Laughlin Heritage Corner: January

  • Published
  • By Robert Marcell
  • 47th Flying Training Wing

A new year has begun, and everyone across the world is hoping it will be a better year than the last one. This is often the sentiment with a new year, of course; but it is perhaps a sentiment more strongly felt this year, in particular, as we transition away from 2020.

The change in the calendar year does not mean that the state of the world has likewise changed as well, however. We must all remain vigilant against complacency and remain faithful in our endeavors to protect one another during the ongoing pandemic.

But even if it is not quite the “reset” button we’d sometimes like it to be, January is a time of new beginnings and resolutions. It is a time for looking forward. And sometimes the best way to plan for the future is to first find one’s bearings with the past. This month, then, we look at how Laughlin has rung in the New Year in decades past with some of the major events we’ve seen in yesteryears’s Januaries. These include:

The “Snow Bird” lands at Laughlin

When: Jan. 2, 1961

What: The Navy airship The Snowbird, a ZPG-2 type non-rigid airship (or blimp), arrived at Laughlin AFB on its way to Santa Ana, California, from Lakehurst, New Jersey. This airship had previously broken flight records for non-rigid airships, crossing the Atlantic and back again on a non-stop flight that kept it in the air for 9,448 miles and more than 11 days before refueling.


Formal dedication of Laughlin’s U-2 display

When: Jan. 7, 1984

What: On this date, Laughlin dedicated the U-2 display aircraft we today have on show at the Laughlin air park. This beautiful plane harkens back to the period of 1957-1962 when Strategic Air Command’s 4080th Strategic Wing flew at Laughlin, shaping world history as part of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.


The T-1 fleet is complete

When: Jan. 17, 1995

What: In the early 90s, the T-1 airplane was brought to Laughlin to support the then-new Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training or SUPT program. The first one arrived on Nov. 19, 1993, with the program getting underway over the course of the next year. On Jan. 17, 1995, Laughlin received its last T-1, completing the fleet and fully equipping the 86 FTS with the aircraft that they would need to perform their mission. Just last month we re-completed our T-1 fleet when the last of the 2016 hailstorm-damaged T-1s returned to Laughlin after getting repaired.


Five-year anniversary of Laughlin’s “Blessing of the Wings”

When: Jan. 21, 2016

What: Five years ago, Laughlin AFB began a new tradition with SUPT Class 16-04 with the inaugural interfaith Blessing of the Wings. This tradition has continued ever since, and is now half a decade old.


Thirty-year anniversary of the Spofford Auxiliary Airfield

When: Jan. 28, 1991

What: On Jan. 28, 1991, now 30 years ago, the new Auxiliary Field (“Wizard” Auxiliary Field) at Spofford, Texas opened up for Laughlin touch-and-go landing operations. As a result of the establishment of the new auxiliary air field, the wing cancelled its lease on its existing auxiliary field at Eagle Pass—which had been under Laughlin’s jurisdiction and control since 1955 (when it was transferred to us from the now-closed Laredo AFB). Local lore suggests that part of the reason for the move from Eagle Pass to Spofford was the opening of a meat-packing plant in Eagle Pass, near the auxiliary field there, which attracted birds with its settlings ponds and paunch fields—and increased the risk of bird strikes for planes landing and taking off from that site. The county had also, at that time, indicated that they planned to allow commercial aircraft to use the field along with Laughlin aircraft, further decreasing its value and desirability as a critical training site by increasing its traffic and risk.

That is all for this edition: Do your best to make 2021 a fantastic year for you and your team, and be sure to check in next month for more amazing stories from our favorite base’s extraordinary past!