Mercedita Airport (IATA: PSE, ICAO: TJPS, FAA LID: PSE) is a commercial airport located three miles (5 km) east of the central business district of Ponce, Puerto Rico. The airport covers 275 acres (111 ha) and has one runway. Passenger movement at the airport in FY 2008 was 278,911, an astounding 1,228% increase over fiscal year 2003 and the highest of all the regional airports for that 5-year period. As of November 15, 2009, negotiations were underway to transfer control of the airport from the Puerto Rico Ports Authority to the Ponce municipal government. It was inaugurated as an international airport on November 1, 1990. Mercedita is Puerto Rico's largest airport in terms of military personnel volume and the second largest in terms of military freight. On 12 August 1981, an Air Florida plane with 125 Haitian refugees aboard landed at Mercedita enroute to the Fort Allen facility in Juana Diaz, part of the 1981 Haitian refugees exodus.
Built in 1939, Mercedita was originally a modest aerodrome used for the airborne irrigation of sugarcane fields belonging to the Serralles distillery. The airport took the name of the sugarcane plantation that it was part of, Hacienda Mercedita. The founder of the plantation, Juan Serrallés, had named his plantation in honor of his wife Mercedes. To commemorate this, a portrait of Mrs. Mercedes Serralles was unveiled in the airport on December 30, 1992, by then-governor of Puerto Rico Rafael Hernandez Colon. The takeoff/landing strip was then only 850 feet (260 m) long by 50 feet (15 m) wide. During World War II it was turned into a military airport, and in 1947 the U.S. Navy ceded the airport to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority. The airport officially started operations in April, 1948.
In 1949, however, it was determined that the runway of the Ponce Airport at the nearby Losey Field (today, Fort Allen, Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico) no longer met the newer and more stringent minimum airport safety requirements, and airport operations were suspended. As a result, studies were initiated for the construction of a new airport in Ponce.