Over the decades, Bowman Field has played a vital role in the growth and evolution of our country’s aviation industry. It officially began on May 12, 1920, when A.H. Bowman formed a partnership with flier Robert H. Gast and set up operations at the site on Taylorsville Road. Shortly thereafter, Gast left Louisville to pursue a more adventurous aviation career. Louisvillian W. Sidney Park became Bowman’s partner in the Bowman-Park Aero Company in May 1921-one of the first firms to specialize in aerial photography.
In 1922, at the urging of Bowman and Park, the 465th Pursuit Squadron (Reserve) began operations at Bowman Field with an assortment of aircraft.
In 1923, the Aero Club of Kentucky formed to provide services for nonmilitary aviation in Louisville.
In 1928, the state legislature created the Louisville and Jefferson County Air Board to operate the airport as a publicly owned facility. In fact, Kentucky was the first state to enact enabling legislation for the creation of airport authorities. The portion of the land not needed for an airport became Seneca Park.
Airline service to Louisville began on August 1, 1928, when Continental Airways (later American Airlines) began airmail service between Louisville and Cleveland. Three years later, the air carrier launched passenger service between Louisville and Nashville.
In 1929, construction began on the first permanent buildings at Bowman Field- Curtiss Flying Service, the Administration Building and the Air Corps Hangars.
Eastern Airlines became the second airline to provide service to Louisville in 1934. (A third carrier, TWA, operated at Bowman Field for a few months before all airline operations transferred to Standiford Field in 1947.)
During the 1937 flood, thousands of tons of supplies and medicine were flown into Bowman Field. The field remained dry, but was surrounded by water-hampering distribution efforts. An aerial survey identified dry farmland, owned by Dr. Standiford (and others), as a prospective new airfield site.
During World War II Bowman Field was the busiest airport in the country, following an investment of $1 million for construction of barracks and other facilities-including nine mess halls. At that time, thousands of members of the military called Bowman Field and Louisville their temporary home while undergoing combat readiness training.
The already cramped airfield added more troops in 1943, when Glider Pilot Combat Training opened. The gliders, which carried 15 troops each into combat, were a familiar sight in the Louisville skies during the last two years of the war.
The facility became known as “Air Base City” when a bomber squadron moved in, and more than 1600 recruits underwent basic training in a three-month period. During the war years, a large variety of Air Force and Navy aircraft could be seen passing through Bowman Field.
Bowman Field also was home to the Army Air Force School of flight surgeons, medical technicians and flight nurses. Those attending the school learned how to treat and evacuate the wounded by air, and, just as important, acquired the necessary skills to help ensure survival in combat zones. Graduates of the school were responsible for evacuating and treating a half-million sick and wounded from war zones around the world by the end of 1944.
In 1941, work began on Louisville’s new Standiford Field commercial airport,named for Dr. Elisha Standiford. In November 1947, all Louisville airline operations moved from Bowman Field to Standiford Field.
A New Role
After 1947, Bowman Field assumed its new role as Louisville’s primary general-aviation airfield. In fact, in 1960, Flying Magazine (using FAA statistics), hailed Bowman Field as “America’s Busiest Local-Traffic Airport.”
Today, Bowman Field, the birthplace of Louisville aviation, serves as a reliever airport for Louisville International. With smaller, lighter aircraft operating at Bowman Field, the larger, heavier aircraft may operate at Louisville International- permitting Louisville International to land and take-off more aircraft per hour, and operate more efficiently.
As a general aviation airfield, Bowman Field offers services such as flight instruction; aircraft leases; charters and sales; aircraft cleaning and refueling; and aircraft repair and maintenance.
In addition, Bowman Field’s historic, renovated administration building lobby is available for meetings and gatherings.