Civilian Aviation in San Antonio

T.T.M. is deeply indebted to David Herbert, Public Relations Manager, City of San Antonio Aviation Department, and his predecessor, Lisa Burkhardt-Worley, for their generous assistance and advice.
San Antonio has a very long history of air transportation. Stinson is the second oldest continuously operated airport in the country and the oldest west of the Mississippi. The first flights in military owned aircraft began here. Luminaries like Marjorie Stinson, and the rest of her family, led the way in the development of commercial aviation, which relied heavily on the movement of the U.S. mail until the development of larger aircraft with longer range allowed operations to become financially self supporting. An almost infinite number of pilots and aircrew have begun their careers in San Antonio, through Lackland Air Force Base..
The first terminal building at the municipal, now the international, airport, still in use as the private aviation terminal.
This Quonset Hut is located quite close to the "new" passenger terminals and still serves as the general aviation terminal to this day. The airport used buildings like this for all passenger traffic until the first modern terminal was opened in 1953.
San Antonio International Airport has been a work in progress since its beginning days in 1941. It has grown from 1,200 acres to 2,600 acres today. It supported some military installations during WW II but is now solely devoted to civilian enterprises. The airport has seen consistent growth and is experiencing even more upgrades as this is written in February 2003, with increased parking facilities that can hold up to 6,000 cars and improved access to the nearby US HWY 281.
Fokker tri-motor of the 1920s
A "RIO GRANDE" Fokker FXA. The F-TEN-A was built under license in the U.S.A. with American engines.
National Air Transport passenger plane, a Ford tri-motor, 1926
The airport is not a "hub" airport but is a very strongly positioned regional airport providing services to a huge area. It has two main runways, one at 8,502 feet in length and the other at 7,505 feet. Both are 150 feet wide and are suitable for all but the very biggest aircraft, like the Boeing 747, which requires a longer strip to land and take off fully loaded, although you may see one or two cargo versions at the various repair and renovation facilities located at the airport.
Harry Truman, second from left, at Stinson Airport in 1939
Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson at Stinson Airport in 1941
In addition there is a smaller runway, 5,519 feet long and 100 feet wide for "general aviation." General aviation is basically private flying, involving lighter aircraft. These can range from old biplanes to sleek, modern business jets.
San Antonio Aviation History Photo Timeline
First civilianaircraft in San Antonio
Foulois's Wright flyer at Fort Sam.
U.S. military aviation begins, at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio.
Katherine Stinson learning to fly an early bi-plane. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport
Marjories and Katherine Stinson.
Katherine, Eddie and Marjorie Stinson. The women were the pilots. Eddie was an engineer who went on to found Stinson Aircraft. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
Katherine Stinson qualifies for a pilot's certificate.
Katherine Stinson and unknown man. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
The four flying Stinsons: Eddie and Marjorie in the car, Jack and Katherine in the Wright Flyer.
Stinson Flying School is founded, when the famous aviation family leases 500 acres from the city for all of $5.00. It soon becomes known as Stinson Airport, becoming San Antonio's first municipal airport. Stinson Municipal Airport is the second oldest continuously operated general aviation airport in the United States and is the oldest west of the Mississippi.
Famed early trainer, the Curtis Jenny.
The Stinson's flying school and facilities are taken over by the government to train pilots for World War One. Marjorie Stinson, known as "The Flying Schoolmarm" had already trained over 80 pilots for service.
Marjorie Stinson.
First experimental air mail service from San Antonio. Marjorie Stinson is the pilot. Her destination? Seguin, thirty miles away.
The 1925 Boeing Model 40 still had an open cockpit. Its two passengers were only just a little more comfortable.
The field returns to civilian duty and is known as the Municipal airport.
Charles Lindbergh in 1926 (not in San Antonio)
Having taught himself to fly in a war surplus Curtis Jenny the previous year, Charles Lindbergh comes to San Antonio for a year to pursue full technical training with the air force.
Stinson Air Field is renamed Windburn Field for none years
Stinson Field is renamed as Winburn Field in memory of a newspaper reporter, Bill Windburn. It will keep the name until 1936
Ford Trimotor, 1926.
Texas Air Transport begins first sceduled commericial mail and passenger flights to and from San Antonio. With two years Texas Air Transport becomes part of newly created American Airlines.
The handsome Stinson Airport terminal was a depression era works project. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
The Airport's main terminal is constructed as a WPA, or Works Project Administration effort. The WPA, which completed many local landmarks, such as bridges on the Riverwalk downtown, was a federally funded work creation organization, to get workers laid idle during the Great Depression, back into employment. Four stories tall, it is built in what is recognizable, even today, as the WPA style. Braniff Airlines begins San Antonio service.
Stinson Municipal Airport road sign. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
The Municpal Airport is officially renamed as "Stinson Municpal Airport," in honor of the Stinson family who did so much for civil aviation in San Antonio.
The Boeing 247. One of the first monoplane passenger aircraft, this 10 seater was state of the art when introduced but was soon eclipsed by the 21 seat Douglas DC3.
Waiting to board an Eastern Airlines DC3. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
Eastern Airlines begins San Antonio service.
The Douglas DC3 was a revolutionary, and much loved, aircraft both in peace and war. It was the aircraft that finally allowed airlines to generate enough income to survive without subsidies
American Airlines "Flagship San Antonio" Douglas DC3
City of San Antonio purchases 1,200 acres of undeveloped land north of the city limits to establish San Antonio Municipal Airport.
A C47, the miltary version of the Douglas DC3.
A North American T6 "Texan," the best known WW2 training aircraft.
U.S. Army establishes Alamo Airfield on the northern edge of the new airport property.
1949 aerial shot of San Antonio International Airport. The scene is considerably different today. You have to add Loop 410 to start with. The main road you can see at the bottom of the picture is Jones Maltsberger. It has subsequently been split by extensions to the runways.
Snow at SA Internatinal Airport! Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
San Antonio Municipal Airport receives international status and is renamed San Antonio International Airport.
American Airlines Douglas DC4. The Douglas DC4 was one of the first post WW2 passenger airliners.
Construction of the first modern terminal and control tower.
Work is progressing on a new modern terminal to bring the airport up to modern standards. Passenger traffic is growing quickly as aircraft become larger, faster, more comfortable and safer.
Braniff Airlines DC3 in front of original SA Internatinal Airport tower. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
Braniff Airlines in San Antonio.
Completion of new terminal (now called Terminal 2), FAA Air Traffic Control Tower and baggage claim area. The airport takes a great leap forward in passenger facilities and becomes a truly modern operation.
American Airlines DC6 from the original SA Internatinal Airport tower. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
1950s postcard. You'll notice the name still says 'Municipal Airport'.
Completion of first major terminal expansion with the addition of east and west wings.
Pan American Boeing Stratocruiser DC4. The Stratocruiser was a civilian development of a WW2 war plane.
Interior of the original SA Internatinal Airport tower. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
Completion of satellite gate area and hold rooms to serve influx of HemisFair '68 visitors.
SAPD helicopter at the San Antonio Police Officers Association "Memorial Car Show," March 2014
The San Antonio Police Department acquires its first heliopters
With the Lockheed Constellation, propellor driven passenger aircraft reached their peak. Just as diesels replaced steam locomotives in the 1950's, jets replaced piston power on aircraft.
Passengers disembarking from a Mexican Airlines plane. Picture courtesy of San Antonio International Airport.
City Council adopts Airport Master Plan for the orderly development of airport facilities through the year 2000.
The last generation of propeller driven airliners before jets, like this Douglas DC6, were large and had long range.
Completion of new 1,300-space, tri-level parking garage.
1975 postcard.
Completion of new 360,000-square-foot terminal (Terminal 1), bringing the airport's gate capacity to 27.
1950s San Antonio International Airport postcard.
Challenger Plaza is dedicated in memory of seven American astronauts killed in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.
Mass production of the Boeing 707 began in 1958. Airlines began using it for scheduled flights in 1959.
A new, 221-foot FAA Air Traffic Control Tower replaced the 1953 tower.
The McDonnell Douglas DC10.
Completion of a new 24,000-square-foot Fire/Rescue Station. Six double-equipment bays make it the largest fire station in San Antonio.
Southwest Airline's Boeing 737 with special "Lonestar" paint scheme.
Completion of reconstruction of Runway 3/21
Airport Police patch.
San Antonio City Council adoption of the Part 150 Noise Compatibility Program for San Antonio International Airport.
An America West Boeing 737-200.
Completion of new Air Cargo East parking apron, totaling 720,000 square feet.
An AEROMEXICO McDonnell Douglas DC9.
Acoustical insulation project completed at Northwood Elementary School, the first of nine public buildings to be insulated under the Noise Compatibility Program.
A Federal Express Boeing 727. This series of planes was converted for cargo handling by Dee Howard, of San Antonio, which is one of the best known air craft refitting companies in the world. They do every kind of conversions, such as aircraft for heads of state.
Airport Master Plan Study begins with a team headed by aviation consultant Ramon Ricondo, to plan the next 20-year-development plan for San Antonio International Airport.
A Delata Airlines Boeing 757.
San Antonio City Council accepts Phase I of Master Plan which shows that with a series of on-site improvements, San Antonio International Airport can meet the passenger needs of the community for at least the next 20 years. Phase II is currently underway which includes: an environmental overview, an economic impact analysis, preparation and updating of federally-required plans and documents, an organizational study and a set of implementation plans.
City of San Antonio Aviation Department begins $33 million parking expansion and roadway improvement project which will add 2,300 new spaces bringing the total inventory to just over 6,000. The project includes construction of a new long-term parking garage, exit toll plaza, ring road and surface lots.
A United Airlines Boeing 767.
City of San Antonio Aviation Department opens up its new 5-story long-term parking garage. The garage boasts 2700 spaces, a colorful skylight and 2 artistic walkways leading to the terminals.
An American Airlines Boeing 767.
San Antonio City Council approves the Aviation Department's plan for Terminal Renovation and Concession Redevelopment. The project should be completed by the year 2003.
The "Texas Air Museum" at Stinson Municipal Airports opens. (See Related Links)
The "Shooting Star Museum" is opened, complete with grass landing strip, near Castroville. (See Related Links)
City of San Antonio Aviation Department officially opens up the 281 North Connector which provides direct elevated access from US 281 North into the terminal and parking facilities.
The San Antonio Tourism Council reports 6.7 million passengers flew in and out of San Antonio International, of which 55% were tourists.
Stinson experiences 116,208 general aviation flights, double the number from just ten years earlier.
Passenger totals at San Antonio International set a new record, with 7,425,069 people passing through the expanding facility.
Passengers totals at SA International grow to 8,031,405.
A $4.8 million project to expand the terminal at Stinson Airport is announced. This will include space for normal airport operations and ancillary activities, such as car rental offices. More contracts, for up to $4 million in private money, are in the works, for expansion of hanger space and other facilities. The goal is to see yet more investment, up to another $5 million, for the main runway to be extended to 5,000 feet to allow larger corporate jets to use Stinson.
Sino Swearingen announces two major achievements. In April, the company selected San Antonio as the site of the major production facility for its brand new twin engine business jet, the SJ30. It also delivers its first plane, developed over a staggering eleven years, and billed as the fastest aircraft with the longest range in its class.
Boeing in San Antonio, located at the former Kelly Air Force Base, now called Port San Antonio, announces it has won its first civilian contract, to do final delivery work on eleven of the company's brand new 787 Dreamliner aircraft. It is hoped that if this work, which will require the hiring of at least 400 new employees, goes well it will lead to more work on the cutting edge plane. Boeing will continue to work on heavy duty military transport aircraft.
Private aircraft and the SPURS pairplane on the west side of the airport
Work to build better connections between Loop 410, Highway 281 and the airport are in full swing, with several new ramps already open. Work towards greater parking facilities at the airport, including the creation of a free "cell phone" lot and a longer term multi-story addition that will add spaces for an additional 2,800 cars is also under way. A budget of $635 million is announced for all the upgrades planned for the airport. The first modern terminal, completed in 1953, is to be completely replaced with a brand new, state of the art, terminal.
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