FlyMKG
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Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:37 am

In regards to this photo -
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Photo © Paul Morley

Can somebody tell me the story behind Opa Locka. Why is there all that extra concrete? I am assuming they are old runways. Does anybody have any old airport diagrams with those pieces of concrete actually being used for something other than storage? Any info about the history of Opa Locka would be great.

FlyMKG
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Alex22
Posts: 76
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:56 am

Hi,
I don'tknow much about Opa Locka but as a warbird fan, I do know it was used by the US Navy in the early 40'. Hope it helps a little bit.

Cheers
Alex
 
flymia
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:10 am

Here you go this should sum it up.  Smile

Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss retired from aircraft development and manufacturing in the 1920s and became a real estate developer in Florida. In 1927 he founded the city of Opa-Locka. Adjacent to the city he created the Florida Aviation Camp on a large tract of land, and moved his Glenn Curtiss Aviation School there from its former location close to Biscayne Bay in Miami. He transferred part of the land to the City of Miami, and it became the Miami Municipal Airport. This airport was also known as Glenn Curtiss Field. The All-American Air Races were held at this airport from 1929 until 1935, and the All-American Air Maneuvers from 1935 until 1941 and from 1946 to 1950. In 1937 Amelia Earhart started her attempt to circumnavigate the world from this airport. The airport was later named Amelia Earhart Airport. It was closed in 1959 and is now Amelia Earhart Park.

Shortly before he died in 1930, Glenn Curtiss transferred the rest of his Florida Aviation Camp property to the United States Navy. This property became Naval Air Station Miami. This station supported both heavier-than-air and lighter-than-air craft. The dirigible USS Akron stopped at NAS Miami on both legs of its 1933 trip to the Panama Canal Zone, and departed the station less than two weeks before its fatal crash in April, 1933. NAS Miami was one of the stops on the triangular Germany-Brazil-United States-Germany route of the Graf Zeppelin.

During World War II NAS Miami was an important training center, with six training bases. Activity continued on a reduced basis after the war. Part of NAS Miami, known as Masters Field, became Marine Air Station Miami. Marine Air Station Miami was closed in 1959. The property was transferred to Dade County, and the Dade County Junior College opened there in 1961. In 1962 the remainder of the NAS property was transferred to Dade County, and became Opa-Locka Airport. In 1965 Coast Guard Air Station Miami transferred its operations from Dinner Key to the Opa-Locka airport.
"It was just four of us on the flight deck, trying to do our job" (Captain Al Haynes)
 
atcrick
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:50 am

Very cool airport...wish I could get a tour..or even better a job in the Tower...
natch!!
 
flymia
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 7:55 am

Quoting ATCRick (Reply 3):
Very cool airport...wish I could get a tour..or even better a job in the Tower...

Yes it is a very cool airport. It even has a small gravyard with some old jets, DC-8s DC-10s. Its a pretty busy GA airport with lots of Biz Jet traffic too. Also the busiest USCG Air Station. And lots of old planes, Constillations, lots of DC-3s and even some AN-24s are popular down there.
"It was just four of us on the flight deck, trying to do our job" (Captain Al Haynes)
 
bhmbaglock
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 8:17 am

Quoting FlyMIA (Reply 2):
Here you go this should sum it up

Great info. I used to love going there with my grandparents in the early 70s to go shopping at the PX.
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timz
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 9:19 am

If your criterion was total operations (as opposed to itinerant), Opa Locka was the busiest airport in the US in one 12-month period-- Fiscal 1967 or Fiscal 1968 or some such.
 
KFLLCFII
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 4:08 pm

There's plenty more information regarding the old Miami Municipal Airport, Master Field, and Opa Locka East & West (before both sides joined), including many aerial photos here:

http://www.airfields-freeman.com/FL/Airfields_FL_Miami_N.htm

A great read for anyone who lives in, or is familiar with the Opa Locka area.

-Bryan


PS - that site is not limited to the northern Miami area; Almost all states in the union are represented. See http://www.airfields-freeman.com
"About the only way to look at it, just a pity you are not POTUS KFLLCFII, seems as if we would all be better off."
 
DB777
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Thu Nov 24, 2005 5:40 pm

Quoting FlyMIA (Reply 2):
..... it became the Miami Municipal Airport. This airport was also known as Glenn Curtiss Field. The All-American Air Races were held at this airport from 1929 until 1935, and the All-American Air Maneuvers from 1935 until 1941 and from 1946 to 1950. In 1937 Amelia Earhart started her attempt to circumnavigate the world from this airport. The airport was later named Amelia Earhart Airport. It was closed in 1959 and is now Amelia Earhart Park.

Who wrote that erroneous information? Amelia Earhart took off from Miami Municipal Airport which was on the east side of LeJeune (NW 42 Ave) and about E. 56th Street. The park named after her was never an airport and is west of LeJeune and north of E. 65th Street.

Quoting FlyMIA (Reply 2):
Part of NAS Miami, known as Masters Field, became Marine Air Station Miami. Marine Air Station Miami was closed in 1959. The property was transferred to Dade County, and the Dade County Junior College opened there in 1961. In 1962 the remainder of the NAS property was transferred to Dade County, and became Opa-Locka Airport. In 1965 Coast Guard Air Station Miami transferred its operations from Dinner Key to the Opa-Locka airport.

I don't think so but I could be wrong. I recall the Marine Corps using the main Naval Air Station (where Opa-locka is now) after the Navy pulled out. I grew up a couple of miles to the southwest and remember Marine Corps jets going in and out of there and I wouldn't have seen them had they been using Master Field. I remember attending an air show and weekly or monthly drag races on the runways or taxiways at the closed Master Field in the late 50's.

The old airports site at http://www.airfields-freeman.com/FL/Airfields_FL_Miami_N.htm is truly wonderful with lots of information but they have a mistake regarding the location of the Miami Municipal Airport. They say it was located northeast of the present E. 8th Avenue and E. 49th Street intersection when it was actually due north about 7 to 10 blocks.

Quoting FlyMIA (Reply 4):
And lots of old planes, Constillations (sic), lots of DC-3s and even some AN-24s are popular down there.

I haven't seen a Constellation at Opa-locka in a decade or two, it's been that long.

I've been shopping at the Opa-locka CG Exchange since 1966, back when cigarettes were $2 a carton and good beer was $3 or $4 a case. I have three distinct memories of Opa-locka prior to that:

1: they had an air show there after the Marines left and in the hangars they had these pretty girls dressed up in Arabian nights outfits with pink and baby blue veils and sexy tops doing belly dance demonstrations and I fell in lust.

2. The Bay of Pigs invasion B-26B bombers used Opa-locka for training missions prior to the ill-fated effort to take over Cuba by force in April 1961. I was in junior high at the time and we saw and heard them from the school grounds and our neighborhoods numerous times. They allegedly took off from a base in Nicaragua for the actual invasion day according to written sources.

3: During the Cuban Missile Crisis (do a Google search on those words) in October 1962 the US military shipped tens of thousands of troops into the Miami area along with a zillion missiles. Hawk and Nike missile bases were established at numerous locations in Dade County (1 in Carol City north of 183rd Street and west of NW 47th Avenue, 1 at NW 186th Street and Red Road, 1 in Miramar east of Flamingo Road just over the county line, and others further south and west in Dade) The south area of Opa-locka Airport was an absolute sea of tents and vehicles from LeJeune Road westward, there were that many troops there. Numerous US military aircraft came in to Opa-locka during the crisis period.
Photographing aircraft since the Earth was flat and on Airliners.net since #338
 
LawnDart
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Fri Nov 25, 2005 2:02 am

I worked at Opa-Locka Airport during the early '80s, at an executive terminal / maintenance facility named Miami Aviation Corporation - they owned (or leased) two of the three main hangars in the photo - the one with the control tower attached, and the one in the middle.

The U.S. Coast Guard occupied the last one (the one with the darker roof in the photo). At that time they flew the Falcon jets and the Dolphin helicopters out of that facility.

I recall that there was a blimp / dirigible hangar on the premises as well - to the east (right side of the photo), I believe the rectangular area of concrete just northwest of the cloud in the lower right corner.

Many of the original runways are no longer used but still evident - in the upper right corner, and at the center left, while R30 / 12 is relatively new.

The company I worked for (M.A.C.) was not only an FBO, but specialized in DHC-6 Twin Otter maintenance, so we saw a lot of traffic from small, Latin and Caribbean-based airlines coming in for service.

OPF has also been used by chop-shops...places that dismantle old aircraft...for many years. I believe it was the final resting place of the Lockheed Constitution (someone correct me if I'm wrong) So, it has been a good airport to see such old aircraft, but unfortunately it also been a place to see them torn apart...

There is a little bit of history detailed on the Miami Dade Aviation website - http://www.miami-airport.com/html/opa-locka_facilities.html.

May I also express my appreciation to DB777 - Don Boyd, someone who I have never met, but have admired for many years for his knowledge of aviation, and especially Miami aviation history, and whose photographs I have also admired for many years. His detail of Opa-Locka history above does much more than the little bit of history Miami-Dade provides in the link I furnished. Thank you, Don.
 
DB777
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Fri Nov 25, 2005 4:21 am

My pleasure, thank you for your comments. It's a shame that MAC is no longer in business and now I hear that the buildings in that area are condemned and can not be leased out.

The Lockheed Constitution, one of two built, sat neglected at Opa-locka Airport for years and finally some gent bought it to use as a restaurant in the mid to late 70's as I recall. He spent a fortune moving it intact on a flatbed truck from the airport and then east on NW 135th Street to vacant land east of the railroad tracks (around NW 34th Avenue) because they had to lift power lines and traffic signals and divert normal roadway traffic.

They started to restore the airplane but he ran out of money and the airplane sat there for a while before it was finally destroyed on site. It's a true shame that no aviation historical group or government agency stepped in to save this rare bird. I have photos of it on NW 135th Street somewhere in the boxes. There are a few photos on this site of it at Opa-locka Airport and this one is at the proposed restaurant site.


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Photo © Mick Bajcar



The dirigible hangar was used by Goodyear for several years to house the blimp based in South Florida after they was forced to leave Watson Island by the City of Miami. They later moved up the coast to Pompano Beach. The Miami Vice TV show and other film makers used the hangar for scenes too before it was destroyed.


Don
Photographing aircraft since the Earth was flat and on Airliners.net since #338
 
DB777
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RE: Opa Locka Airport's History

Fri Nov 25, 2005 3:00 pm

I just did a Google search on that tail number depicted in the above photo and came up with this site that has a more detailed description of the aircraft by one of my best friends, Eric Olson, who I've known since junior high.

http://1000aircraftphotos.com/Transports/Constitution.htm
Photographing aircraft since the Earth was flat and on Airliners.net since #338