Historic Nose Hangar To Be Leveled

The nose hangar in its heyday. Photo courtesy Bob Oswell

The nose hangar in its heyday. Photo courtesy Bob Oswell

 


Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – In a couple of weeks a World War II relic will gone from the California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport in McKinleyville.

The Humboldt County Aviation Division is in the process of demolishing the airport’s 70-year-old dilapidated nose hangar, which has been deemed a hazard, according to Airport Program Coordinator

Emily Jacobs. Some of the structure’s major support beams are rotted out and beyond repair, Jacobs said.

The nose hangar was one of the original structures built by the U.S. Navy when it developed the airport in 1942 at the start of World War II.  The airport was known as the Axillary Naval Air Station-Alameda. The airport included an air tower, the nose hangar, barracks and administrative offices.

Known as one of the foggiest airports in the United States, the McKinleyville airport was used to train pilots to land in foggy conditions so they would be prepared when they went to England.

The nose hangar was built so that large aircraft could roll up and fit right under the roof, allowing the planes to be maintained with protection from the elements.

Near the end of the war, the airport became known as the Landing Aids Experiment Station. One of the most notable research projects that took place at the airport was a system called FIDO, which stood for “Fog Intensive, Dispersal of.” The runway was lined with pipes with nozzles, which dispersed pressurized fuel. When ignited, a wall of flames flanked the runway and burned off the fog.

By the 1950s, the experiments were shut down and the airport became known as the Arcata-Eureka Airport. Earlier this year the Board of Supervisors renamed the airport the California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport in an effort to attract tourists.

The nose hangar demolition is part of a larger $1.9 million project that will include the rewiring of underground vaults that power the airport’s lights and navigational equipment. The entire project should be completed by early next year.

Eventually, the county wants to build a new fire hall where the nose hangar now stands. The new structure will replace the existing fire hall, which is too small to house one of the airport fire trucks.

Comment from Union reader Bob Oswell

Nice article about the nose hanger demolition in Arcata.  Just a couple of minor corrections.  The naval air station was actually NAAS Alameda at Dows Praire. where NAAS stands for Naval Auxiliary Air Station.  The navy regarded Dows Praire as the closest community to the station.

FIDO (which stands for Fog Investigation and  Dispersal Operations) was initially developed by the englishman Arthur Hartley for British RAF bomber airfields in World War II.  When  the United States entered World War II our War Department sent a delegation to England to study the system, which basically used fuel burners lining a runway to heat the air and cause the fog to lift sufficiently to allow a aircraft to land.
Impressed by the British efforts the US military ended up building FIDO at the Amchitka Naval Air Station (NAS) in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, at NAS Whidby Island in Washington State and at the naval air station where the Arcata Airport is today.  All of these airfields had significant fog problems that impeded military operations.
The Navy completed FIDO at the Arcata Airport late in the war, and after the war the FIDO testing program was reinstated as the Landing Aids Experiment Station at Arcata.

 

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