Vieques Air Link-VAL (San Juan) has added two additional Britten-Norman Islanders (N907VL and N908VL) for its expanding network. The small airline from Vieques to Culebra, José Aponte de la Torre Airport (JAT) (the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Base), and San Juan (Isla Grande and Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport-SJU).
Vieques (Isla de Vieques) is an island–municipality of Puerto Rico in the northeastern Caribbean, part of an island group sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands. Like the rest of Puerto Rico, a United States Commonwealth, Vieques retains strong influences from 400 years of Spanish ownership.
Vieques lies about 8 miles (13 km) east of the Puerto Rican mainland, and measures about 21 miles (34 km) long by 4 miles (6 km) wide. Its two main towns are Isabel Segunda (sometimes written “Isabel II”), the administrative center on the northern side of the island, and Esperanza on the southern side. At peak, the population of Vieques is around 10,000.
The island’s name is a Spanish spelling of a Native American word said to mean “small island”. It also has the nickname “Isla Nena”, usually translated from the Spanish as “Little Girl Island”, alluding to its perception as Puerto Rico’s little sister. During the colonial period, the British name was “Crab Island”.
Vieques is best known internationally as the site of a series of protests against the United States Navy’s use of the island as a bombing range and testing ground, which led to the Navy’s departure in 2003. Today the former Navy land is a national wildlife refuge, with numerous beaches that still retain the names given by the Navy, including Red Beach, Blue Beach, Green Beach and others. The beaches are commonly listed among the top beaches in the Caribbean for their azure-colored waters and white sands.
VAL started operations in 1965 when owner Osvaldo “Val” Gonzalez-Duriex piloted a flight with three passengers from Vieques to Humacao. Today it operates the Islander, Trislander and the Cessna Grand Caravan.
Copyright Photo: Raul Sepulveda. BN-2B-26 N908VL (msn 2187) is pictured at San Juan (SJU).