Brownsville Airport History


Runway extension project beyond 10,000 feet to accommodate larger aircraft with heavier loads. New terminal. More airlines, more air cargo services.


Mayor Blanca S. Vela officially accepted the Terminal Capacity Enhancement Project in August, 2001. Mayor Eddie Treviño, Jr. and the Brownsville City Commission rededicated the airport on its 75th Anniversary in March, 2004. Airport offers services such as free parking, WIFI, e-flight alerts, $2 shuttle to South Padre Island and much more. March 2009 designated Brownsville Aviation Month by the Brownsville City Commission. American Airlines begins service. Parking services expanded


Continental Airlines begins service. Doppler weather radar goes into use. National Weather Service builds new building. Rio Grande Valley Wing of Commemorative Air Force moves to Brownsville.


Cargo terminal area developed. Free Trade Zone developed. New control tower built. 1983: Airport renamed Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.


1971: New passenger terminal built. Early 1970s: Private flight training begins for pilots from 30 countries. 290 acres designated for Industrial Air Park. Livestock export facility opens 1979: 50th Anniversary Celebration.


Airport evolves into industrial area. Inter Continental Engine Service awarded contract to overhaul U.S. Navy aircraft. New weather radar system installed, 16th in nation.


Overhaul facility performs many interesting jobs: renovated planes for new Liberian airline, overhauled Chiang Kai-Shek’s presidential plane. Fixed-base operations began. Charter flights business booms carrying fishermen to Mexican coast. United States Border Patrol began processing undocumented immigrants at airport. Pan American Western Division moved to Miami. Inter Continental Engine Service began doing business at the Airport.


Pan American relinquished management of airport as national defense measure. US Government leased 884 acres for use by the Arm Air Force. Test flight of first U.S. jet engine B-29 bomber renovated. Airport had one of the largest overhaul facilities in the country. By the end of the war Pan American had overhauled nearly 6,000 engines. Civilian Pilot Training program initiated to train military and commercial pilots. Only Mexican military unit to engage in combat during World War II, the 201st Fighter Squadron, trained at the Brownsville Army Air Field. 1946 and 1947: Pan American had five daily southbound flights, Eastern and Braniff each had two northbound flights. Early 1946: Trans-Texas Airways, later Texas International, began Brownsville operations.


1931: Airport one of four in the U. S. given highest rating by Department of Commerce. 1932: Brownsville was designated headquarters of Pan American’s Western Division. Buildings and equipment put in place to test and overhaul aircraft and engines. Planes used by Pan American in Alaska outfitted in Brownsville for cold weather flying. 1934: Braniff Airways began serving Brownsville. 1939: Eastern Airlines came to Brownsville, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker attended opening. Late 1930’s: Pan American Airways overhaul base established, weather station established, Braniff and Eastern Airlines began service.


March 9, 1:34p.m. Charles Lindbergh lands in Brownsville after five hour, 38 minute historic flight from Mexico City establishing the first International Airmail service. Event opens airport. Amelia Earhart attends. Crowd of 20,000 greets Lindbergh. Celebration described as international event of great significance. June 4: Pan American Airways leases airport, begins service with Ford Tri-Motors. Name changed to Brownsville-Pan American Municipal Airport starting 30 year relationship with airline. D.C. Richardson and Edward Snyder, responsible for flight operations in Brownsville, started instrument flying between Brownsville and Mexico City. City became pioneer training center for teaching pilots to fly with navigation instruments only (called blind flying).


Bonds passed to build the Brownsville Municipal Airport, paving the way for air service south of the border.


First Military Aircraft took off from Fort Brown Military Reservation to observe troop movements in Mexico. Aircraft hit by machine gun and rifle fire, first time U.S. military aircraft fired upon in hostility. None were wounded.


First successful flights made by Wilbur and Orville Wright, December 17, 1903, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.