Redstone Army Airfield
In addition to supporting the aircraft assigned to the arsenal, Redstone Army Airfield serves as a refueling stop for all of the military services. The airfield's runway is capable of handling a wide spectrum of military aircraft including some of the world's largest cargo and passenger planes. Among the aircraft which have used the arsenal's airfield are the C-124 cargo plane; the AO1C Mohawk turboprop reconnaissance plane; the Air Force's C-5A Galaxy.
Aircraft wanting to land at the arsenal's airfield must have a prior permission request (PPR), which requires 24-hour advance notice. Such permission is necessary because of the airfield's limited ramp space for moving, parking, or servicing aircraft. Ongoing missions also restrict other aircraft from using the arsenal's airfield. Civilian aircraft cannot land without a PPR unless it is an emergency.
The history of aviation at Redstone Arsenal can be traced to the installation's World War II beginnings. Originally part of the Chemical Corps' Huntsville Arsenal, the airfield was established to accommodate the planes used to test incendiary munitions manufactured during the war not only at Huntsville and Redstone Arsenals but those produced by other Army Installations and contractor facilities across the country. With the cessation of hostilities in 1945, the airfield began an 11-year hiatus during which time no planes were assigned to it. In this period, the airfield was largely vacated and served primarily as a landing strip for transient aircraft.
The transfer of this and other Huntsville Arsenal land and facilities in June 1949 to neighboring Redstone Arsenal, a WWII Ordnance Corps shell loading and assembly plant designated as the site of the Army's consolidated rocket and missile programs, augured well for the future of the airfield. After the activation of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency at the Redstone Arsenal complex in February 1956, the former landing strip became a fully operational Army airfield, complete with assigned aircraft, aviation personnel, an air traffic control tower, and modern radar and communications equipment.
After the establishment of the Marshall Space Flight Center on Redstone Arsenal in 1961, NASA frequently used the installation's airfield. Two of the more unusual transient aircraft handled by Redstone Army Airfield belonged to NASA. The first of these was known as the Pregnant Guppy (B-377 PG). Designed by an imaginative group associated with John M. Conroy, aerial entrepreneur of an outfit aptly named Aero Spacelines, Incorporated, in Van Nuys, California, the Guppy was a Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser modified and enlarged to enable the aircraft to carry a Saturn S-IV upper stage.
In 1991, the airfield had 10 assigned aircraft: 2 Short's C-23A cargo aircraft, 2 Beechcraft U-21H King Airs, 1 U-21F King Air, and 5 UH-1H helicopters modified for R&D testing. In May 1991, the airfield turned in its C-7A Caribou, the last of this type cargo aircraft on active duty with the Regular Army.
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