The works started in May 1959 and lasted 18 months. The majority of men in Tahiti worked on that gigantic building site. A first segment of 2,000 meters was completed in October 1960, and this short airstrip was immediately opened to propeller-aircraft traffic.
Although the TAI (Transports Aeriens Intercontinentaux) DC-8 aircraft touched ground on 04 May 1961, the official inauguration of the aerodrome took place on 5 May 1961, with speeches by political figures, leis, music and dances, in accordance with Tahitian custom. This first jet airliner opened the "Paris - Los Angeles – Papeete" route, which was to be followed by many other routes, mainly serving Pacific countries.