KDBR – Igor I Sikorsky Memorial Airport

Beginnings

The Sikorsky Memorial Airport airport was originally known as Avon Field, a racetrack where aircraft landed on the grass infield. It was apparently the site of the country’s first air show held in 1911, on the grounds of what is currently St. Michaels Cemetery. In 1928-29 the first buildings were erected at the airfield. The four structures were:

Hangar 1built 1928

Housed many famous aircraft including the XF4U Prototype Corsair.

Hangar 2built 1929

Original Curtiss Flight Service Hangar. Future Home of the Sikorsky Memorial Corsair

Terminal Buildingbuilt 1928

Connecticut’s first airline terminal. Slated for demolition due to condition.

Airport Manager’s House built 1928

Originally the house of the airport manager, it soon became the pilot operations shack before and during World War II. Since the 50’s it’s been a continuously operating bar and grille. In days long ago it was called “Happy Landings Inn”. Today it’s called The Windsock.

Golden Age

1929 was also the year the airport’s most famous tenant arrived at the field and began construction of a factory that would expand and evolve for the next six decades, Igor Sikorsky. In 1933 it became known as Mollison Field after Captain Jim Mollison crash landed there during an attempt to fly across the Atlantic. The City of Bridgeport purchased the airport in 1937, after which it became Bridgeport Municipal Airport. Famous aviators like Juan Trippe, Howard Hughes, and others also visited the field during this time.

World War II

With the onslaught of war, the airfield rapidly changed. Sikorsky quickly expanded the factory, while United Aircraft (the parent company)  moved another of it’s divisions into the same building, Chance Vought. For a brief period the companies were combined, forging Vought Sikorsky, but were soon separated. While the Sikorsky company completed production of the three VS-44A Flying Boats, Igor continued his advancement in helicopter design. On May 13, 1940 the VS-300 took to the air for a “free flight” for the first time. As immediately as a practical design was created, the US Government wanted production ready helicopters the very same day.  United Aircraft moved Sikorsky into the Bridgeport plant next to Seaside Park. It is here that the R4 Hoverfly would be produced until the end of World War II.

Chance Vought remained at the site, taking advantage of the  airfield and waterway originally made for Sikorsky’s seaplanes. Vought designed, test flew, and produced the venerable F4U Corsair here among other aircraft such as the OS2U Kingfisher, F6U Pirate, F5U Flying Flapjack, and others.

Before the end of World War II there was little more than salt marshes surrounding the airport.

Cold War

In the 1950s and 1960s Stratford permitted extensive residential development in the Lordship area adjacent to the airfield. In 1949, Vought moved out of the plant on Main St. and moved the company to Dallas, Texas. AVCO-Textron-Lycoming soon inhabited the property to build thousands of reciprocating and gas turbine engines for a plethora of aircraft and vehicles. On October 17, 1962, President of the United States John F. Kennedy landed and gave a short speech at this airport.

In 1972, it was rededicated as the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport, honoring the airport’s most famous tenant, Igor Sikorsky, who selected Stratford as the site for his Sikorsky Aviation Corporation in 1929.

Modern

At one time in the 1980s, the airport was simultaneously serviced by three carriers, US Airways Express, Delta Connection, and Continental Connection, however service to the airport declined rapidly in the 1990s. Airlines complained that the short length of the runway was preventing them from flying larger planes into the airport, and reducing profit. Continental Connection discontinued service to the airport in 1994, followed soon after by Delta Connection, which ended service in 1997. Finally, in November 1999, US Airways Express ended service to the airport, leaving Bridgeport with no commercial service.

In June 2006, US Helicopter began scheduled service to New York’s Downtown Manhattan Heliport, with continuing service to John F. Kennedy International Airport. This marked the first time since 1999 that the airport welcomed regularly scheduled commercial airline flights. On September 25, 2009, US Helicopter suddenly shut down, ending their service.

2015 Revival & Restoration

The original section of the airport as become somewhat of an anachronism. The simple fact that the buildings have evaded the wrecking ball and or replacement is a testament to their place in history. The Connecticut Air & Space Center is involved with a plan to restore the now deteriorated and uninhabited Hangar 2 as the home of the Corsair Memorial and for museum displays. The goal for Hangar 2 is to become the aircraft display hangar where families, school groups, and aviation fans of all ages can visit the museum and learn about our exciting aircraft collection. Hangar 1 was home to Blue Sky Flight Services, with owner Mike Becker striving to keep the period look & feel while allowing his modern business to grow. He has since moved to the other side of the airport. Anyone who is anyone has been into the Windsock who for many decades has served cold refreshments to pilots and locals around the area.

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