Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Houston's Hobby Airport turns 90 years old
By Andrea Rumbaugh
The Houston (TX) Chronicle
Hobby Airport turned 90 years old in June 2017. It has gone through many name changes, including Howard Hughes Airport and Houston Municipal Airport, and expansions over the years. This photo from 1940 was provided by the 1940 Air Terminal Museum.
Houston's first commercial airport turned 90 years old this month.
Hobby Airport got its start as a private airfield in 1927. The city of Houston purchased it 10 years later and, in 1938, opened a commercial airport with a control tower. Then called the Howard Hughes Airport, it served Braniff Airways and Eastern Air Lines, according to a news release from the Houston Airport System.
The name was eventually changed to Houston Municipal Airport, and its wooden structure was replaced by a more permanent building.
During WWII, the airport continued its commercial operations, but was also used as a training site for the Women's Flying Training Detachment. By the end of the war, the airport had paved runways, city-built hangars, a lighting system and four additional airlines providing commercial flights.
A short time later, international service began and the airport was renamed Houston International Airport in 1954. More than 10 years and multiple expansions later, the airport's name changed again to honor Houston civic leader and Texas Governor William P. Hobby in 1967.
But international flights moved to Bush Intercontinental Airport in 1969. Hobby Airport shifted its focus to general aviation before resuming domestic commercial flights in 1971. It didn't provide international flights again until October 2015 when Southwest Airlines spent $146 million to build an international concourse for flights to to Latin America and the Caribbean.
The 280,000-square-foot concourse has five gates, a larger ticketing area and a Customs and Border Protection inspection station.
In addition, the Houston Airport System spent about $100 million for improvements including a new parking garage, a widened upper ramp, additional space to drop off passengers, and visual enhancements such as new signs, landscaping, fencing and lighting along Airport Boulevard.
Hobby, however, wasn't the only airport to have a milestone birthday this year. Ellington Airport turned 100 years old on May 21.