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Mobile Aviation

Mobile Aviation

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Mobile Aviation

Länge:
189 Seiten
58 Minuten
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Feb 28, 2011
ISBN:
9781439641606
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Local businessman and inventor John Ellis Fowler introduced the concept of the flying machine to Mobile and South Alabama. Fowler s innovative designs mark the beginning of the remarkable aviation heritage of Alabama s port city, a legacy further enhanced by the evolution of military and civilian aviation on Alabama s Gulf Coast. A mild climate and abundance of flat terrain made the region attractive for the establishment of military flight training programs during the World War II while the availability of air, rail, and sea transportation made Mobile an ideal location for construction of a supply and repair depot to support military aviation in the Southeast. Images of Aviation: Mobile Aviation is the story of the first century of powered flight in Mobile and South Alabama.
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Feb 28, 2011
ISBN:
9781439641606
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Billy J. Singleton has been involved in the aviation industry for more than 35 years, serves as chairman of the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame, and is a member of the board of directors of the Southern Museum of Flight. He has written extensively on the subjects of aviation history and safety.

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Mobile Aviation - Billy J. Singleton

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INTRODUCTION

The massive Brookley Complex in Mobile is a testament to the evolution of aviation during the first century of powered flight. Enormous swept-wing aircraft propelled by powerful turbojet engines routinely lift thousands of pounds of payload from runways that extend more than a mile in length and then transverse the sky at velocities approaching the speed of sound. The size and complexity of these modern marvels of technology would have been inconceivable to early aeronautical experimenters who devoted their lives to the pursuit of sustained and controlled flight in heavier-than-air machines.

Aircraft departing the north runway of the Brookley Complex trace a path over a parcel of land located on the west bank of Mobile Bay at Garrow’s Bend. Late in the 19th century, this area was transformed into a venue for residents of Alabama’s oldest city to enjoy a brief respite from the daily demands of metropolitan life. In addition to a scenic view of the bay and access to Arlington Pier, Monroe Park offered visitors an open-air theater, amusement rides, a carousel, and a baseball stadium. The inauguration of the city’s newest transportation technology, an electric streetcar line, operated by the Mobile Light and Railroad Company, provided an economical and efficient means to access the park’s recreational facilities.

The introduction of electric rail service was not the only new technology on display at Monroe Park. During the early years of the 20th century, curious visitors flocked to the park to view the unique flying machine designs of Mobile businessman and aerial experimenter John Ellis Fowler. Considered a mechanical wizard by customers of his clock repair shop, Fowler constructed two of his flying machine designs behind a large wooden enclosure at Monroe Park. To finance these projects, visitors paid an admission fee to observe Fowler’s work and to learn about his theories relating to the design of flying machines and propellers. Although no evidence exists to indicate that Fowler was successful in his quest to achieve flight, the inventor did receive patents for his Flying Machine and Propeller for Flying Machines designs.

Fowler’s dream of creating a machine capable of carrying a human aloft ushered in the age of heavier-than-air flight in Mobile. By 1916, flying machines had become a more common occurrence in the skies over Mobile. At the Gulf State Fair, aviatrix Katherine Stinson and Professor Osbert E. Williams thrilled the crowds with exhibition flights above the fairgrounds. Located only a short distance from Monroe Park, the fairgrounds provided a level, obstruction-free surface suitable for the operation of flying machines prior to the development of the airfield.

Mobile’s first flying field, Legion Field, consisted of a 100-acre tract of land located at the south end of Ann Street, extending for a number of blocks along Duval Street. Leased by the city in 1917, the site served as the municipal landing field during the first officially sanctioned airmail service to the city. On April 17, 1925, Lt. Robert Knapp and Sgt. J. A. Liner, military aviators serving at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, participated in a trial to prove the feasibility of connecting airmail service from the Gulf Coast with the transcontinental service at Chicago. The proposed route originated in New Orleans and included intermediate stops at Mobile, Birmingham, Nashville, Louisville, and Indianapolis. Upon arrival in Chicago, the mail would be placed on aircraft bound for New York, Los Angeles, and other municipal terminals on the transcontinental route.

The city of Mobile entered the era of commercial aviation on May 1, 1928, when the first scheduled airmail flight landed at Legion Field. Commercial Air Mail Route 23, served by St. Tammany Gulf Coast Airways, connected the cities of New Orleans and Atlanta with intermediate stops in Mobile and Birmingham. The new service initially operated from Legion Field because construction of the city’s new municipal airport had not been completed. The Mobile Municipal Airport, Bates Field, was located on Cedar Point Road, 4 miles south of the business district and half a mile west of Mobile Bay. Bates Field was dedicated in November 1929 and named in honor of Cecil F. Bates, a city commissioner who had been instrumental in the development of the new facility.

Bates Field consisted of approximately 125 acres of land that included two sod runways, an office building, restrooms, and a telephone. The city name was painted in bold letters on the roof of the hangar to help orient transient aviators. A pamphlet produced by the chamber of commerce described the field as laid out roughly in the shape of a right triangle with the base running north and south and the hypotenuse in a northeast-southwest direction. The pamphlet reminded pilots that the sod surface of the landing field remained firm even in the wettest weather. By 1939, improvements to the facility included a new terminal building, a hangar, a concrete ramp area, and two hard-surfaced runways.

In January 1940, the U.S. government acquired the Bates Field property and adjacent land for the construction of a new maintenance and repair depot to support military aviation in the Southeast and Caribbean areas. The facility was one of two depots initially constructed during the massive expansion of military forces as the United States prepared to intervene in the escalating conflicts in Europe and Asia. The new depot was designated Brookley Field in honor of Wendell Holsworth Brookley, a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps who lost his life in an aviation accident while testing an experimental propeller design.

Brookley Field was unique in being the only military aviation installation in the United States served directly by four modes of transportation: air, rail, sea, and highway. An ocean terminal, constructed on a parcel of land adjoining the depot at Garrow’s Bend, made Brookley Field the only military aviation depot in the United States with a deepwater port. During the Second

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