Posts Tagged ‘Douglas’

Border Air Museum

January 1, 2011

Douglas, Arizona was the first international airport of the Americas. Aviation was an important part of the evolution of Douglas and was almost lost if it were not for Richard and Irma Westbrook. Richard, a 1949 Douglas High School graduate, worked for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA.) Westbrook was inducted in 1993 into the NASA Hall of Fame. The Border Air Museum was a gift to the City of Douglas by the widow of the late Richard Westbrook in 2002. Richard died before the museum was completed. The Border Air Museum houses Westbrook’s collection of air history.  

            The museum exhibits a Trojan airplane which was made in Douglas in the 1950s. Other exhibits include displays of American Airlines memorabilia, a wall of history of the Douglas Army Air Field with artifacts, an in-depth history of Douglas aviation, history of the Mexican Revolution and aviation in Douglas, Women’s Air History, and a history of Hollywood making films using the Douglas airport. There is a letter from the President Roosevelt declaring the Douglas airport “The First International Airport of the Americas.” It was the first airport in the state to have night flights.

            Douglas had the first airplane in the state of Arizona. In 1908, a group of Douglas men formed the Douglas Aeronautical Club and built a glider from mail order plans. This glider was pulled into the air by a two horse buggy equipped for release with an aerial hitch, from behind the YMCA building. A year later they added a motor and propeller and they had motorized airplane.

            By 1913 this airplane was famous locally as The Douglas Bomber. General John “Black Jack” Pershing, who led the U. S. expeditionary force to capture the notorious Pancho Villa, recruited Charles Ford and his Douglas Bomber to fly over the border and drop bombs south of Agua Prieta on the railroad tracks to stop supplies flowing into Villa’s troops. The bombs were made from lard buckets filled with dynamite, scrap metal and concrete.

            After World War I and the Mexican Revolution, Douglas became a take off point for barnstormers. These stunt pilots and aerialists–or barnstormers as they became known–performed amazing tricks with airplanes. Barnstorming was the first major form of civil aviation.  By the 1930s, the Douglas Airport was a stopping point for American Airlines, traveling from San Diego to San Antonio.

Border Air Museum,  East 10th Street & Airport Road, Douglas AZ 85607, Tel: 520-417-7344

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