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    NAS Melbourne (Melbourne Airport) Florida United States

USN October 20, 1942


USN 1942


USN 1944
Location
Lat 28° 6' 10N Long 80° 38' 43W  Melbourne Airport is located north of US-192 in Melbourne, Brevard County in Florida in the United States of America (USA). Also known as Melbourne Airport. Since 2015 officially renamed "Orlando Melbourne International Airport".

Construction

Until the late 1920s, this area area was flat pasture land used to graze cows north of the Kissimmee Highway (US-192). In 1928, a Pitcairn Aircraft Company aircraft made the first landing at this location and a runway was made to allow aircraft flying airmail to use as a refueling stop. During 1933, Melbourne acquired 160 acres west of Indian River Bluff to develop as a civilian airport in hopes of bringing economic development to the area from aviation.

At the start of World War II, U. S. Congress authorized funds to rapidly develop military airfields in Florida for training U. S. Navy (USN) and U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) aviators. For military use, the airfield was further expanded and developed with facilities included 129 buildings including hangers, barracks, officers quarters, parachute loft, link trainers and other support buildings. Nearby two auxiliary airfields were built to support training: NAS Valkaria and NAS Malabar plus a gunnery target range at Lake Hell-N-Blazes and other locations.

Wartime History
On October 20, 1942 this airfield was commissioned as NAS Melbourne Operational Training Unit 2 (OTU2) by Vice Admiral Arthur B. Cook from NAS Jacksonville and his staff as an advanced fighter training base with Captain Charles W. Crawford as the first Commanding Officer (C.O.) and the first graduating class had ten students.

During World War II, known as Operational Training Unit 2 (OTU2) for flight training for newly commissioned Naval aviators flying the fighters including the F4F Wildcat and later the F6F Hellcat prior to their overseas deployments. At the height of the base, a total of 310 officers and 1,355 enlisted men were based at this airfield.

By the end of the war, more than 2,200 pilots who trained fighter aircraft. Between 1942–1945 a total of 63 pilots died during training and accidents (including 13 missing) and two enlisted men died in ground related accidents.

Among the personnel based at this airfield was Lieutenant Commander David P. McCampbell who served as a Landing Signal Officer (LSO) instructor until August 1943 and became the Navy's highest scoring ace in World War II. Another famous student at NAS Melbourne was Lt. Wayne Morris who later became a seven victory ace and actor.

On March 26, 1944 at night, B-24E Liberator 41-28525 crashed near the airfield boundary at Eau Gallie Boulevard, to the west of the rail road tracks, just missing the U. S. Navy housing area known as Suntree Terrace.

Postwar
On February 15, 1946 NAS Melbourne was closed as a military base. In 1947, the entire base was deeded to Melbourne and resumed use as a civilian use as Melbourne Municipal Airport with scheduled airline flights starting in 1953 by Eastern Airlines operating the Martin 4-0-4 airliner.

In 1967, Melbourne created the Melbourne Airport Authority to further develop the airport and was briefly named Cape Kennedy Regional Airport then changed to Melbourne Regional Airport.

Today
Still in use today as Melbourne Airport. The airport has three runways. The first runway is oriented 23/05 measuring 3,001' x 75' surfaced with asphalt. The second runway is oriented 27L/09R measuring 10,181' x 150' surfaced with asphalt. The third runway is oriented 27R/09L measuring 6,000' x 150' surfaced with asphalt.

Airport codes: FAA: MLB, ICAO: KMLB, IATA: MLB. Melbourne Airport is served by international and domestic flights by Delta, American Airlines, Porter Air, Elite Airways and charter operators.

In 2015, renamed Orlando Melbourne International Airport. Between 2017-2018, a new 115' tall air traffic control tower was built at the airport and replace the prior tower built in 1950 that was one of the oldest still in operation.

Melbourne Airport Museum (NAS Melbourne Museum)
Located inside the terminal at Melbourne Airport

Naval Air Station Melbourne Historical Marker
Florida Heritage Landmark F-441 designating the site of the Naval Air Station Melbourne. Located on the east side of Eddie Allen Road between Joe Walker Road and the Trailer Haven Community Center at 1205 Eddie Allen Road.

References
Melbourne Airport Official Website
US Naval Air Station Melbourne, Florida Fighter Pilot Training Base Word War II details the history of this airport
United States Naval Air Stations of World War II - Volume 1 (Eastern States)
Thanks to William R. Barnett for additional information

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Last Updated
April 7, 2020

 

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