If you take a drive down Airport Road in South Huntsville you will find shopping centers and about every kind of restaurant known to man. You will also see a hospital along with doctor and business offices everywhere...but you may ask yourself where is the airport? The sign clearly says Airport Road...so what's up.
In the 1940's there was an airport located across the parkway beside the golf course. In fact, it was used until the new Huntsville "Jetplex" opened in 1967. The "Old Airport" as locals call it is now a complex made up of soccer and baseball fields. It is packed during the summers with tournaments that attract teams from all over the South. At times it is also used for weekend races by the SCCA "Sports Car Club of America".
The Old Airport was built in 1941. It had two paved runways and a wooden shack used for the control tower at the end of 5/23 runway. Later, a new concrete Control Tower was constructed because of the additional flights and more modern aircraft coming into service. Aircraft technology was changing and so must the Control Tower to maintain safety for the passengers.
It did boast a 4,000 foot runway which was a big deal back in the day. In addition to propeller aircraft, it would also accommodate the new McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet aircraft that began entering service in the mid 60's. The leading major airline that offered service to Huntsville in those days was Southern Airways later purchased by Republic Airlines. Anyone that ever flew into Huntsville remembers this tricky approach made by pilots flying into this airport. It was a very steep approach and could sometimes be a nail biter for both passengers and cockpit crew.
After the new airport was finished and opened up in 1968 the old airport closed and sat for several years. The car lovers would go and race their cars on the weekends taking advantage of those long runways. The Fire Department took over the Control Tower and used it for training.
The prized procession for the current airport is its 12,600 foot runway, second in length to only Atlanta, and it can accommodate any size aircraft. During the weekends you can see military aircraft from Birmingham practicing their touch-n-go landings. It also serves as a major hub with air cargo flights coming in from all over the world.
When I travel down the "old" Airport Road these days, I can still remember the days hearing those old noisy Southern Airways propeller planes with oil stains on their cowlings coming in for a landing!
My.... how times have changed.