Amarillo AFB, Amarillo, TX circa 1955
The history of aviation in Amarillo dates back to April of 1918, when to Army Signal Corps planes, landed in a pasture. Two years later, Blivins Field opened, though it was later moved, then renamed Blivins-English Field in 1928, at which point scheduled service began with Braniff Airways’ regular round-trip service to Kansas City. In 1929, the field was closed and moved again, this time seven miles east of the city, opening as English Field. Other airlines soon were attracted to the field, including TWA, which in 1931 began stopping in the city as part of its coast-to-coast service.
In 1942, the USAAC established an Air Corp Technical School, adjacent to English Field, to train mechanics for its B-17 Flying Fortresses. Construction was begun on 20 April, with the first students reporting on 3 September. The site was renamed Amarillo Army Air Field on 2 December, with the first class graduating on 23 Dec.
Most students entered the training without any mechanical training, but the 76 day primary course, followed by a 36-day specific course, ensured they were experts upon graduating. Classes were in session around the clock. Students became familiar with mechanics tools, and the structure of the B-17, which included a B-17 cutaway, and a complete B-17 composed of parts from five different previously scrapped airplanes. In addition, aircraft instruments, hydraulic systems, electrical systems, aircraft engines, and fuel systems repair and replacement are covered, including complete engine overhaul. This was in addition to regular military drill and calisthenics. Students were allowed one day off per week.
In 1944, training for B-29 flight engineers was added, with mechanic training expanded to the Superfort soon after. By 1945, the B-17 training had been eliminated. After the end of WWII, all technical training was transferred to Scott AFB in Illinois, and Amarillo was closed in 1946.
The base was reopened on 1 March 1951 to provide technical training to support the Korean War, and courses in jet A&P were begun, with an F-86, F-89 and three B-47s on site. By 1958, classes for guided missiles had been added, and in 1962, after a modernization of the base facilities, courses for the F-4 and variants was also being taught. In 1965, the USAF planned to transfer the base to ADC and move training classes elsewhere, but the expansion of the Vietnam War put those plans on hold, and training classes remained until 1968.
In 1959, SAC established the 4128th Strategic Wing at Amarillo, bringing 18 B-52s. In 1963, KC-13s of the 909th Refueling Squadron began flying from the base, and both types participated in the ARC LIGHT missions in 1967. In 1968, both the B-52s and KC-135s were transferred out, and the base was set for closure, which was completed in 1971.
After the Air Base closure, Amarillo Air Terminal gained its thirteen thousand foot runway, one of the longest commercial runways in the US. In 1975 the airport had become a port of entry, and was renamed Amarillo International Airport. 1997 the original terminal building was converted into a museum, though the Texas Aviation Historical Society lost the lease with the city, and is now located in a group of buildings to the southeast of the main runway. In 2003 the terminal building, as well as the airport itself, was renamed in honor of Amarillo native Rick Husband, NASA astronaut and commander of the final, fatal mission of the Shuttle Columbia. In 2011, the terminal underwent a $52.2 million renovation.