Wilbur Wright Field
|Wilbur Wright Field|
Wilbur Wright Field, circa 1920
|Type||Pilot training airfield (World War I)
Engineering and Development (World War II)
|National Museum of the United States Air Force|
|Controlled by|| Air Service, United States Army
United States Army Air Forces
|Garrison||Training Section, Air Service (World War I)
Army Air Force Materiel/Technical Service Command, (World War II)
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
Wilbur Wright Field was an airfield of the United States Army Air Corps and Air Forces near Riverside, Ohio. It was one of thirty-two Air Service training camps established after the United States entry into World War I in April 1917. 
From 1927 to 1947 it was the research and development center for the Air Corps, and during World War II a flight test center. Today, officially termed Area B, it is part of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base complex and is the location of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
World War I 
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, three military installations were established in the Dayton area. Two of these would become part of todays Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The third was located near downtown Dayton.
Wilbur Wright Field and the Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot were adjacent installations located at what is today Area C of the base. Wilbur Wright Field was situated on a 2,075-acre tract of land adjacent to the Mad River that was leased to the Army by the Miami Conservancy District. The lease included the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, used by Wilbur and Orville Wright beginning in 1910 to operate a pilot training school-The Wright Company School of Aviation- and a flight exhibition company. A Signal Corps Aviation School was established at the new airfield and began operations in June 1917 as a training school for combat pilots heading for the Western Front in France. The field also housed an aviation mechanic's school and a school for armorers. 
The Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot was constructed on forty acres of land purchased by the Army from the Miami Conservancy District. The land bordered Wilbur Wright Field. The depot provided logistics support to Wilbur Wright Field and three other Signal Corps aviation schools located in the Midwest. Each day the depot received, stored, and issued equipment and supplies to Signal Corps aviation schools in the region. 
The third World War I military installation was McCook Field. This 254-acre complex located just north of downtown Dayton between Keowee Street and the Great Miami River. It was named for the Fighting McCook family of Civil War fame who once owned part of the land. McCook Field was the temporary home of the U.S. Army Signal Corps' Airplane Engineering Division. As an engineering and research facility, McCook Field has been described as "the single most influential agency in the early years of American air power." McCook's engineers and technicians researched, developed, manufactured, tested, and evaluated military aircraft and all of their associated components and equipment. 
McCook Field was built as a wartime facility for aviation engineering purposes, but was small (its runway was less than 2,000 feet (610 m) in length), had no room for expansion, and its facilities were cheaply made of wood and considered a fire risk. Cooperation between the two geographically separated flying fields began in 1918 when Wilbur Wright Field agreed to let McCook Field use hangar and shop space as well as its enlisted mechanics to assemble and maintain airplanes and engines. Wilbur Wright Field's expansive and relatively isolated open flying field also proved ideal for testing the Air Service's experimental aircraft and the larger, more powerful models developed during the 1920s. 
Inter-War period 
Following World War I, the training school at Wilbur Wright Field was discontinued. Wilbur Wright Field and the depot soon merged to form the Fairfield Air Depot. The depot remained active until 1946. 
In 1924, the Dayton community purchased 4,500 acres (1,821 ha) that included all of the leased area on which Wilbur Wright Field was located and 750 acres (300 ha) of new property in Montgomery County to the southwest, now in the present city of Riverside. The combined area was named "Wright Field" to honor both Wright Brothers. A new installation (with permanent brick facilities) was constructed on the new ground to replace McCook Field and was dedicated 12 October 1927. Transfer of 4,500 tons of engineering materiel, office equipment and other assets at McCook to Wright Field began on March 25, 1927, and was 85% complete by June 1, moved in 1,859 truckloads.
On 19 June 1918, Lt. Frank Stuart Patterson, son and nephew of the co-founders of National Cash Register, was killed in the crash of his Airco DH.4M, AS-32098, at Wilbur Wright Field during a flight test of a new mechanism for synchronizing machine gun and propeller, when a tie rod broke during a dive from 15,000 feet (4,600 m), causing the wings to separate from the aircraft. Wishing to recognize the contributions of the Patterson family, the area of Wright Field east of Huffman Dam (including Wilbur Wright Field, Fairfield Air Depot, and the Huffman Prairie) was made a separate air station and renamed Patterson Field on 6 July 1931, in honor of Lt. Patterson. Patterson Field became the location of the Materiel Division of the Air Corps and a key logistics center. Wright Field, incorporating the remainder of the base west of the Huffman Dam, became synonymous in the 1930s and World War II as the research and development center of the Air Corps.
World War II 
Early in 1941, anticipating the testing of the Douglas B-19 heavy bomber, the decision was made to install two concrete runways at Wright Field (Northwest-Southeast next to the flight line, and East-West along the southern edge of the property). The Army Corps of Engineers was assigned the project, with the Price Brothers Company of Dayton named the prime contractor. Construction began in June 1941 and was completed by the middle of February 1942. During construction, intelligence reports indicated that the German Luftwaffe was experimenting with inclined runways, and construction of an inclined runway with a 10% grade was added to the Wright Field project, more or less perpendicular to the NW-SE runway. Completed shortly after the standard runways, it became a familiar sight to Dayton residents. A triangular arrangement of runways was completed in 1944 with the addition of a SW-NE runway connecting the other two, on which the present National Museum of the United States Air Force is located.
On December 15, 1945, the bases administratively merged again, along with Dayton Army Air Field in Vandalia, Ohio, and Clinton County AAF in Wilmington, Ohio, collectively called the Army Air Forces Technical Base. The latter two bases were discontinued in 1946, and the base briefly became the Air Force Technical Base in December 1947.
On January 13, 1948, the two fields formally adopted the name Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The former Wright Field became Area B of the combined installation, the southern portion of Patterson Field became Area A, and the northern portion of Patterson Field, including the jet runway built in 1946-47, Area C.
In 1951, congestion at the base forced all local flying activities to be limited to the Wright Field (Area B) flight line, which in February 1958 was closed to all jet aircraft. Even so, the next year Area B still experienced 44,699 takeoffs and landings, or 24% of the air activity at WPAFB. Finally, noise and congested airspace forced all military aircraft operations at Area B to cease in 1963. General aviation activities, typically of single-engine civilian aircraft, continued until the early 1970s. The flight line has been temporarily opened since 1971 on a case-by-case basis to accommodate the final flights/arrivals/landings of aircraft destined for the collection of the Air Force Museum, now the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The museum opened its present location in 1971 in the triangular runway area of the base and has since expanded, and maintains an annex in a hangar on Wright Field proper.
See also 
- William R. Evinger: Directory of Military Bases in the U.S., Oryx Press, Phoenix, Ariz., 1991, p. 147.
- Wright-Patterson Air Force Base history
- Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Southwest Ohio Fairfield Air Depot / Wright Field