Memorial Field Airport

Memorial Field Airport is located southwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), three miles from the city center. The airport is a mixed-use airport, with the majority of usage coming from general aviation. Its total economic impact to the Hot Springs area in 2015 included 703 jobs and over $52 million to the local economy.

Memorial Field Airport has two runways. The primary runway is 6,595 feet, and the crosswind runway is 4,098 feet; the airport covers an overall area of 844 acres. In 2015, there were 132 aircraft based at the airport, and the airport saw approximately 37,500 flight operations.

The construction of the Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs in the 1930s was the catalyst for upgrading the existing airport runways of grass to concrete. In 1946, a new airport, McLaughlin Field, was built (named after Mayor Leo P. McLaughlin). The following year, the airport was renamed the Hot Springs Memorial Field and saw commercial flights to Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1948, Chicago Southern Airways introduced service to Chicago, Illinois. From the 1950s through the late 1970s, the Hot Springs Memorial Airport grew to serve around 30,000 passengers a year.

The first commercial flights that included Memorial Field were in the late 1950s on a Douglas DC-3 operated by Trans-Texas Airways. The route was from Memphis, Tennessee, through several Arkansas communities down to Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas. This frequent-stop flight was the initial commercial service for many of the small Arkansas towns. In 1968, Trans-Texas Airways employed Douglas DC-9-10 jets. Dallas and Memphis, with an intermediate stop in Little Rock, were the initial destinations. In 1970, Trans-Texas Airways became Texas International Airlines. The Little Rock–Memphis route was changed to a non-stop to Memphis. In addition, service to Houston and Dallas, Texas, was introduced with an intermediate stop in Texarkana, Texas. Frontier Airlines flew from Memorial Field to Fayetteville (Washington County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Little Rock, and Memphis. In 1969, Delta Air Lines entered service at Memorial Field with flights to Little Rock and Shreveport, Louisiana. By the 1990s, most of these airlines had discontinued operations at the airport, and commuter airlines took their place. The most popular destination for these airlines was Dallas–Fort Worth.

At one time, SeaPort Airlines provided daily flights on eight passenger Cessna 208 Caravan turboprop aircraft to Memphis and El Dorado (Union County). These flights were partially subsidized through the federal Essential Air Service (EAS), which provides federal funds to help small and remote cities gain commercial airline service. In September 2016, SeaPort Airlines entered bankruptcy and liquidation proceedings. The U.S. Department of Transportation sent out requests for proposals from airlines interested in the EAS program at the Memorial Field Airport.

Two car-rental companies, Hertz and Enterprise, provide ground transportation for arriving passengers.

There have been nine crashes at the Memorial Field that have involved loss of life. All involved private aircraft, and a total of twenty people were killed.

For additional information:
Memorial Field Airport. (accessed September 21, 2020).

“Memorial Field Airport.” (accessed September 21, 2020).

Robert Sherwood
Georgia Military College


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