Hobby Airport Celebrates 80th Anniversary

Houston's Hobby Airport is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. Some veterans of "the old days" who played roles in the airport's history told their stories at an anniversary party yesterday. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The airport now named Hobby began in 1927 as a small private air strip out in the sticks on Telephone Road, with one flight a day between Houston and Dallas. The City of Houston bought it in 1937 and built the art deco terminal that's now an aviation museum on the west side of the airport. They finally paved the runways in 1942, just in time for World War Two. After the war, former Army Air Corps pilot A. J. High got a job flying for a brand new little regional airline based at the airport.

"I flew the first flight for Trans Texas Airways when it started in '47. Tree top airways? Tree Top Airways, that was my airline and it still is. It's got the name of Continental today, but that is the old Trans Texas Airways."

High also had the honor of making the first flight into Intercontinental when it opened in 1969.

"I had the city council and all of the county people on board. Took'em on a champagne flight, and made the first official landing into Intercontinental at one minute after midnight on June 8th 1969."

Houston Municipal was also a hub for the Women Air Force Service Pilots, who ferried military planes around the country. The WASP's never flew in combat, but they made a huge contribution to the war effort, even though they've only been recognized in recent years. Celeste Graves wasn't one of the pilots, but she was their Houston dispatcher, and she remembers how hard and unfair things were for them.

"They had to pay their own way, they had to provide their own food. And they really had it tough. They didn't get veterans' status until the 70s."

The airport became Houston International in 1954, and it was named for former Governor William P. Hobby in 1967. Airport System Director Richard Vacar hosted the 80th anniversary reception at Hobby today. He says says no one expected much from Hobby when Intercontinental opened, but Hobby is now as busy as it ever was and he thinks it's here to stay.

"For long term planning we definitely need this airport. It adds capacity for the region. I think the reason Hobby will always be here is because Southwest has made an enormous commitment to this place. They're a very good airline and as long as they have enthusiasm for Hobby this will always be a going and blowing facility."

Hobby Airport. 80 years old this year. Happy Anniversary. There's a link to the aviation museum at the 1940 Terminal on the website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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