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Huffman Field played an important role in early aviation

April 2019

Sandwiched between the abandoned Wilbur Wright Field, current home of the U.S. Air Force Museum, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, east of Dayton, Ohio, lies a former aerodrome named Huffman Field. Named after the former property owner, Dayton banker Torrence Huffman, the aerodrome played an important role in early aviation.

It was at Huffman Field, also known as Huffman Prairie Flying Field, that Orville and Wilber Wright made around 150 test flights in 1904 and 1905, leading to the development of the Wright Flyer III in 1905, the first practical airplane.

Many early aviation records and milestones were set by the Wright Brothers at the Huffman Prairie Field, the world’s first aerodrome.

By 1910, the Wright Brothers also founded the Wright Flying School, in addition to its testing facilities. It was at Huffman Field that the Wright Company trained hundreds of pilots, including for their Wright Exhibition Team and early military aviators.

The United States Army Signal Corps bought the 84 acre aerodrome in 1917 and re-named it Wilber Wright Field. An adjacent property was also purchased in 1981 and became a new aviation engineering center, the Fairfield Air Depot, which also provided support to Wright Field.

After World War I ended, the flying school ceased operation.

Fairfield Air Depot merged with Wright Field in 1927 and Orville Wright presided over the official dedication ceremony on 12 October 1927 of the expanded Wilber Wright Field.

Wright Field became headquarters for the Material Division of the United States Army Air Corps. New brick buildings were built and an engineering school and a research and development center were established at the aerodrome.

In 1948, Wright Field merged with the nearby Patterson Field to become Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for the newly formed United States Air Force.

Patterson Field was named after Lieutenant Frank Patterson Stuart, a pilot in World War I and the son of the co-founder of National Cash Register, who was killed on 19 June 1918 in an airplane crash at Wright Field, along with his observer Second Lieutenant LeRoy Swan.

Today, Huffman Field is operated as a national historic site by the National Park Service, where visitors will find replicas of the original hangar from 1905 and the launching catapult.

Only the original Patterson Field aerodrome still an active aerodrome for Wright-Patterson AFB. The runways at Wilber Wright Field were closed in February 1958. The original triangle shaped airfield still exists, but the National Museum of the U.S Air Force sits across pat of the former west runway and taxiway, which also serves as a parking lot and display area for the outdoor static aircraft displays.


About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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