Monday, May 30, 2011

Burns Flat and the Military

Just north of Sentinel on Highway 44 is town of Burns Flat, Oklahoma. Established in 1929, it is one of the newer communities in Washita County, and took the latter half of its name from the extensive flat farmland in the area.  During World War II, the military saw the flat terrain as an advantage and created Naval Air Station Clinton in 1942.  They built temporary housing, hangars and four 6,000 foot runways to train naval aviators for war operations.  The Naval Air Station was shut down when the war ended and became a parking lot for old planes.

In 1954 the area was reopened as Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base.  A runway was extended to 13,500 feet, which made it one of the longest in the world (and was apparently one the places considered later as an alternate Space Shuttle landing site).

This shows the old runways and the extended 13,500 foot runway:


The base was expanded to train pilots and develop specialized aircraft in the  '50s.  B-52s and KC-135s conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling maneuvers.   The base, however, was closed again in 1969.

Now the area is being promoted as the Oklahoma Spaceport.  The FAA has apparently given approval to the site as a launching port for future space tourism flights.  So "Go! Virgin Galactic" and good luck to all the other space tourism innovators out there!

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