Historic Brookley Field

From Private Field to Industrial Center

The Early Years

Brookley Field originally began its life as the Mobile Municipal Airport, more commonly known as Bates Field. The project to construct the Municipal Airport began in March of 1928, with Mobile originally renting the 125 acre property for $50 a month. While the Municipal Airport was not fully dedicated until November 1929, an airmail company conducted simple conditioning of the field and began operations in April 1928.[1] Since these early aircraft simply needed an adequate grass field, such operations were being conducted alongside improvements to the field.[2] In the 1920s, many municipalities across the United States were considering entry into the age of air travel by building either simple local airstrips or more substantial municipal airports. Indeed, the Montgomery Advertiser appears to have made it their mission to see such an airport built for that city, with repeated calls for such a project.[3] Unfortunately, it was not long until an accident occurred at Bates Field and on July 22, 1928, a commercial aircraft struck an automobile, while both vehicles were destroyed, fortunately there were no fatalities.[4]

Improvements to the field continued and the dedication of Bates Field finally occurred on November of 1929 with great fanfare. Several aircraft and flying groups visited the airfield to perform during its dedication. The Army even sent several of its early bombers, with one carrying Congressman John McDuffle, to attend the dedication. Optimism was clearly widespread over the move to build such locations in Alabama, and they welcomed the move as it put the state and Mobile in the spotlight and would hopefully lead to an aeronautical future for the area. While they may not have foreseen the route that Bates Field would take to eventually lead to Brookley Aeroplex, they were not exactly wrong in their hopes for the future.[5]

[1] “Mobile’s Airport,” The Selma Times-Journal, April 01, 1928, Page 4

[2] “Mobile Airport Temporary Building,” Fayette Banner, August 23, 1928, Page 7

[3] “The Advertiser’s Program For Montgomery,” The Montgomery Advertiser, June 09, 1928, Page 4

[4] “2 Mobile Boys Hurt As Plane Drops On Auto,” Birmingham Post-Herald, July 23, 1928, Page 1

[5] “Complete Plans For Dedication Of Mobile Field,” The Onlooker, November 7, 1929, Page 1