Published On: Sat, Jun 1st, 2013

William P. Hobby Airport

On May 20, 1927 Charles Lindbergh launched his tiny bird, “Spirit of St Louis” into the history books by flying non-stop from Roosevelt Field, Long Island to Paris, France.

On June 24, 1927, just over one month later, W.T. Carter Jr. opened Houston’s first airport on 400 acres of land eight miles south of the city on Telephone road. It was to be the beginning of a long life of rich history for an airfield named WT Carter Field.

[private]Only the year before had the first mail been carried by airplane on an established route. Varney Air Lines was founded in Boise, Idaho and was owned by Walter Varney. The company was to be the precursor to what would become Continental Airlines and United Airlines also claims Varney Air Lines to be their founding father. Varney Air Lines’ chief pilot, Tanner “Lee” Lueders, was the first pilot to ever fly a Contract Air Mail flight. Leuders flew in a Swallow biplane from the airlines’ headquarters in Boise,to the railroad mail hub at Pasco, Washington, on May 17, 1926. On May 18, 1926 he returned to Boise with 200 pounds of US mail thus beginning the US Postal Service’s air mail service.

In 1927, William Boeing, a young entrepreneur and aviation pioneer founded his own airline. He called it Boeing Air Transport and Bill had big plans. He rapidly began buying other airmail carriers. It was during this expansion period he bought Varney Air Lines. In 1928, Boeing merged with Pratt & Whitney to form United Aircraft and Transport Corporation. In March 1929, Boeing Air Transport, National Air Transport, Varney Airlines and Pacific Air Transport came together to form United Air Lines. At that time they were providing coast-to-coast passenger and mail service.

America was embracing aviation in a big way and WT Carter Field was in the middle of it.

In 1937 Houston bought the airport from WT and changed the name to Houston Municipal Airport. It was changed again briefly to Howard Hughes Airport in 1938 but due to regulatory issues was soon changed back to Houston Municiple. It was changed again in 1954 to Houston International Airport and once more in 1967 to honor former Texas Governor William P. Hobby.

Today it is known as William P. Hobby Airport or “Hobby” for short. It is the 2nd largest airport in Houston and the 42nd busiest in the nation. Over 9 million passengers passed through its terminal in 2010. Hobby currently supports approximately 29000 jobs in the Houston area and contributes four and one half billion dollars in revenues to the city.

Six Airlines fly domestically from Hobby every day including:

  • AirTran Airways
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Southwest Airlines

Together they serve 34 cities in the US with non-stop service.

Not so well known to the general public is the General Aviation segment of the industry. It is made up of flight schools, air charter companies, private aircraft management companies, aircraft sales and corporate flight departments. These aircraft are supported by Fixed Base Operators or FBO’s which provide private terminals, concierge, parking, fuel, catering, ground transportation and so much more. Many of them also supply aircraft maintenance but there are several maintenance shops that are not associated with an FBO.

With 5 FBO’s and 25 major airport tenants located at Hobby you can see how it would be considered a major regional center for corporate and private aviation. In fact there are over 250 aircraft based here in the 42 aircraft hangars on the field.

With it’s close proximity to downtown, many amenities and safe service it’s no wonder that Houston Hobby supports a vibrant aviation community and will for years to come.

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Chuck Simmons is an Airline Transport Pilot with 11000 flight hours and 4 type ratings. He currently flies a Hawker 750 Proline and a Gulfstream G-III from Houston Hobby. Chuck lives in League City, Texas with his wife and three daughters.

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