A Passion for Flying
It all goes back to the year 1915, when three siblings and two passions all came together to create the Stinson School of Flying. The people were Marjorie, Katherine and Eddie Stinson. All three had a passion for flying, but Katherine had a passion for music as well, and, as fate would have it, a newspaper article somehow managed to tie together those two loves. The article said that barnstorming pilots or exhibition pilots were earning $1,000 dollars a show. “So she wanted to take that money and go to Europe and eventually study piano and that was her entry into aviation,” according to Aviation Assistant Director Tim O’Krongley.
So with a plan in place, Katherine got to work in starting the school. Eddie Stinson, her brother, selected a plot of land south of town just west of the San Antonio River. Her sister, Marjorie, went to City Council to petition them to open up the school. City Council rented her 500 acres for $5 per year. It was a good deal, O’Krongley says. In the years that followed, Katherine made the trip to Europe but it was her love of flying and not her love of music that would take her there. She flew to England, Japan and China, becoming the first woman to perform the loop-the-loop maneuver. She set successive endurance and distance records and raised $2 million dollars for the American Red Cross. Meanwhile, Marjorie and Eddie continued to expand operations at the Stinson School of Flying, teaching civilian students like Jack Frost and pilots from the Canadian Air Force. World War I eventually brought a ban on civilian flying, marking the end of the Stinson School of Flying.
The Boom Years
During World War I and afterwards, the airfield was run by the City of San Antonio. According to O’Krongley, the airport was used primarily by barnstormers and experimental pilots until the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. For a few years, Stinson served as a commercial airport with airline service from American, Braniff and Eastern Airlines. In 1935/1936, a new terminal building was built as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project.
During World War II, the Air Force took control of the airport and utilized it as a training base. The military constructed more than 100 buildings, some of which are still standing. However, after World War II, Stinson’s era of commercial airline service was over as commercial airlines moved to San Antonio International Airport.
Still Growing Strong
Stinson continues to grow after 90 years. In 2008, a major capital project to expand the terminal was completed. The expansion added two wings and more than 24,000 square feet of additional space for administrative, concession, corporate Fixed-Based Operators, education and commercial uses. Importantly, the expansion left the original terminal virtually untouched.
Stinson serves as the general aviation reliever airport for San Antonio International, Stinson now handles more than 150,000 aircraft operations annually. It has seen a 110% increase in the number of aircraft based at the airport and a 100% occupancy rate.
Behind all the growth and change at the airport is the spirit of the Stinson family, three people who had a love of flying so strong it continues to tower over San Antonio even today.