Fly-in and other landmarks and historic locations in San Antonio that gave rise to its military and aviation prominence…
Stinson Municipal Airport
The iconic terminal building / control tower at Stinson Municipal Airport was built by the Works Progress Administration between 1935 and 1936. Today, the original structure remains at the heart of a modern expanded facility. A walk through its corridors showcases a history of the airport, named for a family of aviation pioneers.
Katherine Stinson, at a young age, set her sights on flying as a means to earn a living. The fourth licensed female pilot in the United States in 1912, she became renown worldwide as daring stunt aerialist and skywriter. Katherine, along with her mother and two younger siblings, incorporated Stinson Aviation Company, during the early years of aviation. Though unable to join the military, Katherine flew fundraising activities for the Red Cross.
Marjorie Stinson often accompanied her sister Katherine performing stunt pilot exhibitions across the US, and together they operated the Stinson School of Flying in San Antonio. Marjorie was known as “The Flying Schoolmarm.” During WWI, the pilots she trained were known as “The Texas Escadrille.” Marjorie served in the US Aviation Reserve Corps.
The Stinson school was one of the first in the nation to train WWI pilots. However, towards the end of the war it closed as civilian flying was banned and training within the military became the norm. Both Katherine and Marjorie also worked in the burgeoning, albeit risky airmail profession.
Eddie Stinson served as mechanic for the family’s flight school. In 1920 he founded the Stinson Aircraft Company, a design and manufacturing firm that would build over 13,500 airplanes in a 28-year span bearing the Stinson name. While the company grew, Eddie continued to fly as a stunt pilot. Having logged more than 16,000 hours, the highest of any pilot at the time, flying took his life at the age of 38.
The flying field where the Stinsons began their aviation legacies would later become Stinson Municipal Airport with airport identifier KSSF, in recognition of Stinson School of Flying. Opened in 1915, Stinson Municipal Airport is the second oldest continuously operated airport in the United States. A new air traffic control tower was completed in 2019, more than a century after its historic start.
National Park Service, Travel Sites of American Aviation – Stinson Field, Mission Parkway
The Texas Air Museum located at Stinson tells the stories of aviation in Texas and San Antonio’s role in the development of military air power. The museum also houses a replica of Katherine Stinson’s 1909 Blériot XI.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas has been producing trucks since 2006. The plant serves as a visible landmark on approach to runway 16 at Cannon Field, on the left on final four miles out. The Toyota Texas Experience Center, located at the South gate entrance to the plant, showcases the company’s presence in North America. Click here for the online virtual tour.
Kelly Field Airport
The Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field graduated almost 7,000 men between 1939 and 1943 (during WWII). Subsequent expansion at Kelly ushered in growth in aircraft maintenance and supply which continues today.
Kelly Field is named in recognition of George E.M. Kelly who perished during a qualification flight in 1911 at Fort Sam Houston. He was one among four pioneers of military aviation stationed there. In 1915 the newly-created 1st Aero Squadron arrived at Ft. Sam. However, with inadequate space for flying operations, a new location away from large structures and population centers was selected. Kelly Field expanded rapidly at the onset of WWI launching 326 aero squadrons and training more pilots nationwide than any other base of operations.
The field served as Kelly Air Force Base until 2001, when the city led efforts to transform the area for both public and private use. One standout at the base’s redevelopment is Tech Port Center + Arena, a 130,000 square-foot advanced technology and entertainment venue featuring: a 60-by-20 foot LED wall, a musical Tesla coil array integrated with lighting and sound, a gaming center, an interactive tech museum, eateries and a bar. The venue hosts live concerts, performances, e-sports, sports, conventions and more.
San Antonio Kelly Field Airport can be reached easily from Cannon Field, 11 nm northwest. Tower 124.3, ATIS 120.45, airnav.com/airport/KSKF.
National Park Service, Travel Sites of American Aviation – Kelly Field Historic District
Brooks San Antonio
Brooks Field, originally an adjunct to Kelly Field, was used to train flight instructors in 1917. It became a balloon and airship school in 1919. From 1922 until 1931 it served as the primary flying school for the army air corps. In 1928 it served to train paratroopers. Leading up to and during WWII, in the 1930s through 1943, Brooks Field was a center for aerial-observation training, then afterwards used for B-25 bomber training.
The field was named for Sidney J. Brooks, Jr., the first San Antonio native to die in a WWI aviation training accident. Early years of aviation were dangerous times. Brooks Air Force Base, so renamed in 1948, became the headquarters for Aerospace Medicine in 1959.
Brooks, as the neighborhood is called today, is mixed-use development and another outcome of base realignment and redevelopment in San Antonio. A remnant of the former Brooks Field is a 100+ year old venue, Hangar 9, one of 16 surviving. Built in 1918, and restored in 1969, the structure is the oldest remaining wooden aircraft hangar in the US Air Force. The hangar now serves as an 8,700 square-foot event center.
The observation school at Brooks Field used the Leon Springs Military Reservation, where the 2d Division Artillery’s firing ranges were located, to train rated observers.Eyes of Artillery, Raines
Fort Sam Houston
Fort Sam Houston is the oldest aviation landmark not only in San Antonio, but in US military history. In April 1911 the first cross-country courier flight was made from Fort Sam Houston to Leon Springs—a military reservation northwest of San Antonio. “The flight was made… a distance of about 26 miles, each way, and return. The total time consumed was 1 hour 45 minutes,” demonstrating the value of the airplane (a Wright Scout built for the Signal Corps) as a means of communication for military purposes.
Prior to making the noteworthy flight, Lt. Benjamin Foulois brought the army’s only airplane to Ft. Sam, and on March 2, 1910 made his first solo flight, marking the “birth of military aviation.” From a Spanish presidio in 1718, to the Post at San Antonio in 1845, today the US Army North (Fifth Army) is headquartered at Ft. Sam—where “Military City, USA” and the annals of aviation in San Antonio are preserved. The Fort Sam Houston Museum tells the story.