Biggs Army Airfield
Fort Bliss' Biggs Army Airfield, adjacent to the El Paso International Airport, has more miles of runway than any other Army airfield in the world. It also ranks as the nation's third largest runway, including commercial airports. It can handle any aircraft that flies.
The combination of size, geographic location, proximity to major training areas, and refueling capabilities, brings Biggs Airfield a large share of military air traffic in the southwestern United States. Biggs is used for major interservice exercises such as Gallant Eagle and Border Star as well as USAF readiness tests. In addition, many CONUS active duty and reserve units deploy to Biggs Airfield to conduct desert training in the Fort Bliss area.
The airfield is situated on approximately 4000 acres and enclosed by a chain link fence 12.5 miles in length. The runway is 13,572 feet long, 300 feet wide, concrete surface, capable of handling B-52, C-5, traffic. There is 1000 feet of asphalt overrun at each end, andapproximately 7.7 miles of taxiways. The airfield has two major areas with concrete surfaces. The largest single area is 800,000 square feet. An additional 9 concrete pads (90' X 200') for parking. Parking aprons cover a total of 2.9 million square feet, with asphalt surface.
Rotary wing aircraft ormally use the east-west taxiways but may use any taxiway or any other location approved by Biggs Tower. Instrument takeoffs (ITO) normally depart from the lighted helipad on taxiway B. The primary maintenance test flight hover area is north of Taxiway B, east of Taxiway F, west of Taxiway C, and south of the sod area. Taxiway B may also be used between Taxiway F and Taxiway C. The use of Biggs Army Airfield's main runway for maintenance and emergency procedure training is prohibited.
Jet-A+ is available from contract facilities on Biggs AAF. Hangar space is not normally available. Limited maintenance for transient Army aircraft is available at Biggs AAF through the contract support maintenance facility. Units on temporary duty at Biggs AAF should coordinate maintenance needs with their host units before arrival. Arming of aircraft weapon systems on Biggs Army Airfield is prohibited. The location of U.S. Highway 375 presents an immediate danger.
In order to participate with the El Paso Class C airspace requirement, and to assist in the Biggs Army Airfield noise abatement program, all tenant aircraft intending to fly to Kilbourne Hole or other destinations to the west are requested to travel via Anthony Gap. Transient aircraft, especially medium and heavy lift helicopters (AH-64, CH-47, H-3, CH-46, and CH-53) are requested to fly at least 1500 feet AGL on a track around the city of El Paso. El Paso Approach/Departure control is aware of these procedures and will assist with requests whenever possible. To reduce noise complaints in Chaparral, New Mexico, the minimum over-flight altitude will be 5,000 feet mean sea level (MSL). Avoid Chaparral, New Mexico, if possible.
Ranges and training areas lie to the northwest and northeast of the main post cantonment areas of the Fort Bliss Military Reservation. The Dona Ana ranges and maneuver areas 3a thru 7d are within restricted airspace R-5107A. The McGregor ranges and maneuver areas 9 thru 32 are within restricted airspace R5103A. A VFR corridor exists between these two restricted areas following the railroad from El Paso, Texas, to Alamogordo, New Mexico. The corridor extends 2 miles west of and parallel to the railroad. Northeast bound rotary-wing aircraft should fly at 4,500 feet MSL over the railroad (mission permitting). Southwest bound rotary-wing aircraft should fly at 4,500 feet MSL 1 mile west of the railroad (mission permitting). All units desiring the use of restricted airspace R5103 and R5107A must coordinate through the USA CAS Airspace Scheduling/Coordinator, (915) 569-9280/9247. R-5103A, B, C, D, and R-5107A are controlled by McGregor Range Control located at Davis Dome.
Military aviation began at Fort Bliss in 1916 when the First Aero Squadron was attached to General Pershing's Punitive Expedition in pursuit of Pancho Villa. They were equipped with Curtiss JN-2 "Jenny's", and their mission included scouting, observation and courier service for the cavalry and infantry units on the ground. The first air field was located in the middle of the present day post.
In June of 1919, two squadrons of Dehaviland DH-4 Bombers, known affectionately as "Flying Coffins" replaced the frail Jennys and the Border Air Patrol was born. For the next few years, "Bliss Field", as it was called, supported the mission of the patrol and welcomed aviation personalities such as General Billy Mitchell and Eddie Rickenbacker as well as military figures such as General of the Armies John J. Pershing. In 1920, the Eighth Airship Company was activated at camp Owen Bierne, about a mile north and east of Bliss Field near the present intersections were constantly hampered by high and gusty winds, and the units was deactivated in 1922.
On January 25th 1925 the War Department officially named the field for LT. James Berthes "Buster" Biggs. Biggs was a native El Paso aviator who had been killed in 1918 when his plane crashed at Belrain, France. Lt James Berthes Biggs, left an El Paso bank to enlist at Leon Springs in May, 1917. He was commissioned a short time later and sent to France with other air officers. Lt Biggs met his death on October 20, 1918, after serving meritoriously with the American troops. The remainder of the twenties and thirties were quiet years. Biggs field served Fort Bliss as a transient terminal until the establishment of the 20th Observation Squadron and a Tow Target Squadron in 1939.
With World War II imminent, a massive construction effort was begun at Biggs Army Airfield between 1942-1945. The field itself was moved north and east of the old balloon hanger to its present location. Huge hangars and longer concrete runways were built to accommodate Army Air Corps bombers and other aircraft as Biggs was assigned to Second Air Force in 1942. Biggs field functioned as a training and transient base though out the war.
In 1947, the United States Air Force Base came into existence. Assigned to the strategic Air Command, Biggs would serve as home base for heavy bombers such as the B-36 Peacemaker, the B-47 Stratojet and the B-52 Stratofortress for the next 19 years. In 1966, the Air Force moved off of Biggs and released the base for Army use. In 1973, Biggs was reactivated as a permanent US Army Airfield, making it the largest active Army Airfield in the world. Air Force aircraft such as the B-52 and C-5 return to Biggs Field periodically for joint forces training exercises such as Roving Sands and Border Star.
In 1990-91, Biggs Army Airfield supported the large-scale airlift of forces and equipment deployed for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Biggs Airfield continues to host C-5A Galaxies and other Air Force airlift aircraft which transport personnel and equipment on rotation to Southwest Asia and other theaters of operation. Because of its heavy-duty and extra-long runway, Biggs occasionally accommodates a specially equipped Boeing 747 as it carries a space shuttle to Kennedy space Center in Florida from Edwards Air Force Base in California.
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