By Rick Davenport
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
After a decade of improvements at the Hearne Municipal Airport, the public celebrated the area’s rich heritage as part of the facility’s rededication ceremony Oct. 19.
In conjunction with the airport celebration (dubbed Wild Blue Yonder after the opening lyrics to the U.S. Air Force song), the adjoining Hearne World War II prisoner of war camp held its annual living history event. Vintage aircraft flew into Hearne, and skydivers jumped from the Bluebonnet Belle, a DC-3 Skytrain Transport.
“It’s fitting that we combined these two events,” said Kent Brunette, director of the Hearne Economic Development Corporation. “The airport has undergone an extensive, 10-year improvement process, including a repaving and restriping of the runway and taxiways, refurbishing the pilot lounge, an automated weather observing system and installation of a fuel farm. We wanted the public and area pilots to see what the new facility has to offer and to remind everyone of the history of the Hearne Airport.”
Hearne Air Field was constructed in 1954 as an auxiliary landing field for the Bryan Air Force Base. It was used to train jet fighter pilots during the heyday of the Cold War. In 1961, the field was deeded to the City of Hearne.
The city contracted with the Texas Engineering Extension Service, which offered numerous improvement recommendations. Brunette says one of the final recommendations, a perimeter fence, is planned for the facility in the coming months. Also, ten new hangars could be constructed in the near future.
The improvements were made possible with a combination of state, federal and local funding, including grants from the TxDOT’s Routine Airport Maintenance Program.
“TxDOT Aviation is delighted to partner with Hearne as it steadfastly works to improve its airport,” Dave Fulton, director of TxDOT’s Aviation Division, said in a news release announcing the airport celebration. “I commend Hearne for its understanding and appreciation of the value of its airport and the city’s commitment to supporting its growth and development. Improved airports provide economic benefits to local communities and local areas.”