HistoryIn 1927, Mayor and former World War I flyer Charles Hanna felt that the economic future of Syracuse would be greatly enhanced by a first class airport. He considered several sites in the Syracuse area, among them Bethka Field, which was located on Thompson Road, just north of James Street, Old Hinsdale Field, which was located in Amboy Center, near Camillus, and Nedrow Field, located in nearby Nedrow, New York. The land at Hinsdale Field was very level and offered room for expansion. This location was chosen by the City of Syracuse and was purchased for $50,000 in 1926. Mayor Hanna chose the City of Syracuse Parks Department to operate the new Syracuse Airport at Amboy.
Airmail was first delivered to the Syracuse City Airport at Amboy beginning in 1928, and by the early 1930's Ford Tri-motors were routinely touching down on the Airport's three grass runways. Airshows were a common attraction at the Airport, usually headlining a barnstorming World War I Ace. Thousands of local citizens flocked to the Airport to welcome aviation personalities, such as Charles A. Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Kate Smith and Lowell Thomas. On August 28, 1933, aviator Wiley Post landed at the Airport in his "Winnie Mae," the same aircraft that carried the pilot and humorist Will Rogers to their deaths in Alaska in 1935.
With the outbreak of World War II, several local flying instructors at the Airport were pressed into military duty and the Amboy City Airport became a flight training center. In the early days of the war, many believed that the East Coast was vulnerable to enemy attack. On December 31, 1941, twenty-four days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Office of the Chief of the Army Air Force authorized the construction of an air base at Syracuse. A 3,500 acre parcel located north of the city was selected, displacing several inhabited farms. In 1942, three 5,500 foot runways were built, at a cost to the Army of more than $16,000,000. These runways were constructed over existing asparagus beds, which continue to produce asparagus to this day. The First Concentration Command, later known as the Air Service Command, used the base to assemble and test B-24 aircraft, and then were sent to fly bombing missions over England. The first airmen to train at this base, known as the Mattydale Bomber Base, were The Boys from Syracuse. They used the base as a staging and storage area, repairing and re-outfitting the B-17 and B-24 aircraft that had been used in World War II.
On July 22, 1946, the City of Syracuse took over the Mattydale Bomber Base on an interim lease. At the end of the City's centennial year, in 1948, the base was dedicated as a commercial airfield. The Clarence E. Hancock Airport opened to the public on September 17, 1949 with 25,000 present to enjoy the festivities, which included a night airshow. The terminal was a renovated Army Air Corps machine shop, located on Malden Road in Mattydale. This location is presently the site of Piedmonte Hawthorne Aviation, a fixed base operator at Syracuse Hancock International Airport.
The Airport was originally named after Clarence E. Hancock, who was a Congressman in the 36th District from 1927 to 1946. The district included the City of Syracuse and all of Onondaga County. Mr. Hancock's family and friends petitioned the Syracuse Common Council and expressed their desire to have the new airport named in his honor. They felt that his longtime service and dedication to the citizens of Onondaga County would be an inspiration to all who visited the Airport. The Syracuse Common Council approved this request and passed a resolution to this effect in October of 1946. On September 19, 1949, a Colonial Airlines flight became the first departure from Clarence E. Hancock Airport. The plane was piloted by Captain Arthur Hinkley and was traveling to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, then on to Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C., before returning to Syracuse. A short time later, an American Airlines Convair arrived from Buffalo, New York en route to Newark, New Jersey, becoming the Airport's first arriving flight. In 1949, a total of four airlines operated at the Airport: American, Buffalo, Colonial and Robinson Airlines, with a combined total of 30 scheduled flights per day. American Airlines has operated at the Airport since its beginning.
In 1962, a new airport terminal opened in the center of the airfield to provide access to the planned Interstate 81, with Mayor William Walsh and Airport Commissioner Frank Pittenger present to dedicate the new terminal.
In1970, the International Civil Airport Organization awarded international airport status to Hancock Airport. With this designation, products manufactured locally could be shipped directly overseas and Syracuse would become a port of entry for foreign travelers. With this new status also came a new name-Syracuse Hancock International Airport. By this time, over two million people a year were using the Airport.
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