Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport
Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport
(former Brownsville Army Airfield)
|Owner||City of Brownsville|
|Serves||Brownsville / South Padre Island, Texas|
|Elevation AMSL||22 ft / 7 m|
The airport sees two airlines, six air taxis and offers three fixed-base operations (FBOs) for general aviation. The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015 categorized it as a primary commercial service facility.
Brownsville was once the main terminal for air service between the United States and Mexico. In 1929 Pan American World Airways acquired a controlling stake in Mexicana de Aviación and began Ford Trimotor service between Brownsville and Mexico City, eventually extended to the Yucatan Peninsula to connect with Pan Am's Caribbean route network. On March 9, Charles Lindbergh inaugurated this service, landing at BRO after a five-hour, 38-minute flight from Mexico City. 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. Brownsville became an early center for technical development in instrument navigation ("blind flying") due to the bad weather conditions that pilots encountered in the mountains over Mexico.
Pan Am's service terminated in Brownsville, and passengers were initially taken on the Missouri Pacific Railroad to St. Louis, Missouri for rail connections to the northern US. In 1931, American Airways was flying a multi-stop route Brownsville to Dallas, connecting to Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities. Braniff Airways began service in 1934, and Eastern Air Lines arrived in 1939.
In 1947 Pan Am's Mexico City route extended to Houston, and Brownsville was an intermediate stop. Pan Am service to Brownsville ended in 1962 as the Mexico City flight became a nonstop DC-8 from Houston. In the 1960s, the 16th weather radar system in the nation was installed at BRO.
In 1979, the year after airline deregulation, Brownsville had three airlines: Braniff International Airways (727s to Dallas/Fort Worth), Texas International Airlines (DC-9s to Houston and McAllen), and Tejas Airlines (commuter turboprops to Corpus Christi, McAllen and San Antonio).
In 1983 the airport was renamed the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.
In 2014 expansion of the runway to 10,000 or 12,000 feet (3,000 or 3,700 m) was proposed by the Brownsville City Aviation Director, and the city purchased 8.2 acres (3.3 ha) of land for about $200,000.
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 civilian control.  
The airport covers 1,700 acres (688 ha) at an elevation of 22 feet (7 m). It has three asphalt runways: 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).
In 2011 the airport had 37,412 aircraft operations, average 102 per day: 45% general aviation, 40% military, 14% air taxi, and 1% airline. 55 aircraft were then based at the airport: 87% single-engine and 13% multi-engine.
Several regional jets, including the Canadair CRJ-200 and Embraer ERJ 145, are respectively operated by American Eagle (Envoy Air) and United Express (ExpressJet) for their partners American Airlines and United Airlines to Brownsville. Previous airliners at the airport include ERJ 135s, ERJ 140s and ATR-42s (flown by Chautauqua Airlines, Envoy Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines) and Boeing 737-200s, 737-300s and 737-500s (on Continental Airlines).
Pan American Airways, Inc. (no relation to the original Pan Am) was in the 1931 Pan American Airways Building at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport. The company renovated the 1931 Pan American Airways Building with the intent of re-opening the "Gateway to Latin America" in 2011. That re-opening never happened and the company no longer exists.
Airlines and destinations
|American Eagle||Dallas/Fort Worth|
American Eagle operates Bombardier CRJ-900 regional jets on their route to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), with United Express operating Embraer ERJ-175, Bombardier CRJ-700 and Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets on their route to Houston (IAH). American Eagle and United Express services are operated via code share agreements with SkyWest Airlines, ExpressJet, Mesa Airlines, and Republic Airline.
Historical airline service
Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) began serving Brownsville in 1929, flying to Mexico City via Tampico. In 1950 Pan Am Douglas DC-4s flew Brownsville to Mexico City via Tampico; in 1953-54 Pan Am's route was extended north to Houston. In 1960 Pan Am ended the Tampico stop, flying BRO-MEX nonstop; in 1962 the HOU-MEX flight became a DC-8 and Pan Am dropped Brownsville, whose longest runway was 5734 ft until 1965.
Braniff International Airways and Eastern Air Lines served Brownsville for many years. In 1935 Braniff flew Lockheed Model 10 Electras Brownsville-Corpus Christi-San Antonio-Austin-Waco-Fort Worth-Dallas. In 1940 a Braniff Douglas DC-3 flew Brownsville-Corpus Christi-San Antonio-Austin-Fort Worth-Dallas-Oklahoma City-Ponca City-Wichita-Kansas City-Chicago. The Eastern timetable for March 1, 1939 said: "A New Route to Brownsville and Mexico". In 1941 Eastern's "Mexico Silver Sleeper" flew New York City-Washington, D.C.-Atlanta-New Orleans-Houston Hobby Airport-Corpus Christi-Brownsville. Eastern listed connections at Brownsville to Pan Am's service to Mexico. In 1958 Eastern Convair 340s flew Brownsville-Corpus Christi-Houston Hobby-Beaumont/Port Arthur-Lake Charles-Lafayette-Baton Rouge-New Orleans-Mobile-Pensacola-Montgomery-Birmingham-Atlanta. In 1965 Eastern's Convair 440s flew Brownsville-Corpus Christi-Houston-Beaumont-Lake Charles-Lafayette-Baton Rouge-New Orleans. Trans-Texas Airways (TTa) also served Brownsville; in 1952 TTa Douglas DC-3s flew Brownsville-Harlingen-McAllen-Alice-Corpus Christi-Beeville-Victoria-Houston. Years later TTa would be renamed Texas International Airlines.
In 1966 Braniff's One-Eleven flew Brownsville-Corpus Christi-San Antonio-Austin-Dallas Love Field-Tulsa-Kansas City. In summer 1967 it flew Brownsville-Corpus Christi-Houston Hobby Airport-Dallas Love Field-Wichita-Kansas City-Chicago. In 1974 Braniff was flying Boeing 727-100s and Boeing 727-200s nonstop to Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) and Houston Intercontinental Airport and direct to Washington, D.C., Detroit, Amarillo and Lubbock. In fall 1979 Braniff was operating three daily nonstop Boeing 727s to Dallas/Ft. Worth and one-stop to New York City via John F. Kennedy International Airport and one-stop to Chicago O'Hare Airport and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In spring 1981, Braniff had nonstop Boeing 727s to Dallas/Ft. Worth.
In fall 1979 three Texas International Airlines Douglas DC-9-10s a day flew nonstop to Houston Intercontinental Airport. In summer 1982 Texas International, which had been acquired by Continental Airlines, was flying two DC-9-10s a day nonstop to Houston; one continued to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Albuquerque and Los Angeles (LAX). By 1983, Continental had begun operating nonstop service to IAH with Boeing 727-100s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s. Ozark Air Lines served Brownsville in the early and mid 1980s with McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s nonstop to Dallas/Ft. Worth and San Antonio, continuing to the airline's St. Louis hub. In fall 1984, Royale Airlines was flying three Douglas DC-9-10s a day nonstop to Houston Intercontinental Airport via a passenger feed agreement with Continental Airlines. In summer 1985 Muse Air was flying five nonstops a day to Houston Hobby Airport (HOU), and direct to Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Tulsa with McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50s and McDonnell Douglas MD-80s. Muse Air's successor, TranStar Airlines continued McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50s to Houston Hobby Airport in 1986 and 1987 with some continuing to Dallas Love Field or New Orleans.
In fall 1994 Continental Airlines and affiliate Continental Express had five nonstops a day to Houston Intercontinental Airport, four on Continental Boeing 727-200s, Boeing 737-500s or McDonnell Douglas MD-80s and one on a Continental Express ATR-42. Continental also had a nonstop McDonnell Douglas MD-80 to Mexico City and two Boeing 727-200s a day Detroit-Houston-Brownsville and back. In spring 1995 Continental Airlines and Continental Express together had five nonstops a day to Houston Intercontinental Airport. Continental flew Boeing 737-300 and Boeing 737-500s to the airport while Continental Express flew ATR-42s and ATR-72s. Continental merged with United Airlines in 2010.
The airport is second to Valley International Airport in air cargo handling airports in the Rio Grande Valley.
Pan American Airways (not to be confused with the original Pan Am) 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 from initiating any new services.
- FAA Airport Master Record for BRO ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective November 15, 2012.
- "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF, 2.03 MB) on September 27, 2012.
- "The Brownsville Base". Pan Am Historical Foundation. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- "History". Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- "Pan Am timetable, April 1930". Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- http://www.timetableimages.com, March 15, 1931 American Airways timetable
- "Pan Am timetable, 1933". Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- "Pan Am route map, 1963". Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- "Flights to Brownsville, Texas Effective November 15, 1979". Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- Johnson, Ty (May 2014). "City sets up airport for runway expansion". Brownsville Herald. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
- 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
- http://www.aa.com, Timetable
- http://www.united.com, Timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, August, 1929 Pan American timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, April 1, 1950 Pan American timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Aug. 1, 1961 & Aug. 1, 1963 Pan American World Airways timetables
- http://www.timedtableimages.com[permanent dead link], March 15, 1931 American Airways timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, April 22, 1935 Braniff timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Nov. 1, 1940 Braniff timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Mar. 1, 1939 Eastern timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Mar. 1, 1941 Eastern timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Dec. 1, 1958 Eastern timetable
- http://www.60sairlineantiques.net, June 1, 1965 Eastern timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, Jan. 1, 1952 Trans-Texas timetable
- http://www.timetableimages.com, April 24, 1966 Braniff timetable
- http://www.60sairlineantiques.net, June 13, 1967 Braniff timetable
- http://www.departedflights.com, Oct. 27, 1974 Braniff International timetable
- http://www.departedflights.com, Oct. 28, 1979 Braniff International timetable
- http://www.departedflights.com, April 1, 1981 Official Airline Guide
- http://www.departedflights.com, Nov. 15, 1979 Official Airline Guide
- http://www.departedflights.com, June 1, 1982 Continental/Texas International joint timetable
- http://www.departedflights.com, July 1, 1983 Official Airline Guide
- http://www.departedflights.com, July 1, 1983 Official Airline Guide; Feb. 15, 1985 Official Airline Guide
- http://www.departedflights.com, Nov. 1, 1984 Royale Airlines timetable
- http://www.departedflights.com, July 30, 1985 Muse Air timetable
- http://www.departedflights.com, Mar. 14, 1986 & June 15, 1987 TranStar maps
- http://www.departedflights.com, Oct. 30, 1994 Continental timetable
- Sept. 15, 1994 Official Airline Guide
- http://www.departedflights.com, April 2, 1995 Official Airline Guide
- Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, official website
- Rio Grande Valley Wing of the Commemorative Air Force
- (PDF), effective March 26, 2020
- FAA Terminal Procedures for BRO, effective March 26, 2020
- Resources for this airport: