Tuscaloosa Regional Airport
|Tuscaloosa Regional Airport
Van De Graaff Field
NAIP aerial image, 2006
|IATA: TCL – ICAO: KTCL – FAA LID: TCL|
|Owner||City of Tuscaloosa|
|Operator||City of Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation, Airport Management Division|
|Elevation AMSL||170 ft / 52 m|
Tuscaloosa Regional Airport (IATA: TCL, ICAO: KTCL, FAA LID: TCL) is a public-use airport located three nautical miles (3.5 mi, 5.6 km) northwest of the central business district of Tuscaloosa, a city in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, United States. The airport is owned and operated by the City of Tuscaloosa. It is included in the FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized the airport as a general aviation facility.
Tuscaloosa Regional Airport had 2,400 commercial passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2011. The majority of this traffic was athletic charters from the University of Alabama. Located adjacent to the airport is the Tuscaloosa Industrial Park.
Facilities and aircraft
Tuscaloosa Regional Airport covers an area of 724 acres (293 ha) at an elevation of 170 feet (52 m) above mean sea level. It has two asphalt paved runways: 4/22 is 6,499 by 150 feet (1,981 x 46 m) and 11/29 measures 4,001 by 100 feet (1,220 x 30 m). Runway 4 is equipped with an Instrument Landing System and approach lights, allowing landings in visibility as low as a half mile.
For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2010, the airport had 55,763 aircraft operations, an average of 152 per day: 71% general aviation, 27% military, 2% air taxi, and <1% scheduled commercial, At that time there were 76 aircraft based at this airport: 60% single-engine, 24% multi-engine, 8% jet and 8% helicopter.
In 1939 Oliver Parks was brought to Alabama to set up a Civilian Pilot Training Program, CPTP, for the University of Alabama. A brick hangar was built on the property and the first class of students were licensed before the end of 1939. The airport was opened in April 1940 as Van De Graaff Field. It originally consisted of 4 turf runways: 00/18 (2500 by 500 feet), 04/22 (3777 by 600 feet), 09/27 (4082 by 600 feet), 13/31 (5208 by 600 feet).
World War II
During World War II, the field was revamped to include a single main runway (the current 11/29). The rest of the field was usable as an all-way field.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration designated van de Graff Field as an intermediate field (#59). It operated as a United States Army Air Forces primary (phase 1) pilot training field by a detachment of the 51st Flying Training Group, Greenville Army Airfield, Mississippi. In addition to the main field, the following known sub-bases and auxiliaries were used:
- Albright Auxiliary Field (Undetermined Location)
- Foster Auxiliary Field
- Knauer Auxiliary Field
- Moody Auxiliary Field
- Rice Auxiliary Field
Pilot training was provided under contact by the Alabama Institute of Aeronautics, Inc. Flying training was performed primarily with Fairchild PT-19s, in addition to PT-17 Stearmans and a few P-40 Warhawks. Beginning in June 1943, Free French Air Force flight cadets began to arrive at the school for Primary flight training, having graduated from the preflight screening school at Craig Field.
Military operations were inactivated on September 8, 1944, with the drawdown of AAFTC's pilot training program. Free French training was transferred to the Hawthorne School of Aeronautics, Orangeburg, South Carolina. The airfield was turned over to city control at the end of the war though the War Assets Administration.
Commercial air services
Runway 11/29 was paved in the early 1950s. A northeast-southwest runway (4/22) was constructed in 1970, along with a passenger terminal, in order to facilitate jet service. Commercial airline service to Tuscaloosa commenced on June 10, 1949, on a 25-seat Douglas DC-3 as one of the original six destinations served by Southern Airways. Service on Southern would continue to grow in serving Tuscaloosa with Martin 4-0-4 twin prop airliners and eventually with Douglas DC-9 jetliners by the 1970s. Service would peak in the mid-1970s with eight daily arrivals and departures to Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans. Southern and North Central Airlines merged to form Republic Airlines in 1979, and service was then discontinued altogether on June 1, 1984, as most passengers were drawn to nearby Birmingham's airport. Briefly following the exit of Republic, Sunbelt Airlines provided 2 daily flights to Memphis from June 1 through its elimination of service on September 13, 1984.
On April 15, 1986, American Eagle commenced service between Tuscaloosa and Nashville. The service was initially operated by Air Midwest and operated three times daily from Tuscaloosa on 19 seat Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner turboprop aircraft. Service ended with the closure of the Nashville hub in June 1996, with service being redirected to Dallas/Fort Worth on 34 seat Saab 340 turboprop aircraft with an intermediary stop in Jackson. Due to dwindling ridership, the city voluntarily removed itself from the Essential Air Service program resulting in service being discontinued on April 18, 1997.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines provided daily service between Tuscaloosa and Atlanta between 1982 and June 1992. GP Express Airlines would continue service to Atlanta from June 6, 1992, through the elimination of the EAS subsidy for its operation on June 30, 1994. No airlines have offered commercial flight services since the departure of American Eagle in 1997.
Attempts to restore commercial service
During the 2000s (decade), the city of Tuscaloosa and the airport attempted to lure commercial service back to the airport. Between 2002 and 2006, the airport received $2.2 million in federal, state, and local money to improve its facilities, including $400,000 from the FAA as part of a program to help restore commercial airline service to smaller cities. The city matched the grant with $100,000 of local funding. In 2006, the city authorized paying $8500 to a consulting firm to court airlines in an effort to revive commercial service to the airport. City and airport officials stated their belief that the area was in a different economic picture with the Mercedes-Benz plant located in the city (the only one in North America) and new developments in and around the campus of the University of Alabama, including an expansion to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
DayJet announced per seat VLJ service on two pilot planes nonstop to 14 hubs in 3 states in July 2008 from Tuscaloosa. However, DayJet discontinued all passenger service operations on September 19, 2008 citing their inability to raise financing needed for continued operations.
While visiting Tuscaloosa on April 29, 2011, to assess devastation reliefs efforts in the wake of the April 27th tornado disaster, President Barack Obama landed at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport in the Boeing C-32 presidential transport plane. The C-32 is the U.S. Air Force designation for the Boeing 757-200 jetliner.
Jet charters continue to periodically operate at Tuscaloosa, but sustained commercial air service has eluded Tuscaloosa Regional to date.
- FAA Airport Master Record for TCL ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective 30 June 2011.
- National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015: Appendix A (PDF, 2.03 MB). Federal Aviation Administration. Updated 4 October 2010.
- Passenger Boarding (Enplanement) and All-Cargo Data for U.S. Airports. Federal Aviation Administration. Updated 9 October 2012.
- FlightAware.com Tuscaloosa Regional Airport FBOs
- Gilbert Guinn. The Arnold Scheme: British Pilots, the American South and the Allies' Daring Plan.
- Free French Air Force primary trainign school
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
- Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
- Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
- Nicholson, Gilbert (April 18, 1997). "1970s saw 8 flights a day from Tuscaloosa". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 4A.
- Ochoa, Mandy (April 10, 1984). "Leaders urge Republic to reconsider June 1 pullout". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 3.
- Heine, Max (September 11, 1984). "Airline leaving Tuscaloosa". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 3.
- Reporters, Staff (April 8, 1986). "Airline switching Nashville flights to Dallas hub". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 1.
- Nicholson, Gilbert (June 14, 1996). "Tuscaloosa-Nashville air link starts April 15". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 5A.
- Nicholson, Gilbert (April 18, 1997). "Last call for boarding...Tuscaloosa loses its airline service today". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 1A.
- Nicholson, Gilbert (May 6, 1994). "Flights to Atlanta will end". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 1A.
- Editorial Staff (October 14, 2001). "We need to find some use for municipal airport". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 9A.
- Morton, Jason (November 24, 2006). "Federal dollars help airport grow". The Tuscaloosa News (New York Times Company).
- Lee, Suevon (August 15, 2006). "Airport receives $400,000 grant; Money for new airline service, could restore commercial status". The Tuscaloosa News (New York Times Company).
- DayJet Discontinues Passenger Operations
- PDF (385 KiB) from City of Tuscaloosa
- Aerial image as of 24 February 1999 from USGS The National Map
- (PDF), effective January 8, 2015
- FAA Terminal Procedures for TCL, effective January 8, 2015
- Resources for this airport: