Sunday, September 27, 2015

Plattsburgh Air Force Base once home to many different planes

Air Police stand guard at the entrance to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in the 1950s. 

PLATTSBURGH — Land in Plattsburgh with a military history dating to the 18th century was taken by the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s to build an Air Force Base for the Strategic Air Command. 

Plattsburgh Air Force Base covered 3,447 acres and was home to hundreds of aircraft in its heyday.

After construction, the base received its first B-47 bombers in 1956, later joined by B-52 bombers.


During the 1960s, the base was also home to the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron, which maintained 12 Atlas F missiles with nuclear warheads around the region.

Launch silos were installed in Champlain, Willsboro; Lewis; AuSable Forks; Riverview; Redford; Dannemora; Brainardsville; Ellenburg Depot; Mooers; Alburg, Vt.; and Swanton, Vt.

Construction began in June 1960 at the first site, in the Town of Champlain.

They didn’t last long, however. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara issued a 1964 directive to decommission Atlas and Titan I missile squadrons.

The Atlas F missiles were removed, and the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron was deactivated on June 25, 1965.


In 1968, the FB-111A fighter-bomber was assigned to PAFB, adding a speedy plane to the base inventory.

By the end of 1970, the last B-52 had left, and on July 10, 1991, the Strategic Air Command and the 380th Bomber Wing saw the last four FB-111As depart.

That left only KC-135 tankers at the base, but the 310th and 380th Air Refueling squadrons were deactivated in a ceremony on Sept. 26, 1994, and those planes were sent elsewhere.


After being honored as the longest active military installation in the United States, Plattsburgh Air Force Base was slated for closure in a shocking decision by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission in 1993.

It officially closed on Sept. 30, 1995.

After the base was decommissioned, the Plattsburgh Intermunicipal Development Corp. (PIDC) was created to manage the former base, and the property was split into 165 parcels for redevelopment.

Early tenants included the Wood Group, Pratt & Whitney Industrial Turbine Services, Bombardier, Composite Factory Inc., ORC Macro, GSM Vehicles and Westinghouse Air Brake Co.

Later, the reuse group was transformed into the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corp. (PARC), which handled the bulk of the redevelopment.


On Aug. 16 and 17, 1996, PARC hosted a huge music concert on the runway of the decommissioned air base featuring the popular band Phish. An estimated 70,000 people attended the event.

It was a controversial use at the time. Although officials said the concert added $20 million to the local economy, no others have been held.

PAFB is now the site of Plattsburgh International Airport, which is operated by Clinton County.

It is home to a diverse mix of businesses, agencies, residences and even a school.

Those include the Northeast Group, Bombardier Transportation, Lakeside Container, SterRx, RailTech, Vapor Stone Rail Div. of Wabtec, Triangle Electric, Glens Falls National Bank, Dannemora Federal Credit Union, Mountain Valley Integrated Solutions, Seton Catholic, Lake Forest/Pine Harbour, Clinton County Emergency Services and more.

On Sept. 21, the PARC Board of Directors reported that 99 percent of the base property has been sold, leased or transferred and is in use.

Only six parcels, totaling 33.57 acres, remain.

July 11, 1955: 380th Bombardment Wing (Medium) activated at PAFB, along with the 528th, 529th and 530th Bombardment Squadrons.

Nov. 7, 1955: First aircraft lands at PAFB, a KC-97 tanker.

March 21, 1956: First B-47 of the 380th arrives at PAFB.

July 18, 1957: KC-97 tanker explodes and crashes into Lake Champlain after takeoff from PAFB, killing crew of eight.

Oct. 1, 1957: Strategic Air Command activated at PAFB.

Oct. 1, 1961: 556th Strategic Missile Squadron activated at PAFB.

1961-62: 12 Atlas F missile silos built around PAFB in North Country communities.

Jan. 15, 1962: B-47 crashes into Wright’s Peak, 60 miles south of PAFB, killing crew.

Dec. 20, 1962: PAFB missile solos are operational.

Sept. 15, 1964: 380th Bombardment Wing (Medium) redesignated 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing (Heavy).

Original article can be found here:

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