Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport
|Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport
(former Brownsville Army Airfield)
|USGS 2002 orthophoto|
|IATA: BRO – ICAO: KBRO – FAA LID: BRO|
|Owner||City of Brownsville|
|Serves||Brownsville / South Padre Island, Texas|
|Elevation AMSL||22 ft / 7 m|
|Source: Federal Aviation Administration|
Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport (IATA: BRO, ICAO: KBRO, FAA LID: BRO) is a city owned, public use airport located four nautical miles (7 km) east of the central business district of Brownsville, a city in Cameron County, Texas, United States.
The airport is served by two commercial airlines, six air taxis and offers three FBOs for general aviation. It is a convenient airport for flying into the Rio Grande Valley and Northern Mexico. Most cities in the Rio Grande Valley are accessible from BRO by automobile within 30–60 minutes. It is also the closest commercial airport to South Padre Island.
This airport included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a primary commercial service facility. As per Federal Aviation Administration records, the airport had 82,723 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008, 80,350 enplanements in 2009, and 84,401 in 2010.
The National Weather Service forecast office for Deep South Texas is located on the airport grounds. The airport currently serves flights to two cities in Texas, Dallas and Houston. The 2013 Federal sequester will result in the closure of the airport's control tower and will require pilots to rely on air traffic controllers from other area airports.
- On March 9, 1929, Charles Lindbergh landed at BRO after a five-hour, 38-minute historic flight from Mexico City to the United States. This established the first leg of Airmail Service to Mexico. An event was held on site in Lindbergh's honor, with a crowd of over 20,000 greeting him upon his arrival. Among the attendees was Amelia Earhart, for whom the main street in front of the Airport is named. This event has been described[by whom?] as an international event of great significance.
- Pan-American Airways started service at the airport on June 4, 1929, the beginning of a 30-year relationship between BRO and PanAm.
- In the 1960s, the 16th weather radar system in the nation was installed at BRO.
- In 1983, the airport was officially renamed the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.
Brownsville Army Airfield
During World War II the airport was used by the United States Army Air Forces, although the Air Corps had signed a contract with Pan American Airways in 1940 for the training of aircraft mechanics at the airport. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor Attack on December 7, 1941, both Army and Navy observation aircraft began operations from the airport flying antisubmarine missions over the Gulf of Mexico.
For the first year of the United States' involvement in combat of the war, Pan American continued to operate the airport, providing training to Ferrying Command pilots and ground mechanics assigned to the 18th Transport Transition Training Detachment. With the realignment of Ferrying Command to Air Transport Command on July 1, 1942, plans were made by the Army to assume jurisdiction of the airport. On July 28, 1943 the USAAF 568th AAF Base Unit, Air Transport Command was assigned to the newly designated Brownsville Army Airfield. The mission of the 4th Fighter Operational Training Unit at the airfield was the training of pilots to ferry pursuit planes to the various theaters of war. Training was carried out by AAF instructor pilots, however Pan American Airways retained operations at the airfield flying larger 2 and 4 engine transports to the airport as an overhaul facility. In May 1944, a new mission was developed to train multi-engined pilots at the base. The school began operations in June, and the pilots began to ferry large numbers of aircraft to Panama for subsequent shipment by sealift to Australia.
Achievements of note during World War II at Brownsville AAF were:
- Civilian Pilot Training program initiated to train military and commercial pilots.
- The first American jet engine flight was tested at Brownsville Army Air Field.
- B-29 bombers were renovated on the site.
- The airport had one of the largest overhaul facilities in the country. By the end of the war Pan American had overhauled nearly 6,000 engines.
With the end of the Pacific War in August 1945, operations at Brownsville AAF were dramatically reduced. Flight operations continued at a reduced level for the balance of 1945, however in early January the base was declared surplus and was inactivated on March 5, 1946 and returned to full civil control.  
Facilities and aircraft
Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport covers an area of 1,700 acres (688 ha) at an elevation of 22 feet (7 m) above mean sea level. It has three runways with asphalt surfaces: 13R/31L is 7,399 by 150 feet (2,255 x 46 m); 17/35 is 6,000 by 150 feet (1,829 x 46 m); 13L/31R is 3,000 by 75 feet (914 x 23 m).
For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2011, the airport had 37,412 aircraft operations, an average of 102 per day: 45% general aviation, 40% military, 14% air taxi, and 1% scheduled commercial. At that time there were 55 aircraft based at this airport: 87% single-engine and 13% multi-engine.
Various aircraft types, including Bombardier CRJ-200 and Embraer ERJ 145, are used by American Eagle and United Express (through their regional partners) in Brownsville. Previous aircraft used include Embraer ERJ 135, Embraer ERJ 140, ATR-42 aircraft (Chautauqua Airlines, Envoy Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines) as well as Boeing 737-200, 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft (Continental Airlines).
Pan American Airways, Inc.. located in the 1931 Pan American Airways Building at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, has renovated the 1931 Pan American Airways Building with the intent of re-opening the "Gateway to Latin America" in 2011.
Airlines and destinations
The following airlines offer scheduled passenger service at this airport:
|American Eagle||Dallas/Fort Worth|
The airport is the largest air cargo handling airport in the Rio Grande Valley.
Pan American Airways and World-Wide Consolidated Logistics, Inc. were to open cargo service to Latin America in 2011. A TSA Certified Cargo Screening Facility was established by World-Wide Consolidated Logistics, Inc. to facility the screening of domestic and international cargo to and from the United States with the intent of Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport being the "Gateway to Latin America" in 2011 and the "Gateway to Africa" (via the Southern Route) in 2012. Those plans never came to fruition because the entity's (PAAWWCL) owner ran into legal trouble, preventing the airline to open any new services.
The Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport is the first airport in Texas to offer flight status notification via text-messaging through its website. When the system was launched, it was one of only three airports in the nation between Michigan and Alabama to offer such a service.
- FAA Airport Master Record for BRO ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective November 15, 2012.
- "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010.
- "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.
- "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.
- "FAA Contract Tower Closure List". American Association of Airport Executives. March 22, 2013.
- "FAA: 149 control towers to close at small airports". USA Today. March 22, 2013.
- Thole, Lou (1999), Forgotten Fields of America : World War II Bases and Training, Then and Now – Vol. 2. Publisher: Pictorial Histories Pub, ISBN 1-57510-051-7
- Chilton, Carl S. Jr. (2000), 70 Years of Airport History in Brownsville 1929–1999
- Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, official website
- Rio Grande Valley Wing of the Commemorative Air Force
- (PDF), effective September 18, 2014
- FAA Terminal Procedures for BRO, effective September 18, 2014
- Resources for this airport: