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Arkansas Aerospace Education Center (AEC)

aka: Aerospace Education Center
Located near Little Rock National Airport (Adams Field), the Arkansas Aerospace Education Center (AEC) provided the state with aerospace education through the Workforce Development Center of University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College. The center, which is owned by the Arkansas Aviation Historical Society, also housed the state’s only IMAX theater and a library that held the Jay Miller Aviation Collection of aerospace materials. When fundraising began, the center was intended to include a magnet school, a library of aerospace materials, a museum, and an IMAX movie theater. Before the center’s completion, however, the Little Rock School District decided not to build an aerospace magnet school at the center. Another feature, to be called the Arkansas High Technology Training Center, also was …

Arkansas Air Museum

“Promoting Aviation by Preserving the Past” is the mission statement of the Arkansas Air Museum in Fayetteville (Washington County). The museum was Arkansas’s first museum dedicated entirely to aviation history. Located in a hangar at Fayetteville’s Drake Field, the museum occupies the oldest aviation-related structure still standing in northwest Arkansas. The hangar was constructed during World War II. Because of wartime resource limitations, Henry George, Fayetteville’s engineering assistant, developed the hangar out of wood, with construction starting on May 1, 1943. As well as designing the hangar, George worked as plumber, electrician, and welder on the project. At no time did the project employ more than four carpenters, three helpers, and George. Total cost for building the hangar was around …

Arkansas Department of Aeronautics (ADA)

The Arkansas Department of Aeronautics (ADA) is responsible for regulating aviation in the state of Arkansas as well as encouraging the development of aeronautics-related industries. The Arkansas Department of Aeronautics was created by Act 457 of 1941, which established the agency for a period of twenty-five years, to be headed by a commission consisting of the chairperson of the State Police Commission, the adjutant general of the State of Arkansas, the chairperson of the State Penal Board, the chairperson of the State Highway Commission, and the head of the ADA. The duties, as defined by the act, consisted of providing for the examination, rating, and licensing of airports; adopting rules and regulations for airports and other landing sites; providing for …

Arkansas Wing, Civil Air Patrol

The Arkansas Wing is one of the fifty-two chapters—including all the states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia—that make up the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), which is the civilian volunteer auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The Civil Air Patrol was formed on December 1, 1941, for the purpose of conducting emergency service operations including search and rescue, homeland security, and disaster relief missions. Today, the CAP continues to perform those duties, as well as educating the public and its members about the value of aerospace and operating a cadet program for youth leadership development. In late 1941, Arkansas pilots foresaw the need to form an aviation unit to take the place of the Arkansas National Guard’s 154th Observation …

Aviation

Aviation history in Arkansas includes one pioneer inventor, a few attempts at commercial airplane production, a regional commuter airline, a now-national air freight company, and varying degrees of impact on the state’s communities. By the 1970s, aviation had become essential both for business use and for personal travel. Balloons and Dirigibles Balloon ascensions became popular throughout the United States in the 1850s, and balloons also figured in the Civil War, though none were deployed in Arkansas. There was an ascension in Yell County in 1879, and in 1902, balloonist Charles Geary came to Baxter County to perform, along with “Professor” Murgle, who demonstrated the parachute. Balloon production was apparently limited to the Hot Springs Airship Company of Joel Troutt Rice …

Batesville Regional Airport

The Batesville Regional Airport is located on Highway 167 (Batesville Boulevard) in the town of Southside (Independence County), about four miles south of Batesville, the county seat of Independence County. The City of Batesville owns the airport, which is a public-use general aviation airport averaging ninety-five aircraft operations per day (approximately six percent of which are military). The airport and hangars accommodate light general aviation aircraft of all sizes, including small jets. In 2015, the airport had more than fifty based aircraft and employed seventy-two people. The economic impact of the airport on Batesville and Independence County—including on motels, restaurants, transportation businesses, and the poultry industry—has been estimated by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics to be approximately $5,486,400 annually. The …

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport

The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (formerly Little Rock National Airport/Adams Field), located two miles east of downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) on the south side of the Arkansas River, is a mixed-use airport with both commercial and private airplanes, as well as a military presence. It has the largest amount of scheduled commercial service in the state of Arkansas and serves more than two million passengers annually. Little Rock’s first airport, operated by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, opened in 1917 as the Little Rock Intermediate Air Depot. This small airfield expanded in 1926 due to the growing needs of the 154th Observation Squadron of the Arkansas National Guard. In 1928, the first aircraft manufacturing business arrived on …

Boone County Regional Airport

The Boone County Regional Airport is located three miles outside of Harrison (Boone County). The airport is a mixed-use airport, with the majority of usage coming from general aviation. It is estimated that, in 2015, the airport provided 120 jobs and had an economic impact of over $12 million to the local economy. The first flight to what is now the Boone County Regional Airport was in 1921. It was flown by Earl Rowland, a local flying legend. He was a World War I pilot, a test pilot for Cessna Aircraft, a member of the World War II Air Transport Command, and winner of five national air races. Although his landing in Harrison in 1921 inaugurated aviation to the area, …

Camden Army Air Field

aka: Harrell Field
Camden Army Air Field (a.k.a. Harrell Field) was one of three contract primary flying schools located in Arkansas during World War II. The other two were at Grider Field in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Thompson-Robbins Field in West Helena (Phillips County). The Arkansas communities where the schools were located gained much-needed jobs not only for the construction phase but also from operation of the schools. The need for these contract flying schools arose because Kelly Field in Texas could only graduate 500 pilots a year, and most of the current Army Air Force (AAF) pilots did not have enough flying hours to be instructors. AAF’s commanding general, Henry Arnold, devised a plan for contract primary flying schools located in …

Coffey, Cornelius Robinson

  Cornelius Robinson Coffey was the first African American to establish an aeronautical school in the United States. His school was also the only aviation program not affiliated with a university or college to become part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). His pioneering efforts led to the integration of black pilots into the overall American aviation industries, both civilian and military. Cornelius R. Coffey was born in Newport (Jackson County) on September 6, 1903, to Henry Coffey and Ida Wright Coffey. In 1916, Coffey had his first experience riding in an aircraft and was convinced that aviation was his calling. In 1925, Coffey left Arkansas for Chicago, Illinois, to pursue a career in aviation by enrolling in an auto …

Command-Aire

In 1926, the Arkansas Aircraft Company was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to build small personal airplanes. The company represented the first and one of the few aircraft companies that have existed in Arkansas. The Arkansas Aircraft Company, which later became known as Command-Aire, was nationally known for its aircraft, and it was one of the country’s leading airplane manufacturers in the late 1920s. Robert B. Snowden Jr. was the company’s president, and John Carroll Cone was in charge of sales. Albert Voellmecke—a graduate of the University of Braunschweigaud in Germany and an employee of the Heinkel firm, a noted German aircraft builder—was sent to America by the Heinkel firm in 1927 to advise the company. He later became …

Cone, John Carroll

John Carroll Cone was a promoter of aviation in Arkansas and established two significant air organizations in the late 1920s—the 154th Observation Squadron of the Arkansas National Guard and the Command-Aire manufacturing company. During his later career, he advised two U.S. presidents in commercial aviation policy. Carroll Cone was born on July 4, 1891, in Snyder (Ashley County) to Jesse H. and Annie A. Cone. He attended Ouachita Baptist College, now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), prior to enlisting in the United States Army and volunteering for training in the Army Air Service. A veteran fighter pilot with three probable kills but only one confirmed kill in combat during World War I, Cone proved more valuable as an instructor than as …

Crenchaw, Milton Pitts

Milton Pitts Crenchaw, of the original Tuskegee Airmen, was one of the first African Americans in the country and the first from Arkansas to be trained by the federal government as a civilian licensed pilot. He trained hundreds of cadet pilots while at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute in the 1940s and was the catalyst in starting the first successful flight program at Philander Smith College in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1947 to 1953. His combined service record extends for over forty years of federal service from 1941 to 1983 with the U.S. Army (in the Army Air Corps) and eventually the U.S. Air Force. Milton Crenchaw was born on January 13, 1919, in Little Rock to the Reverend Joseph C. …

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 …

Dockery, Jess Orval

Jess Orval Dockery was an aviation pioneer and an innovator of agricultural aviation in the Mid-South region, based first in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and, later, Stuttgart (Arkansas County) and Clarksdale, Mississippi. He played a leading role in developing aerial application processes, perfecting the science of crop dusting and spreading the practice to the Midwest. Jess Orval Dockery was born on February 26, 1909, in Dallas, Texas, to Jess P. Dockery and Myrtle Kemp Dockery. Confederate general Thomas Pleasant Dockery was his great-uncle, while socialite Octavia Dockery was a cousin. During World War I, his family moved to Lawton, Oklahoma, where his father ran a jitney service to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This gave Dockery access to the base’s aircraft, leading …

Douglas, Paul Page, Jr.

Brigadier General Paul Page Douglas, a Paragould (Greene County) native and an air force “ace,” was one of the most highly decorated fighter pilots from 1940 to 1970. In 1940, he joined the Arkansas National Guard, and he retired as commander of the 836th Air Division at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, in 1970. The tactics he developed for the P-47 Thunderbolt during World War II made that plane one of the most successful fighter planes of the war. Douglas was born in Paragould on December 23, 1919, to Bess Douglas and Paul Page Douglas. His father was a conductor on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Douglas attended public schools in Paragould and graduated from high school in 1938. That fall, …

Eberts Training Field

Established next to the town of Lonoke in 1917, during World War I, Eberts Field ranked second among aviation training fields maintained by the U.S. government, and it was one of the leading training centers for aviators during the war. Named for West Point graduate Captain Melchior McEwan Eberts, an early Arkansas aviator, it had an enlistment of about 1,000 cadets being trained in aviation. About 1,500 enlisted men and officers were stationed at the field. Lonoke County outbid Pulaski County to get the aviation school to locate in Lonoke, which offered 960 rent-free acres and a new railroad spur connecting the field with the Rock Island Railroad tracks. The U.S. government accepted the Lonoke offer on November 19, 1917, …

Fort Smith Regional Airport

The Fort Smith Regional Airport is a mixed-use airport located three miles southeast of Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The airport has two asphalt runways and scheduled commercial aviation to airports in Atlanta, Georgia, and Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas. The initial ideas for an airport date back to the Depression era. In 1939, two sod runways, built on land purchased with a municipal bond authorized in 1936, opened for business. The initial decade saw improvements such as hangars (1941) and paving of the runways (1945). During expansion projects, the two runways were extended from their initial length of 3,500 feet to 8,000 feet for the longer runway and 5,000 feet for the shorter. Construction of the control tower in 1951 permitted greater …

Green, Marlon DeWitt

In 1963, Marlon DeWitt Green, an Arkansas-born African American and former U.S. Air Force pilot, broke the airline industry color barrier when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Continental Airlines had to comply with the State of Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws—there being no conflict with any federal statute—and required that the company hire him. He has been described as the “Jackie Robinson of the airline industry” for overcoming discrimination to become the first black pilot hired by a regularly scheduled commercial passenger airline. Marlon D. Green was born on June 6, 1929, in El Dorado (Union County) to McKinley Green, who was a domestic worker, and Lucy Longmyre Green, a homemaker. He had four siblings. Despite growing up economically disadvantaged, Green …

Jonesboro Municipal Airport

The Jonesboro Municipal Airport is located three miles east of the Jonesboro (Craighead County) central business district in the northeastern part of Arkansas. It is a mixed-use airport, with the overwhelming majority of usage coming from general aviation. In 2015, it provided 284 jobs in the Jonesboro area and had a local economic impact of over $40 million. In January 1934, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) granted $13,000 to the city of Jonesboro to build an airport near the community of Nettleton (Craighead County). Originally covering 190 acres, the airport was little more than a dirt runway by 1935, due to disputes over the leasing of the land. The board of City Water and Light voted in April 1935 to …

Lindbergh, Charles, First Night Flight of

In the acclaim for Charles Augustus Lindbergh following his solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, few people recognized the small but significant role Arkansas played in the historic event. Today, a modest monument off Highway 159 near Lake Village (Chicot County) marks the Arkansas site that contributed to one of the greatest stories in American history. In April 1923, Charles Lindbergh was a young airmail pilot who had taught himself to fly. He had engine trouble on a flight between Mississippi and Houston, Texas, and landed near Lake Chicot in Lake Village, in an open space which was used as a local golf course. The nearest building was the clubhouse. The keeper, Mr. Henry, and his family sometimes used the building …

Little Rock Air Force Base

The Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) is located on 6,412 acres of land within the city limits of Jacksonville (Pulaski County). The base is a self-contained community that has contributed greatly to the economy and growth of the area since it became operational in 1955. The LRAFB is the largest C-130 base in the world. In 1951, members of the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce learned that the Air Force was considering locating a new base in the central United States but that Congress was not interested in purchasing land for the base because the United States already owned some World War II airfields that could be converted to active bases. Everett Tucker, manager of the Industrial Department …

Little Rock Aviation Supply Depot

During World War I, an air supply depot was constructed at Little Rock (Pulaski County) south of 12th Street near the Little Rock airport. Construction began in 1918 of the complex of structures encompassing fifty-five acres and designed to house up to 500 officers and men. The main warehouse was planned as an exact duplicate of the warehouse at Dayton, Ohio. The depot acted as a distribution point, with raw materials necessary for the function of an air service being gathered and sent to production facilities, while finished products were stored and the parts distributed to flying fields as needed. At one point, approximately 13,000 motors were stored there. Although the depot mainly supplied equipment to flying fields in the …

McDermott, Charles M.

Charles M. McDermott was a medical doctor, minister, plantation owner, Greek scholar, charter member of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and inventor. His patented inventions include an iron wedge, iron hoe, a cotton-picking machine, and a “flying machine.” He was a regular contributor to the Scientific American, and he was among the first to advocate the germ theory of disease. Charles McDermott was born on September 22, 1808, in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. His parents, Emily (Ozan) and Patrick McDermott, owned sugarcane plantations. He had four brothers and two sisters. It was at the plantation home, Waverly, where McDermott became interested in flying. McDermott entered Yale University in 1825 and obtained a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1828. On December …

McDonnell, James Smith, Jr.

James Smith McDonnell Jr. was one of the most significant aerospace industrialists of the twentieth century, building McDonnell-Douglas into the second largest military and commercial aviation corporation in the United States. James McDonnell was born on April 9, 1899, in Denver, Colorado, to James Smith McDonnell Sr. and Susie Belle McDonnell. The youngest of four McDonnell children, he was raised in central Arkansas, graduating from Little Rock High School (later Central High School). He spent his childhood in Altheimer (Jefferson County), where his parents had one of their two mercantile stores. Although McDonnell initially leaned toward a career in politics, his father encouraged him to pursue a career more suited to his personality. Completing his BS in physics with honors …

McKennon, Pierce Winningham “Mac”

Pierce Winningham “Mac” McKennon was a talented musician but is more widely remembered as a famous World War II flying ace. He destroyed twenty German aircraft and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with four clusters, the Air Medal with sixteen clusters, the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Unit Citation, and the Croix de Guerre. Pierce McKennon was born in Clarksville (Johnson County) on November 30, 1919, to Dr. Parma D. McKennon, a dentist, and Inez Winningham McKennon. He had two older brothers. The family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1921. He graduated from St. Anne’s Academy in Fort Smith and entered the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) on a music scholarship in 1937, but he left …

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 …

Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport

The Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport near the city of Mena (Polk County) in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas is located approximately 160 miles west of Little Rock (Pulaski County). It is an airport that focuses on private aircraft and, as of 2011, does not have scheduled commercial air service. BeginningsThe first rough airstrip was located south of the town on the McBride family’s property, and a hangar and flying school opened in 1942, run by Hartzell Geyer. The initial runway was a grass one that a local farmer would mow and bale for hay. Due to increased commercial traffic, the Civil Aeronautics Commission (CAC) after World War II determined that Mena would be needed as an emergency landing site …

Newport Air Field

During World War II, one of the army’s seven training airfields built in Arkansas was located at Newport (Jackson County). Over 4,000 men trained during the three years the Newport Army Air Field was in operation. At one point, over 4,800 people were living on the base, more than doubling Newport’s 1940 population of 4,301. Newport was chosen as a site through the encouragement of Congressman Wilbur D. Mills. The flat land already lent itself to airport usage as most trees had been cleared and the ground had been drained for farming. The project was announced in the middle of May 1942, and construction began almost immediately. Thirty-four farm families were displaced from the main site, along with those living …

North Little Rock Municipal Airport

The North Little Rock Municipal Airport, owned by the City of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), is located four miles north of that city’s business district. The airport is an officially designated general aviation reliever airport, meaning that the overwhelming majority of usage for the airport comes from general aviation, not commercial flights. In 2015, the total economic impact of the airport was estimated at 138 jobs and just under $16 million provided to the local economy. In 1949, 570 acres of land were acquired for construction of the airport, which would have two runways. The airport was officially opened in September 1960. Some portions of the airport had already been in use, including a runway. In honor of the …

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA)

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, or XNA after its International Air Transportation Association (IATA) code, is located in Highfill (Benton County) and is roughly equidistant from Bentonville (Benton County), Fayetteville (Washington County), Rogers (Benton County), Siloam Springs (Benton County), and Springdale (Washington County). It is a mixed-use airport with both commercial and private airplanes. It has the second-largest amount of scheduled commercial service in the state of Arkansas and, in 2007, served more than 1.2 million passengers. Local business leaders including Sam Walton, founder of Walmart Inc., and several local and state elected officials joined together to push for a new airport. Due to the rapid growth in population and business (especially the continued expansion of Walmart Inc.), Drake Field, located …

Rodgers, James Ronald, Sr.

James Ronald Rodgers Sr. was the nation’s first African American to be appointed manager of a major commercial airport, the first black head of a major independent city agency in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the state’s first black commercial loan officer. James Rodgers was born on March 15, 1947, in Little Rock to Homer and Ruth Rodgers. The fifth of six children, he spent his childhood in the Tuxedo Courts housing development south of Roosevelt Road. Rodgers grew up working with his mother, brothers, and sister for his father’s janitorial service. After graduating from Horace Mann High School in 1965, Rodgers attended Little Rock University—now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)—for a year and a half. In …

Saline County Regional Airport

The Saline County Regional Airport, now located at 1100 Hill Farm Road in Bryant (Saline County), has a history dating back to World War II. Governed by the Saline County Regional Airport Commission, the airport serves hundreds of small-aircraft pilots daily. The airport sits on 1,200 acres of open field located southeast of Bryant, eight miles from Little Rock (Pulaski County). The Saline County Regional Airport features thirty-six T-hangars, ten private hangars, and three large corporate hangars. The first privately owned airstrip in Saline County was built outside Benton (Saline County) by Mike Richards, a used-car dealer and contractor, in 1942. However, Richards’s airstrip was bisected when Highway 67/70 was built in the late 1950s. On March 9, 1958, the …

Silitch, Mary Frances

Mary Frances Files Silitch is the first woman to be editor-in-chief of a national aviation magazine. A licensed pilot, she has flown 250 kinds of aircraft and logged 5,000 hours of flight. Mary Frances Files was born on November 9, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William Thomas Files and Johnnie Caldwell Files of Parkdale (Ashley County); she has two sisters. Her first flight was in an open-cockpit crop-duster airplane over the family farm at the age of four. She attended schools in Parkdale and Wilmot (Ashley County) but graduated from All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She attended Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), where she began her journalism career as the managing editor of the Sou’wester, …

South Arkansas Regional Airport

aka: Goodwin Field
The South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field is located eight miles west of El Dorado (Union County). The airport is owned by the municipality of El Dorado and is a mixed-use airport primarily used for general aviation. There has been spotty commercial service in the history of the airport. The airfield was constructed in the early 1940s by the Civil Aeronautics Administration under the auspices of the National Defense airport program. The terminal building was built in 1947. There is minimal evidence that the Army Air Force actually used the airport to a great extent during World War II, despite the construction of it for that purpose. The airport uses two asphalt runways, the longer one (4/22) at 6,601 …

Stinson, Katherine

Katherine Stinson, who was living in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) when she began her career as a stunt pilot, was one of the first female pilots licensed in the United States. She also founded the Stinson School of Flying in Hot Springs (Garland County). Stinson was the first woman to master the loop-the-loop aviation maneuver. She is also reported to have been the first person to perform night skywriting with fireworks. She performed her stunts throughout the country and internationally. Katherine Stinson was born in Fort Payne, Alabama, on February 14, 1891, one of four children; her mother’s name was Emma Stinson. As a young woman, Stinson developed an interest in music and intended to pursue a career as a …

Stuttgart Army Air Field

The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) opened the Stuttgart Army Airfield in October 1942. The airfield was located in Prairie County on approximately 2,682 acres about seven miles north of Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The facility consisted of four 5,000-foot runways and facilities for 6,000 personnel. The USAAF trained pilots in the use of gliders from October 1942 to May 1943. This was the second, or advanced, phase of their training, and they learned to fly the WACO CG-4A “Hadrian.” This glider had plywood-covered wings that spanned eighty-three feet and a fabric-covered tube-structure fuselage that was forty-eight feet long. It could carry about thirteen men, or six men and a Jeep, or various other combinations, including ammo, supplies, and weapons. …

Texarkana Regional Airport

aka: Texarkana Air Force Station
The Texarkana Regional Airport is located three miles northeast of Texarkana (Miller County). The airport is a mixed-used facility with the primary focus being general aviation; it also offers limited commercial aviation. In 2015, the total economic impact to the Texarkana area included 420 jobs and more than $32.5 million to the local economy. In 2015, there were sixty-eight aircraft based at the airport, and the airport conducted just under of 48,500 flight operations. The early history of the airport dates back to 1928 when the City of Texarkana acquired 190 acres of land from two local families, the Lathrop and Wheeler families. The following year, the first runways were constructed. Both were made of sod, with one measuring 3,500 …

Thaden, Louise McPhetridge

Louise McPhetridge Thaden was an aviation pioneer and holder of numerous flight records during the late 1920s and 1930s. At one point, she was the most famous female American aviator only after Amelia Earhart. Louise McPhetridge was born in Bentonville (Benton County) on November 12, 1905, to Roy McPhetridge, a travelling Mentholatum salesman who taught Louise to hunt, fish, and fix a car, and Edna McPhetridge, a housewife. She had one sister. Raised on the family farm, McPhetridge discovered an early interest in aviation long before learning to fly. A ride in a plane with a barnstormer fuelled her desire to fly. After attending local public schools, McPhetridge attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) from 1922 …

Thompson-Robbins Air Field

aka: Helena Aero Tech
In about 1940, the United States was planning a build-up in the Army Air Force (AAF) strength. The number of airplanes produced was to be increased to around 50,000, but the AAF’s flying school in Texas could only graduate 500 pilots a year, and most of the current AAF pilots did not have enough flying hours to be instructors. To produce more pilots, the commanding general of the AAF, Henry Arnold, devised a plan for primary contract flying schools located in local communities.   Three primary contract flying schools were located in Arkansas: the first at Grider Field in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), the second at Thompson-Robbins Airfield in West Helena (Phillips County), and the third at Harrell Field in …

Tinker, Frank Glasgow

Frank Glasgow Tinker was a distinguished American mercenary pilot for forces of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). A graduate of DeWitt High School and the Naval Academy, Tinker was the top American ace for the Republican Air Force during the Spanish Civil War. Frank Tinker was born on July 14, 1909, in Kaplan, Louisiana, the son of Frank Glasgow and Effie Tinker. He had two sisters. The family moved to DeWitt (Arkansas County) on July 3, 1924. Tinker graduated from high school in DeWitt in 1926 and, at the age of seventeen, joined the U.S. Navy. Tinker spent three years in the navy before receiving a prestigious appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. After graduating …

Walnut Ridge Army Flying School

The Walnut Ridge Army Flying School was one of seven U.S. Army Air Forces pilot training schools established in Arkansas as part of the nationwide expansion of World War II pilot training. Contract primary flying schools were located in Camden (Ouachita County), Helena (Phillips County), and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Newport (Jackson County) and Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) had basic flying schools, while Blytheville (Mississippi County) and Stuttgart (Arkansas County) had advanced twin-engine flying schools. The Walnut Ridge Army Flying School enrolled during its existence 5,310 students, 4,641 of whom graduated. In early April 1942, a board of three army air forces officers—Lieutenant Colonel Burton Hovey Jr., Lieutenant Colonel John R. Cume Jr., and Captain Blanton Russell—went in search of …

Zerbe Air Sedan

The Zerbe Air Sedan is a curiosity in the history of aviation in Arkansas. It was an early attempt to construct a passenger plane, and the only known account of it flying was in 1921 in Fayetteville (Washington County). Aircraft builder Professor Jerome S. Zerbe had not had much success at building flying machines. In 1910, he participated in the Dominguez Air Meet in California. An account from the meet stated that “Professor J. S. Zerbe brought out his curious appearing multiplane and attempted to take off. As it clattered down the field amid the cheers of the crowd, a front wheel hit a hole and collapsed throwing the machine to one side and damaging a wing….” After the meet, …