Maxwell AFB, AL Image 1
    Maxwell AFB, AL Image 2

    Maxwell AFB, AL History

    Maxwell AFB has the unique honor of being on the site of the former Wright Flying School, a flying school founded by the Wright Brothers, inventors of the first practical heavier-than-air aircraft. The Wright Brothers opened their school, near Montgomery, Alabama, in 1910; it was the first practical aviation school for civilians in the world, but closed for a combination of mechanical and weather related reasons in 1916; the facility was then used as an airplane repair depot by the US Army during World War One, and named simply Aviation Repair Depot. In 1922 the Aviation Repair Depot was renamed Maxwell Field, in honor of an Army aviator, 2nd Lt. William C. Maxwell, who, experiencing engine trouble, had maneuvered to land in a field; the field was occupied by children, and Lt. Maxwell avoided landing on the children at the expense of his own life.

    By the middle of the 1920s the field and facilities were in poor condition, as were the US Army's Air Service facilities overall. Recognizing the growing importance of military aviation, the Air Service was reorganized as the Air Corps and its facilities upgraded. Maxwell Field benefitted from this, gaining permanent buildings and housing. By the later 1920s a local Alabama congressman and supporter of the Air Corps mission brought political pressure to station a attack squadron at Maxwell Field; this was not to the Air Corps' liking, and a few years of political campaigning followed. The net result was the establishment of the Army Air Corps Tactical School, in 1928. Maxwell Field was expanded to accommodate the ACTS, an investment which soon paid off for local civilians; flooding in March of 1929 in Montgomery cut the city off from relief supplies, which were airdropped from Maxwell, the first US military airdrop and first major aerial relief effort.

    The ACTS opened in 1931, and expanded gradually through the 1930s; in 1940 the school was converted to more straightforward pilot training and preflight training. A series of training programs followed through the war, and shortly after the war Maxwell became the housing site for Air University, now the Air Force's primary center for professional education.

    From the first US aviation school to the leading US aviation school, Maxwell continues to produce the future.