Biggs Army Airfield

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Biggs Army Airfield
USGS 1996 photo of Biggs Army Airfield
Airport typeMilitary
OwnerEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
LocationFort Bliss, El Paso, Texas
In use1916–present
Elevation AMSL3,946 ft / 1,203 m
Coordinates31°50′56″N 106°22′01″W / 31.849°N 106.367°W / 31.849; -106.367Coordinates: 31°50′56″N 106°22′01″W / 31.849°N 106.367°W / 31.849; -106.367
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 13,554 4,131 Asphalt concrete

Biggs Army Airfield (IATA: BIF, ICAO: KBIF, FAA LID: BIF) (formerly Biggs Air Force Base) is a United States Army military airbase located on the Fort Bliss military base in El Paso, Texas.


Biggs Field/Biggs Army Airfield (1916–47)[edit]

On 15 June 1919, following an attack by Pancho Villa's forces on Ciudad Juárez, United States Army Air Service personnel equipped with Dayton-Wright DH-4 aircraft were sent to Fort Bliss to begin patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border, initiating the United States Army Border Air Patrol. In August 1919 construction commenced on a steel hangar for an airship station at Camp Owen Bierne, Fort Bliss and in December 1919 the 8th Balloon Company moved there from Brooks Field, Texas. In January 1920 the 1st Surveillance Group moved from Kelly Field to Fort Bliss.[1]

Biggs Air Force Base (1947–66)[edit]

Biggs AFB gate in the late 1950s

On 16 March 1948 the 97th Bombardment Wing, Heavy operating B-29 Superfortresses moved to Biggs AFB from Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kansas.[2]

The 810th Air Division was activated at Biggs on 16 June 1952, it comprised the 95th Bombardment Wing (H), 97th Bombardment Wing (H) and the 810th Air Base Group.[3] In September 1953, the 95th began training with the B-36 Peacemaker bomber while the 97th flew the B-50 Superfortress.[4]

On 12 February 1959, the last operational B-36 Peacemaker left Biggs where it had been serving with the 95th Bombardment Wing.

In July 1959 the 97th Bombardment Wing (H) moved from Biggs to Blytheville Air Force Base, Arkansas.

On 1 July 1962 the 810th Air Division moved from Biggs to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.[3]

In December 1965 it was announced that Biggs AFB would be closed. In January 1966 Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations and Logistics) Paul Ignatius testified to Congress that "The operational environment at Biggs poses serious problems. Such factors as the proximity of El Paso International Airport, the suburbs of El Paso, and mountainous areas adjacent to Biggs…weapons testing areas to the north and the convergence of civil airways carrying heavy…traffic combine to create serious safety and traffic control problems."[5]

On 25 June 1966 the 95th Bombardment Wing (H) moved from Biggs to Goose Air Base, Newfoundland.[6]

Biggs Army Airfield (1973–present)[edit]

The former Biggs AFB remained under DoD control in a caretaker status until 1973 when it was transferred to the U.S. Army as a sub-post of nearby Fort Bliss. Renamed Biggs Army Airfield, the installation was reactivated in 1973 as a permanent airfield for the U.S. Army, which turned into the world’s largest Army Airfield at that time.[7]

Biggs AAF was used as a refueling stop for NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

Biggs AAF is the base of Joint Task Force North, a United States Department of Defense multi-service organization tasked to support Federal law enforcement in the United States in the interdiction of suspected transnational threats within and along the approaches to the continental United States.[8]

The Silas L. Copeland Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group at Biggs Army Airfield serves military and civilian personnel who deploy to their overseas assignments, such as to and from Southwest Asia.[9]

On 14 July 2017 a new 116-foot (35 m) air traffic control tower was opened at the field.[10]


Accident and incidents[edit]

  • 8 December 1941: B-26 40-1443 crashed shortly after takeoff. All 4 crewmembers killed.[14]
  • 20 May 1944: B-24J 42-100002 after takeoff crashed 6 miles (9.7 km) north of the base. 2 crewmembers killed.[15]
  • 18 April 1951: B-50D 49-0279 after takeoff crashed 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the base. 1 crewmember killed.[16]
  • 11 December 1953: B-36B 44-92071 crashed into the Franklin Mountains while on approach to Biggs. All 9 crewmembers were killed.[17]
  • 28 August 1954: B-36D 44-92097, lost power on approach to Briggs and crashed. 1 crewmember killed[18]
  • 31 August 1957: C-124C 52-1021, operated by the 1st Strategic Support Squadron, crashed during an instrument flight rules approach to Biggs AFB, in bad weather. 5 aircrew were killed, 10 injured.[19][20]
  • 5 March 1961: KB-50D 49-0328 on a flight from Wake Island crashed 6 miles (9.7 km) from Biggs on a night visual flight rules approach. All 9 crewmembers were killed.[21]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ Maurer, Maurer (1987). Aviation in the U.S. Army, 1919–1939. United States Air Force Historical Research Center. pp. 99–101. ISBN 0912799382.
  2. ^ Air Force combat wings : lineage and honors histories 1947–1977. DIANE Publishing. p. 137. ISBN 9781428993563.
  3. ^ a b "Factsheet 810 Strategic Aerospace Division". Air Force Historical Research Agency. 11 October 2007. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Abstract (Unclassified), Vol 1, History of Strategic Air Command, Jan–Jun 1957 (Secret)". Air Force History Index. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  5. ^ Shaw, Frederick (2004). Locating Air Force Base Sites History's Legacy (PDF). Air Force History and Museums Program. pp. 110–1. ISBN 9780160724152.
  6. ^ Robertson, Patsy (20 June 2010). "Factsheet 95 Air Base Wing (AFMC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Biggs Army Air Field at Fort Bliss in el Paso, TX".
  8. ^ "Joint Task Force North". U.S. Northern Command. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Pre-Dawn at A/DACG – multiple units deploy". Defense Media Activity. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Fort Bliss Bugle" (PDF). 1st Armored Division. 27 July 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  11. ^ "First Apache battalion to carry drones: reflags as 'Heavy Cav'". Archived from the original on 2 May 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  12. ^ "3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry, in Iraq". Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  13. ^ "3-6 'Heavy Cav' wins aviation award, in Iraq". Archived from the original on 5 November 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Crash of a Martin B-26-MA Marauder in Biggs AAF: 4 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Crash of a Consolidated B-24J-60-CO Liberator near Biggs AAF: 2 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Crash of a Boeing B-50D-110-BO Superfortress in Biggs AAF: 1 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Crash of a Convair B-36B-15-CF Peacemaker near Biggs AFB: 9 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Convair B-36 Peacemaker Losses and Bail-outs". Archived from the original on 2 November 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  19. ^ "5 Airmen Die in Crash of Globemaster". The Dallas Morning News. 1 September 1957. p. 11.
  20. ^ "1952 USAF Serial Numbers". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Crash of a Boeing KB-50D-120-BO Superfortress at Biggs AAF: 9 killed". Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives. Retrieved 15 January 2018.