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Amarillo Air Force Base

Shield Strategic Air Command.png
Part of Strategic Air Command (SAC)

Amarillo Texas airport satellite photo 1997.jpg
1997 photo. The remains of Amarillo AFB are visible in the upper right corner of the photo.
Location of Amarillo Air Force Base
IATA: noneICAO: none
Airport type Military: Air Force Base
Owner U.S. Air Force
Location Amarillo, Texas
Built 1942
In use 1942 - 1968
Elevation AMSL 3,607 ft / 1,099 m
Coordinates 35°13′10″N 101°42′21″W / 35.21944°N 101.70583°W / 35.21944; -101.70583
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 13,502 4,115 Concrete
13/31 7,901 2,408 Concrete

Amarillo Air Force Base, originally Amarillo Army Air Field is a former United States Air Force base located in Potter County, Texas, approximately 6 miles (10 km) East of downtown Amarillo within the easternmost city limits. The City of Amarillo is located on the boundary of Potter and Randall Counties in the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle.



The base was activated in April 1942 and formally named an army air field in May. It was eleven miles east of Amarillo on a 1,523 acres (6 km²) tract of land adjacent to English Field, a commercial airfield serving the Panhandle. Col Edward C. Black, the first commanding officer, arrived in April 1942 with the first cadre of troops. Construction was only half completed when the first classes were begun in September 1942. The field, one of the largest installations in the Western Technical Training Command, was established for training of air crew and ground mechanics to service B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft. From 1943 to 1945 basic training and special courses of instruction were conducted, and the school was later designated to train technicians for B-29 aircraft in addition to the B-17 technical training. Flying operations were also inaugurated. The field was closed on September 15, 1946, and its buildings were converted to peacetime uses or destroyed.

The base was reactivated as Amarillo Air Force Base in March 1951 and became the first air force all-jet mechanic-training base. In December 1951 the first trainees from foreign countries arrived. By 1952 the program reached a planned maximum of 3,500 students. Mechanic training continued throughout 1953 and 1954 and included a course on the B-47 jet bomber. The base was declared a permanent installation in 1954. Four new courses were added a year later, and the number of students climbed to about 5,000. When the two-phase system of basic training began in 1956, Amarillo Air Force Base was selected as one of the bases to administer the technical second phase. The base continued to grow in the late 1950s. In 1957 a missile-training department was established, and facilities were expanded to accommodate an air wing of the Strategic Air Command. In July 1958 a supply and administration school previously stationed in Wyoming was moved to the Amarillo base. The base was redesignated Amarillo Technical Training Center in 1959, when the 4128th Strategic Wing concluded a joint-tenancy agreement with Air Training Command.

By May 1960, the jet-mechanic school had graduated 100,000 students. At that time, Amarillo was the site of all Air Training Command resident training in administrative, procurement, and supply fields; it continued to train thousands of jet aircraft mechanics, jet engine mechanics, and air-frame repairmen.

In 1963, the 4128th Strategic Wing was disestablished and its assets absorbed by SAC's 461st Bombardment Wing, which assumed host wing responsibilities and operated B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.

ATC's Amarillo Air Technical Training Center changed in February 1966 with the formation of the 3330th Basic Military School due to an outbreak of spinal meningitis at Lackland AFB. A personnel-processing squadron was added the same month to support the school. In 1967 the center's facilities covered 5,273 acres (21 km²) and had about 16,300 assigned personnel.

By 1964 the United States Department of Defense had decided to close the base. Conspiracy rumors concerning the closure of the base swirled around a suspicion that President Lyndon Johnson closed the base out of spite for the Panhandle because it supposedly voted for the Republican candidate, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, in the 1964 presidential election. This rumor persists even though only eight of the 26 counties in the Panhandle voted for Goldwater, and despite the fact that President Johnson was himself a native Texan.[1]

The last class at Amarillo AFB was graduated on December 11, 1968, and the base was deactivated on December 31, 1968. The closing damaged the economy of Amarillo, but over time other uses were found for parts of the closed installation. On September 2, 1970, the Amarillo branch of Texas State Technical Institute was opened on the former base grounds, later becoming the east campus of Amarillo College. Another part of the base was used for the Amarillo Air Terminal, which opened on May 17, 1971 and was later renamed Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.


The main runway at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport is the original runway of the air base and at just over 13,500 feet in length is one of the longest in the country for use in commercial aviation. Because of its length, and Amarillo's centralized location, it is considered a secondary landing facility for NASA's space shuttle in the case of emergency. The Space Shuttle Atlantis did briefly 'land' in Amarillo, Texas on July 1, 2007, but only while riding piggy-back atop a modified NASA Boeing 747, during a ferry flight from Edwards AFB in the California desert to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The runway bisected the original location of the famed Mother Road; Historic U.S. Route 66. Aerial photos and Google Earth still show evidence and fragments of original bar ditches and pavement directly through the center of the airport property. Enthusiasts attempting to retrace the original route must detour around the airport; one of the few inaccessible stretches of the historic route because of legal restrictions and perhaps the only segment in the entire nearly 2400-mile route that is FAA controlled.

Notable people

The air base included a full service hospital for the use of stationed airmen, their families and nearby military personnel. Well-known composer and musician Danny Elfman, (front man of the '80s band Oingo Boingo and soundtrack composer for Batman, Beetlejuice, Men In Black, etc.) the son of an Air Force instructor, was reportedly born there on May 29, 1953.

See also



  • B. Byron Price and Frederick W. Rathjen, The Golden Spread: An Illustrated History of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle (Northridge, California: Windsor, 1986).


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