In January 1911, Roland Garros lifted off from the grounds of a horse racing track just west of downtown Fort Worth in his Bleriot XI, becoming the first heavier-than-air-flight in the City of Fort Worth. The spirit of that day struck a vein in the city which has never left.
The aviation industry has since made a huge impact to Fort Worth’s economy, helping transition Fort Worth from Cowtown to modern metropolis. American Airlines has been headquartered in Fort Worth since 1979 and unveiled a new state-of-the-art facility in 2020. American Air's biggest hub is here at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, one of the world's busiest airports. Bell Helicopter also calls Fort Worth home with the company's headquarters and a large assembly plant located a few miles east of downtown. In the early 1900s, the world's first helium plant was opened in Fort Worth, making the city a frequent stopover for massive dirigibles of the era.
Established in 1942, NAS JRB Fort Worth (formerly known as Carswell AFB) took military aviation in the region to a new level. In 1949 it was from this base that Lucky Lady II, a modified Boeing B-50 set out to fly the first non-stop circumnavigation of the globe, accomplishing the feat in 94 hours. Lockheed Martin’s Air Force Plant 4 is located on the west side of the base, among the largest employers in the city. Plant 4, the second largest building in the U.S. by area-by-floor area, currently assembles the F-35. Historically, the plant was the birthplace of the widely known F-16. Other aircraft to have been manufactured at the plant include the B-36 Peacemaker, B-58 Hustler, F-111 Aardvark, B-32 Dominator and B-24 Liberator.
Museums & Displays
American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum
Situated on the campus of American Airlines (AA) corporate headquarters, the C.R. Smith Museum offers an educational retrospective of the history of the world’s largest airline. Exhibits highlight the fashion of pilots and attendants through the years, science exhibits on the inner workings of jet engines, and a 4k theater for films. The pièce de résistance is the “Flagship Knoxville,” a DC-3 purchased by AA retirees and restored for display.
Vintage Flying Museum
On the grounds of Fort Worth's Meacham International Airport is the Vintage Flying Museum; a place where aircrafts go to be preserved as well as restored to live on. The Museum’s hanger is an active workshop where the historic aircraft are meticulously maintained and kept in flying condition. Most of the 20+ planes in the Museum's collection regularly take to the skies. Notable highlights include Fifi, one of two B-29s still airworthy, and Diamond Lil, a B-24.
Fort Worth Aviation Museum
The Fort Worth Aviation Museum (FWAM) describes its collection of 24+ planes and helicopters from across several eras as “The Most Touchable Warbirds in Texas." The mostly outdoor museum sits just south of the Vintage Flying Museum and is a short drive from the Fort Worth Stockyards. Notable aircrafts include an F-18, which served with the Blue Angels, an F-5 that was featured in "Top Gun," the only A-12 Avenger II, and YF-16 #2, the second ever built. The OV-10 Bronco Association also makes its home at the FWAM. The museum frequently hosts events such as outdoor screenings of movies, educational events for children and special photography sessions.
First Flight Park
First Flight Park is where it all started. Tucked off a side road in the West 7th District, First Flight Park lies on the site of the track where Roland Garros’s (yes, the man for whom the French Open is named for) famous first flight occurred. The park celebrates the achievement with a full scale replica of the craft flown mounted on a pole which allows the plane to rotate in the wind like a giant wind vane.
Airfield Falls Trailhead
Located just outside the main gate of the NAS JRB Fort Worth, Airfield Falls Trailhead’s most obvious feature is the artistically assembled pieces of a retired McDonnell Douglas C-9A. Windsocks, runway lighting poles and historical plaques compliment the aviation themes. Follow the trails a short distance and discover the falls in Airfield Falls, the largest natural waterfall in the area.
DFW Founders Plaza
Spotters and picnickers alike will love Founders Plaza, situated on the west side of DFW International Airport near runway 18R/36L. It’s a safe, secure place to watch and listen to planes coming and going to and from destinations on every populated continent. Amenities include picnic tables, telescopes and ample parking.
Pioneers of Texas Transportation Mosaic
Located on the south-facing wall of the Chevy Garage at Dickies Arena, this fifty foot glass mosaic features a 1950s Pontiac Cheftain produced in nearby Arlington and a Bell Helicopter flanking a portrait of Bessie Coleman. Known as "Queen Bess," she was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, and was both the first Black woman and the first woman of Native American descent to earn a pilots license.
Fort Worth Camera’s annual Foto Fest typically includes special photography events oriented around specific interests like aerial photography. This year's festival runs October 9-18 and includes an aerial sightseeing tour aboard the Fort Worth Flying Heritage Museum’s C-47. Learn more about pricing and events at www.fortworthfotofest.com.
Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show
The Alliance Air Show, voted as the best in the nation by USA Today, is the premiere aviation event in Fort Worth. Held in October, the two-day event hosts some of the most talented acrobatic and formation flyers in the world along with an extensive static display collection on the tarmac. Plan ahead for this year's event on October 17-18.
Hops and Props
Hops and Props is an annual festival put on by the Fort Worth Aviation Museum celebrating veterans and local brews melded with aviation. The family-friendly event is a popular fly-in event for general aviators all around the region.