Aircraft Storage: Kingman Airport’s Legacy

By Scott Spangler on September 12th, 2016

Day9-36Following the airport signs posted along the historic path of Route 66 added some welcome surprises on the journey from Chicago to Santa Monica, but several airports were predetermined destinations. One of them was Arizona’s Kingman Airport (IGM). Built on 4,145 acres of Mohave County in 1942 as Kingman Army Airfield, it started service as an aerial gunnery school. I first read about when I was a brand new teenager, in Hollywood Pilot, Don Dwiggins biography of Paul Mantz. It is where Mantz bought the half dozen B-17s he needed for his work on Twelve O’Clock High, released in 1949.

Aircraft storage areas have long fascinated me because of the silent, unspoken history presented by the aircraft that populate. This fascination probably grew out of that scene in The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946’s Best Picture winner about the post-war lives of four World War II servicemen. In my mind’s eye I can still replay the scene where Dana Andrews, a bombardier, relives the horror of combat while wandering through a seemingly endless field of B-17s. That scene was filmed at Ontario, California, one of six post-war storage and sales and scrapping sites established by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to dispose of nearly 120,000 aircraft the government no long needed. Seventy years have passed since these centers opened, and I didn’t expect to find any of their winged charges hiding in some forgotten corner, but I was curious to see if some trace of that legacy remained.

Day9-39Following the signs to Kingman Airport, the pavement gave way to gravel. Affixed to the expected chain link fence was a sign for Kingman Airline Services. On the other side was a hangar, clearly built during World War II, still in use by the FAA repair station. And parked on the ramp were dozens of airliners wearing the graphic livery of several airlines. Like the military aircraft that preceded them, their ultimate fate was unclear once they had been stripped of the useable spare parts that would keep their active make-and-model siblings airborne for a few more years.

Research refreshed my memory of why the high desert was ideal for aircraft storage: little precipitation, dry air, and a soil ph that slowed the process of aging and corrosion on metal and rubber. But aside from the old hangar still in use, there were no other signs that told of the airport’s contribution to aviation. The Kingman Airport website said that the Kingman Army Airfield Historical Society was established to preserve the field’s history with artifacts, photos, and displays, but there was no mention of where they were, if any, and during my ride-around no signs pointed to any such location.

Day9-44Now, like the veterans who gave them life, the aircraft that fought World War II are now few in number. But they are respected and admired by anyone with even the slightest knowledge of their contribution. But what about the airfields that were their wartime homes? During World War II the United States built hundreds, if not a thousand or more airports to support the war effort. It would be a safe assumption that most of them are still active aerodromes, but few know of their prior service, and that is a shame. Without them, the contributions of the veterans and the aircraft they flew that we now lionize would not have been possible. It seems unfair that these facilities, which continue as priceless components of the national airspace system, are not recognized for their decades of service to past, present, and future of aviation. –Scott Spangler, Editor

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5 Responses to “Aircraft Storage: Kingman Airport’s Legacy”

  1. Aircraft Storage: Kingman Airports Legacy Avjet News Blog Says:

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  2. Jim Elco Says:

    There is a museum located in the Kingman Airport complex. I has artifacts of the war time crafts. There are also a few other tourist attractions in the complex, a Distilling Company that makes bourbon and a Import/Export business.

  3. Ray Mathews Says:

    Great little resturant on the field for breakfast and lunch.

  4. Ray Says:

    The museum at Kingman has closed for lack of interest and participation. This is a shame and an indication of our current population lack of concern for our history that made America the country we used to be.
    There was an auction to empty the museum hangar. I bought a few models and a display cabinet now a minnie museum in my own hangar with my 70 year old Swift. Also acquired a few aviation maps from the 40’s and 50’s.

    Try to go to the toy store and buy your kid a nice little airplane set, especially military. You will not find much, if anything. Many fantasy toys not of the real world are available.
    Us old pilots are just living in the past in a soon to be nonexistent space called light airplane general aviation where it all started.

    Crop duster, Stearman
    Naval combat Aviatior carrier pilot, retired O6
    Continental Captain, retired, 9 type ratings
    Corporate G-1159, GIV
    Hobby pilot instructor with a Swift.
    Soloed 1957!

  5. M. Albert Says:

    I enjoy these old airfields as well. Wendover is a favorite as a close friend used to fly his B-25 into Wendover. However, there is another field with a WWII paratrooper reenactment group that holds school twice a year.

    Visit when you can and live the way they did in 1942.

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