I'd been looking forward to this work trip to Avon Park Air Force Range. Florida was home for two years back in my junior high school days. A chance to return to The Sunshine State for some sightseeing was a welcome opportunity -- especially since the week before this we had two ice storm days in Texas.
Saturday, 20 Jan 2007
An early flight from DFW put me in Tampa, and in a rental Grand Prix, before noon. I had a lot of miles to cover before sunset.
Driving far to the southeast, my first stop was the former Air Force Plant #74 (6778), 26-54-54, 80-22-52. I was disappointed to find the entrance securely locked. Air Products used the plant to produce liquid hydrogen for the Air Force from 1957 to 1964. Then, the facility spent a decade assigned to the Navy before being disposed of by the government. Checking at the adjacent J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, I read that the property is now owned by Pratt & Whitney.
Heading closer to the east coast of the state, I found that the former Palm Beach AFB had been seriously renovated over the years to become the current Palm Beach International Airport. I found one building that I suspect goes back to the Air Force days, and probably to the W.W.II Morrison Field days. It has most recently been a restaurant with a military theme, though it closed last year and now sits empty.
I stopped for the night in Clewiston, Florida. Only 6.5 hours on the road, covering 317 miles.
Sunday, 21 Jan 2007
Getting an early start, I made it to the former Riddle
Field just after sunrise. Now Airglades Airport, this was a contract flying school
operated by Riddle-McKay Aero College for the Army Air Forces. I believe the majority of the W.W.II
flying school buildings were in this area that is
From aerial photographs, it looked like the former Buckingham AFB had all but disappeared under new housing developments. Almost. I was pleased to find an active runway superimposed on one section of the W.W.II concrete apron, serving a residential air park. Owned by the Lee County Mosquito Control District, this is now Buckingham Field Airport. A few C-47s and other aircraft were seen on part of the ramp -- directly behind some houses under construction. The wind tetrahedron is visible just inside the fence of the current airport.
I was disappointed to find that a prison occupies the northern portion of the former Carlstrom Field, 27-07-30, 81-48-10. Embry-Riddle Co. operated this contract flying school for the AAF. The hangars and other buildings from the W.W.I days were along the east side of the field, and as far as I could tell the only building left from those early days is a concrete block ammunition storage building.
Not far to the northeast I found the former Dorr Field, 27-11-56, 81-39-56, also an Embry-Riddle Co. contract school during W.W.II, and as bad luck would have it -- now also part of the Florida prison system.
Heading north past Arcadia, my next stop was the former Bartow Air Base, now Bartow Municipal Airport. This was Bartow AAFld during W.W.II, and was reopened by the Air Force during the 1950s as a contract flying school operated by Garner Aviation Services, Inc.. I found some buildings that likely date back to military use, such as the control tower, an elevated water storage tank, a ground-level water storage tank, and the main gate check house.
I briefly explored Lakeview Linder Regional Airport, formerly Lakeland Army Air Field, and Winter Haven's Gilbert Airport, formerly Winter Haven Army Air Field. In both cases, I saw no evidence of former military use.
I was making good time on a sunny day, so instead of quitting early I added a couple more stops to my ride. Cruising south to Sebring, I looked for Sebring Regional Airport, formerly Hendricks Field. The current airport uses the north part of the former AAF field, and the south part is occupied by Sebring Raceway, home of the famous Twelve Hours of Sebring race. In fact, as I was photographing airfield buildings, I could hear and occasionally see race cars on the track for testing.
In Avon Park, I looked for the local airport. During W.W.II, Avon Park Airport was a contract flying school operated for the AAF by Lodwick Aviation Military Academy. I found one industrial building that I believe to be a heavily-modified hangar of W.W.II vintage.
My accommodations for the week were in Lake Wales. I was not far from the W.W.II auxiliary field, Oliver Parker Municipal Airport. It is now Lake Wales Municipal Airport, and I found no signs of former military use. This day's drive covered 366 miles in 9.25 hours.
Monday, 22 Jan 2007
My directions to get to work were to drive east out of Avon Park. Keep driving even when you're convinced you're out in the middle of nowhere and can't possibly be going in the right direction. Yup, that describes the scenic country drive out to Avon Park Air Force Range (ASPR), and the former Avon Park AFB (ASPQ) (later Avon Park AFS and now possibly designated Arbuckle Airfield).
The remote location of the range made my cell phone useless during the day, and the 50-minute drive from the motel to the range made for long days. Still, I enjoyed the boondocks atmosphere and rate this as a very pleasant work trip.
Saturday, 27 Jan 2007
Up at the crack of early, I loaded up the Grand Prix and headed northeast. Time to hit my old stomping grounds.
I barely recognized Patrick AFB (SXHT). It has come a long way since I lived there 33 years ago. We lived in base housing which was recently demolished and replaced with new houses. I did find two old familiar landmarks in the housing complex, the chapel and the pedestrian walkway leading to the off-base schools. Most base facilities were built long after I lived here.
I had hoped to get a look at Cape Canaveral AFS, but I was turned away at the gate since I didn't have official business there. Casual visitors are not allowed.
Driving back to Orlando, and spending more $ on toll roads, I went to the west side of Orlando International Airport to see what was left of McCoy AFB. Not much, as it turns out. An old warehouse now serves as a Naval Exchange. Two double-cantilever aircraft hangars still stand, both of them in good condition. A fuel systems maintenance dock still stands at one end of the ramp. The munitions storage area looked mostly intact, except that the ADC portion (rows of multicubicle storage magazines) has been demolished.
Driving north into town, I followed signs to Orlando Executive Airport, formerly Orlando AFB. This one was tough to explore, because many of the roads were blocked off for construction. I saw a few buildings that might date to military use.
I didn't find any vintage remains at the former Kissimmee AAFld, now the Kissimmee Gateway Airport. A couple of wartime buildings are said to stand in a far corner of the airport, but that area was not accessible to me.
The Z part of this report's title came next. I hadn't expected to find any military buildings at Zephyrhills AAFld, now Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. So, I was pleased to find one W.W.II barracks still standing, albeit heavily modified.
I was making good time so I decided to change my RON location from Zephyrhills to St. Petersburg. I lucked out, and stayed in lodging on MacDill AFB (NVZR). And yes, I made the obligatory BX visit. :-) This was a 10-hour driving day, covering 364 miles.
Sunday, 28 Jan 2007
This was an easy day. Sleep in, drive back to Tampa International, and take a flight home to DFW. I drove a bit over 1,400 miles on this trip.
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