Dexter B. Florence Memorial Field
The Dexter B. Florence Memorial Field is an airport located in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Owned by the City of Arkadelphia, the facility serves both local general aviation and as the location for Henderson State University (HSU) flight operations.
The first airplane to visit the city landed on May 25, 1918. Other planes infrequently appeared in the city over the next two decades until the first airport was constructed in 1933–34, located across the Ouachita River from Arkadelphia. The first plane landed at that facility on April 24, 1934. The land was leased for only three years, and after the expiration of the lease, the airport closed. It was reopened in 1939 when students from Henderson State Teachers College (which later became HSU) and Ouachita Baptist College began taking flying lessons under the authority of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. A hangar and two runways were constructed at the airport over the next decade. An aviation beacon installed north of the city in 1932 was moved to the airport sometime after 1939.
The current airport was constructed with support from the City of Arkadelphia and Clark County, along with federal grants, with construction beginning in 1957 on city-owned property located along U.S. Highway 67 south of downtown. The city took sole ownership of the facility in 1967. Over the decades, hangars and other facilities were added to the airport. A fire at the airport in 1980 destroyed a hangar, seven planes, and additional items. Central Flying Service operated the airport from 1982 until the mid-1990s. After the conclusion of that contract, HSU operated the airport under a lease agreement with the city until 2016, when management of the airport returned to the city. The university began offering aviation courses at the airport in 1968 when advanced Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) students began learning to fly planes. In 1974, an aviation degree program housed in the Department of Physics was added to the curriculum. All flight training continues to take place at the airport.
By 2018, the airport included a single asphalt 5,000-foot runway and a full-length parallel taxiway. Both conventional and T-hangars are offered at the airport, along with self-service fuel. Some administrative and teaching spaces for the HSU aviation program are also housed at the airport, as well as the fleet of university-owned planes. The field does not offer any commercial flights but does support crop dusting and timber-related flights.
The field is named for First Lieutenant Dexter Bush Florence, a 1970 graduate of Henderson State College. Florence was mortally wounded while flying a helicopter in Vietnam and died in Japan on October 29, 1972. The field was renamed in his honor in 1997.
For additional information:
City of Arkadelphia Municipal Airport Committee. http://www.cityofarkadelphia.com/municipal-airport-advisory-committee.html (accessed September 17, 2019).
Richter, Wendy, et al. Clark County Arkansas: Past and Present. Arkadelphia, AR: Clark County Historical Association, 1992.
Henderson State University
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