Roswell International Air Center

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Roswell International Air Center
Airport typePublic company
OwnerCity of Roswell
ServesRoswell, New Mexico
Elevation AMSL3,671 ft / 1,118.9 m
Coordinates33°18′5.6″N 104°31′50″W / 33.301556°N 104.53056°W / 33.301556; -104.53056Coordinates: 33°18′5.6″N 104°31′50″W / 33.301556°N 104.53056°W / 33.301556; -104.53056
WebsiteOfficial Website
ROW is located in New Mexico
Location of airport in New Mexico / United States
ROW is located in the United States
ROW (the United States)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
3/21 13,001 3,963 Asphalt/Concrete
17/35 9,999 3,048 Asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Aircraft operations76,286
Based aircraft46

Roswell International Air Center (RIAC) (IATA: ROW, ICAO: KROW, FAA LID: ROW) (Roswell Industrial Air Center) is an airport seven miles (11 km) south of Roswell, in Chaves County, New Mexico.[1]


The airport was Roswell Army International Airfield during World War II, and Walker Air Force Base during the Cold War. When it closed it was the largest base of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command. Roswell International Air Center was developed after the closure of Walker Air Force Base on June 30, 1967.

Walker AFB was named after General Kenneth Newton Walker, a native of Los Cerrillos. He was killed during a bombing mission over Rabaul, New Britain, Papua New Guinea. on January 5, 1943. Though intercepted by enemy fighters, his group scored direct hits on nine Japanese ships. General Walker was last seen leaving the target area with one engine on fire and several fighters on his tail. For his actions, General Walker was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943.

The base was renamed in his honor on January 13, 1948. Walker Hall, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, home of the College of Aerospace Doctrine Research and Education, is also named after the general.

In 1966 the Air Force announced that Walker AFB would close. This was during a round of base closings and consolidations as the Defense Department struggled to pay the expenses of the Vietnam War within the budgetary limits set by Congress.

It is also known for the Roswell UFO incident, an event that allegedly occurred on July 4, 1947. It is alleged that a "flying disk" crashed during a severe thunderstorm near RIAC at Corona.

The site was used for several years to launch stratospheric balloons for Air Force projects.

The airfield also serves as a storage facility for a number of retired aircraft, including a number of Airbus A300-600R wide body jetliners formerly operated by American Airlines.[2] A Lockheed JetStar, once owned by Elvis Presley, and sold at auction in May 2017, had spent over 30 years sitting on a tarmac at the airport.

On April 2, 2011, a new Gulfstream G650 crashed shortly after takeoff from the airport during a test flight that was being conducted by the manufacturer of this large, twin engine business jet, killing all four aboard.[3]

The airport was used by Felix Baumgartner to launch his record-breaking freefall jump from the stratosphere on October 14, 2012.[4]

On August 23, 2016, as part of a dramatic fleet renewal plan, American Airlines retired 20 McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft to Roswell, resulting in the most aircraft retired by a commercial airline in a single day.

On September 4, 2019, American Airlines retired its remaining McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft to Roswell.


The airport covers 5,029 acres (2,035 ha) and has two paved runways:[1]

  • 3/21: 13,001 × 150 ft. (3,963 × 46 m) asphalt/concrete
  • 17/35: 9,999 × 100 ft. (3,048 × 30 m) asphalt

In 2013 the airport had 53,030 aircraft operations, average 145 per day: 17% general aviation, 71% military, 11% air taxi and <1% airline. 34 aircraft were then based at this airport: 76% single-engine, 15% multi-engine, and 8% jet.[1]

Below are annual total aircraft operations 2009–2013 from the FAA's Air Traffic Activity System. Average yearly increase was 5.11% over the last 5 years.[5]

Aircraft Operations: ROW 2009–2013[5]
Calendar Year Aircraft Operations %
2009 48,726
2010 51,958 6.63%
2011 35,673 −31.34%
2012 34,671 −2.81%
2013 53,075 53.08%

Airline and destinations[edit]

American Eagle Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix/Sky Harbor[6]

Historical airline service[edit]

Roswell's first commercial airport was near the northwest corner of the city and the first air carrier to serve Roswell was Continental Airlines with an initial routing of Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo - Las Vegas - Santa Fe - Albuquerque - Roswell - Hobbs - Carlsbad - El Paso. In 1944 Continental Lockheed Model 18 Lodestars flew a daily round trip Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo - Las Vegas, NM - Santa Fe - Albuquerque - Roswell - Hobbs - Midland/Odessa - Big Spring,TX - San Angelo - San Antonio.[7] By 1948, Continental was operating 21-seat Douglas DC-3s Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo - Las Vegas, NM - Santa Fe - Albuquerque - Roswell - Hobbs - Carlsbad - El Paso and Albuquerque - Roswell - Hobbs - Lubbock - Wichita Falls - Lawton, OK - Oklahoma City - Tulsa.[8] Also in 1948, Pioneer Airlines DC-3s flew El Paso - Las Cruces - Roswell - Clovis - Amarillo.[9] By 1951, Pioneer was no longer serving Roswell[10] and in 1955 Pioneer was merged into Continental which allowed Continental to begin flights from Roswell to Dallas with several stops en route still using DC-3s.[11] Supplemental air service was briefly added by Bison Airlines in 1963/1964.

In 1963 Continental phased out the DC-3s and transferred all Roswell service to Trans-Texas Airways (TTa) which soon upgraded its flights with 40-seat Convair 600 turboprops.[12] In 1968 the city closed its municipal airport and transferred airline operations to the former Walker Air Force Base. On the April 28, 1968 schedule TTa was operating 75-seat Douglas DC-9-10 jets on a routing of Albuquerque - Roswell - Abilene - Dallas - Houston which was Roswell's first jet service. In the summer of 1968 the routing was changed to Santa Fe - Albuquerque - Roswell - Midland/Odessa - Dallas Love Field - Houston Hobby Airport.[13] By early 1970 this flight was originating in Los Angeles (LAX) rather than Santa Fe. TTa was renamed Texas International Airlines and continued to serve Roswell with DC-9s and Convair 600s. Passenger traffic at ROW had increased dramatically with the DC-9 jets and a larger terminal building opened in 1975. According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), in early 1976 Texas International was operating DC-9s nonstop to Albuquerque, El Paso and Midland/Odessa and was flying direct DC-9s to Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Beaumont, TX and Lafayette, LA.[14] Beside DC-9 flights from Albuquerque, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, El Paso and Midland/Odessa, this OAG lists inbound DC-9 service to Roswell direct from Baton Rouge, Corpus Christi and McAllen, TX in addition to Convair 600s to and from Albuquerque, Brownwood, TX, Carlsbad, NM, Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) and Hobbs, NM. By spring 1979 Texas International only had one flight from Roswell to Albuquerque continuing to Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston on a 100-seat McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 jet.[15] On October 1, 1979 Texas International ceased serving the airport ending the jet service as well as direct flights to DFW and LAX. All service had now been transferred to commuter airlines Air Midwest, Zia Airlines, and Crown Aviation. During the 1970s Roswell also saw service by a few other commuters; Trans Central Airlines in 1970 with flights to Albuquerque, El Paso, Amarillo, and Lubbock, and by a home based airline called Roswell Airlines in 1976 through 1978 going to Albuquerque and El Paso. Permian Airways provided service to Amarillo and El Paso for a short time in 1979.

Air Midwest was designated as the primary replacement for TI in all of Southeastern New Mexico. Service began on March 1, 1979 with 17-seat Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners on flights to Albuquerque, Lubbock, and later to Midland/Odessa with passengers now having to change planes and airlines to travel to hub cities such as Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW). Zia Airlines operating Handley Page Jetstreams and Crown Aviation flying Piper Navajos were competing with Air Midwest to Albuquerque, now the primary route from Roswell, offering up to thirteen roundtrip flights per day but both of these carriers shut down in 1980.[16] Air Midwest had then become the only airline at Roswell and passenger traffic was declining.[17] Two other small commuter airlines also served the Air Center briefly; Airways of New Mexico flew to El Paso in 1983 and 1984 then Territorial Airlines came in 1990 with flights to Santa Fe that continued to Albuquerque.

In early 1984 Mesa Airlines began serving Roswell from Albuquerque and Lubbock operating 14-seat Beechcraft 99s in competition with Air Midwest and passenger traffic nearly doubled that year. By 1985 the two carriers were operating a combined total of up to eleven roundtrip nonstop flights a day to Albuquerque.[18]

Air Midwest ended their Roswell service in early 1986 and Trans-Colorado Airlines immediately began service with flights to Albuquerque using Swearingen Metro's. In April, 1987 Trans-Colorado became a Continental Express feeder carrier for Continental Airlines. Flights were then added to El Paso via Carlsbad re-establishing one of the routes that Continental had operated 40 years prior. At this time, Mesa added more flights to Albuquerque giving the route 20 daily departures each way. Trans-Colorado ended all service to Roswell at the end of July, 1987. In the fall of 1987, Mesa added two daily nonstop flights to DFW operated with 13-seat Beechcraft 1300 and later upgrading to 19-seat Beechcraft 1900Ds. All flights to Albuquerque were soon upgraded with Beech 1900D's as well.[19]

In 1995 Mesa dropped their DFW flights and later that year Lone Star Airlines came to Roswell with two flights to DFW on Swearingen Metros. At one point in Nov., 1995 Lone Star operated a 32-seat Dornier 328 propjet. Mesa returned to the Roswell - DFW market in 1997 and, between Mesa and Lone Star, a total of six daily flights were operated. Lone Star later changed their name to Aspen Mountain Air but ended their Roswell service in 1998.

Another commuter, Big Sky Airlines, briefly came to the airport in 2000/2001 operating one daily roundtrip on a DFW - Hobbs - Carlsbad - Roswell - Denver route giving Roswell its first nonstop service to Denver. This carrier also used Swearingen Metros. Mesa again ended their DFW flights shortly after the events of 9/11/2001 and was only providing flights to Albuquerque.

Over the next few years passenger traffic declined severely and the city pursued service with major airlines to provide nonstop regional jet flights to a major hub. American Eagle, the feeder carrier for American Airlines responded and began service on Sep. 5, 2007 with two daily flights to Dallas/Ft. Worth on 50-seat Embraer 145s. The service did so well that a third flight was added only seven months later. Mesa Airlines then ended all of their Roswell service on the last day of 2007 which left no flights to Albuquerque. At the request of Roswell city officials, American Eagle began a westbound flight to Los Angeles in August, 2009 but this flight did not become profitable and ended after one year. The carrier began another westbound flight to Phoenix in March 2016 after American Airlines completed its merger with US Airways and gained the latter carriers' hub operation at Phoenix. All flights to DFW and Phoenix were soon upgraded with 70-seat Canadair CRJ-700 regional jets.

Current airline service[edit]

American Eagle began Roswell service on September 5, 2007 operating two daily flights with 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets nonstop to Dallas/Ft. Worth as a code sharing feeder service for American Airlines. In 2008, the regional carrier occasionally operated larger 70-seat Canadair CRJ-700 regional jets on the route to DFW. In 2009 through 2010 American Eagle operated a nonstop flight to Los Angeles using a 44-seat Embraer 140 regional jet. On March 3, 2016 the carrier began nonstop service to Phoenix using a 50-seat Canadair CRJ-200 regional jet[20] The service is subsidized by a two-year revenue guarantee with grants from the federal Small Community Air Service Development Program, the cities of Roswell, Phoenix, Artesia, Carlsbad, and Ruidoso, and Chaves and Eddy Counties.[21] On February 16, 2017, the Phoenix flight was upgraded to a 70-seat Canadair CRJ-700 regional jet and on August 22, 2017, all three flights to DFW were upgraded to 76-seat Embraer 175 regional jets. During the fall of 2017, one DFW flight was operated by Mesa Airlines with a 79-seat Canadair CRJ-900. The aircraft used on the DFW flights now operate with 65-seat CRJ-700 regional jets operated by SkyWest Airlines as American Eagle.

Other uses[edit]

In addition to the airport, RIAC is home to Millennium Transit Services, New Mexico Rehabilitation Center, a plastic manufacturer, and a candy manufacturer. Eastern New Mexico University has a campus there, and aircraft repair and refurbishing companies including AerSale have airliners stored onsite.

In 2002 a series of charter flights operated by Trans World Airlines (TWA) with Boeing 767-300 aircraft were flown into Roswell in order to transport trainees for the Federal Air Marshal service . This training was conducted at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in nearby Artesia.

The Boeing Company uses the airfield for braking performance testing of its aircraft, most recently the testing of BF Goodrich carbon brakes on the Boeing 737-900ER model. Brake testing has also been performed on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at the airport.

A New Mexico National Guard unit uses several buildings on the airport grounds.

The airport also serves as a bustling aircraft boneyard, with such airlines as Air Canada, American Airlines, Kenya Airways and Scoot storing their used aircraft at the location.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d FAA Airport Master Record for ROW (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2007-12-20
  2. ^ "American Airlines Fleet of A300 (Stored) - Airfleets aviation". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  3. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Gulfstream G650 N652GD Roswell International Air Center Airport, NM (ROW)". Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  4. ^ Watch Felix Baumgartner's Record-Setting Jump From 120,000 Feet Live Popular Science, 2012-10-14.
  5. ^ a b "Air Traffic Activity System". Archived from the original on October 4, 2014. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  6. ^ "American Airlines adding more flights from Phoenix". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  7. ^ "Welcome to Airline Timetable Images, May 1, 1944 Continental Air Lines timetable". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  8. ^ "Welcome to Airline Timetable Images, May 1, 1948 Continental Air Lines timetable". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  9. ^ "Welcome to Airline Timetable Images, Oct. 12, 1948 Pioneer Airlines timetable". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  10. ^ "Welcome to Airline Timetable Images, Feb. 1, 1951 Pioneer Airlines timetable". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  11. ^ "Pioneer Air Lines History". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  12. ^ "Welcome to Airline Timetable Images, July 1, 1963 & Aug. 29, 1964 Continental Airlines timetables". Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  13. ^ "Welcome to Airline Timetable Images, August 1968 Trans-Texas Airways timetable" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  14. ^ Feb.1, 1976 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Roswell schedules
  15. ^, August 1, 1979 Texas International timetable
  16. ^, Nov. 15, 1979 Official Airline Guide, Albuquerque-Roswell schedules
  17. ^, April 1, 1981 Official Airline Guide, Albuquerque-Roswell schedules
  18. ^, Feb. 15, 1985 Official Airline Guide, Albuquerque-Roswell schedules
  19. ^, Oct. 1, 1991 Official Airline Guide, Albuquerque-Roswell & Dallas/Ft. Worth-Roswell schedules
  20. ^ "American Airlines adding a new flight". KRQE. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  21. ^ "Phoenix flights out of Roswell approved; Air service is expected to begin March 2016". Roswell Daily Record. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  22. ^ "Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico and its role as an airliner boneyard storage, maintenance and scrapping facility". Retrieved October 4, 2018.

External links[edit]