16 June 1945 to 17 October 1945



Forward area reserve aircraft pool holding combat ready front line aircraft. Fleet Air Train test flight




U.S. Naval  Air Station

Pityilu Is.

Papua New Guinea



The airfield lies on the western half of Pityilu Is, one of a chain of small islands extending W. from the N tip of Los Negros Island; directly N. of the eastern end of Manus Island in the Admiralty Group.

Pityilu is mostly covered with palm trees; there is a a Rest & recreation facility occupies the S. half of the island..

There are three other airfields in the Admiralty Group. PONAM (runway 1665 yds) on Ponam Is., 22 miles W., MOMOTE (runway 2600 yds) and MOCKARENG (2 runways both 2665 yds) on Los Negros Is. distant about 12 miles SE.






None access by air or sea only.



Control Tower inside perimeter track to S. of runway located at roughly the centre of the runway.



 8' above M.S.L.



One, crushed coral.

13/31 QDM. 131°-311°.... 1835 x 50 yds. 









Clear approach from both ends which are open to the sea. Coconut palm trees border runway on seaward side. 60 ft control tower with obstruction light on hardstand side of runway.





No special approach recommended.





By day


By night





None. Facilities on Los Negros Is.


None. YG and YJ beacons.



By day


By night







M/F & H/F

Transmitters & receivers supplied by USN


Transmitters & receivers supplied by USN






Living quarters in hutted camp at the NW. end of the island. American built Quonset Huts.


Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings................... ?



Not known



Not known



Not known



2 Hangars  on site, details not known.

RN Forward Aircraft Poll  is equipped with portable canvas hangars, dimensions not known.


Number /Type


Door Height

Door Width



Not known






Aviation -

Not known

M/T -

Not known

Oil -

Not known



Not known



Not known



Mobile workshops only.








Information taken from CB 4368 B. Admiralty Handbook of Naval Air Stations Aug. 45 & Airdromes Guide Southwest Pacific Area Dec. 1944.



List of first and second line squadrons, station flight and other flying units based at this location

  No squadron use recorded at this station


Pityilu is one of a chain of small islands extending W from the Northern tip of Los Negros Island; directly North of the eastern end of Manus Island, itself a part of the Admiralty Islands.

 The U.S. Navy's 140th Naval Construction Battalion built an airstrip on Pityilu beginning in June 1944. It was to care for one patrol squadron, to service and repair all types of carrier-based planes, and to provide storage for 350 aircraft, with camp accommodations for 350 officers and 1,400 men. The coral-surfaced runway measured 4,500 by 300 feet, with taxiway and three parking areas. Prefabricated steel huts were erected for administration, operations, and shop use. Other facilities included a 7,000-barrel aviation gasoline tank farm with sea-loading line, one prefabricated nose hangar, and munitions dumps.

 Later, the runway was extended 5500 feet and the parking areas were increased; the camp was enlarged to accommodate 2,500 men; and the dispensary was developed into a 100-bed hospital with all facilities. The eastern end of Pityilu Island was cleared, graded, and made into a fleet recreation centre to accommodate 10,000 men at one time.

  Pityilu Island is 22 Miles East of Ponam, another small coral Island with a US Navy airstrip. The US Navy installed Carrier Air Support Unit (CASU) 42 on Pityilu.

RN use of the airstrip

Unlike the USN airstrip on Ponam, which was transferred on loan to the Admiralty in March 1945, lodger facilities were granted for the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) at USN Airstrip Pityilu. The first use of ledger facilities this was made by the Maintenance Carrier UNICORN which had arrived at Manus on March 7th which the main elements of the BPF. After unloading Maintenance Storage & Repair unit no. 4 (MSR 4) to the US Naval Airstrip at Ponam, 22 miles west of Pityilu in advance of it being transferred to the Admiralty on loan, she was to remain at the fleet anchorage and eventually putting ashore a small test flight to Pityilu for maintenance test flying of airframes that had been repaired onboard. The only squadron use of Pityilu airstrip was made on March 15th when the BPF carriers INDOMITABLE, VICTORIOUS, and INDEFATIGABLE flew ashore a proportion of their Squadrons to Pityilu Island after two days of intensive flying training at sea; arrangements had been made with U.S. Authorities for this to be done, the carriers landing the necessary personnel, etc. They had all re-embarked by the 18th when the BPF sailed from Manus for Ulithi Atoll to begin strike operations.

Since their arrival in the Pacific the BPF had been looking for a suitable site to establish a Forward Aircraft Pool (FAP) but no suitable suite was available. The USN airstrip at Samar in the Philippines was chosen but operational difficulties and a lack of facilities becoming available from the Americans led to these plans being changed; Pityilu in the Admiralty Islands was offered as a compromise solution but they were only able to grant lodger facilities for the RN at Pityilu as the airfield was still in use by the US Navy.

Prior to the granting of this facility a floating FAP had been maintained onboard several of the replenishment CVEs (escort carriers), ARBITER, CHASER, SPEAKER and STRIKER, and the Aircraft Maintenance Carrier UNICORN. A dedicated FAP, R.N. Forward Aircraft Pool (FAP) No.1, was assembled in Australia by early June. Under the command of Lt. Cdr D. A. Horton RNVR this unit had been assembled from elements of Mobile Naval Air Bases in Australia its core component Maintenance, Storage & Resave Unit No.1, tasked for the support of Avenger I & II, Corsair II & IV, Hellcat I & II aircraft types; this unit was detached from MONAB I (Nowra, New South Wales) on 7th June 1945. Additionally, one Mobile Maintenance component (MM number and original parent unit not known) and a small H.Q. staff were added. The elements of the R.N. Forward Aircraft Pool (FAP) sailed from Sydney on board the Maintenance Carrier PIONEER on the June 16th.

Arriving at Pityilu on June 21st it was put ashore to establish a forward reserve aircraft depot for the Air Train (the name given to the aircraft supply element of the Fleet Train, the logistic support arm of the BPF), feeding replacement airframes to the replenishment carriers and to MONAB 4. Maintenance test flying was undertaken on a daily basis. July appears to have been a busy time for the unit, there are four recorded flying accidents during this month; on the 20th Lt. Cdr. G.P.C. Williams' Avenger, FN821, swung sharply and heeled over while taxiing, striking its port wing tip, and on the same day Lt. E.B. Gray made a forced landing whilst test flying Seafire PR262. Avenger JZ274 also made a forced landing on Pityilu when a cylinder head blew out on a test flight, being flown by Lt. M.A.J.M. Hayward on the 22nd. Lt. Hayward was to make a second forced landing on the 25th in Corsair KD487 after an oil sump plug fell out in flight.

RN presence withdrawn

With the war over by mid-August, the RN FAP at Pityilu was no longer required and the unit was ordered to be closed by mid-September. UNICORN arrived at the island on September 17th to evacuate the equipment and the RN presence on Pityilu airstrip was officially withdrawn; all stocks of reserve Aircraft having been flown to Ponam.

 The facilities on Pityilu were closed by the US Navy on September 1st 1947.



Click here for a list of Primary sources

Additional sources:

Airdromes Guide Southwest Pacific Area Second Edition Dec 1944

Published by Authority of the Commanding General, Army Air Forces Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, A-3 Headquarters Far East Air Forces






Image from Airdromes Guide Southwest Pacific Area Second Edition Dec 1944


View Larger Map


Pityilu Island seen looking east, the single coral runway is clearly visible

The men of the RN Forward Aircraft Pool on Pityilu.




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Topic: Pityilu
5/5 (1)
Ann Welch
Nov 2020
First Poster
Ann Welch (Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK) says...

I have the same image of the men on the plane. I also have others taken at the same time (around 17th September 1945) which is when I believe they were evacuated from Pitilu on HMS Unicorn. I'd love to hear from anyone who had relatives on the island at the same time. My father was an engine fitter, part of the Forward Aircraft Pool.

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Ann Welch
Nov 2020
First Poster
Ann Welch (Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK) says...

I have the same picture of the men on the plane. I also have a lot of others taken at the same time. I'd love to hear from anyone else who had a relative in the Forward Aircraft Pool on Pitilu at the same time. I believe the photo was taken around 17th September 1945 when the men were evacuated from the island on HMS Unicorn at the end of hostilities. If anyone is interested in the pictures I have I'd be happy to share them.

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