Bronson Field

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Bronson Field is a former Naval Auxiliary Air Station located in western Escambia County, near Perdido Bay and Tarkiln Bayou. The complex consisted of a multi-runway paved airfield and a series of seaplane ramps on the shore of Perdido Bay. Bronson Field has not been used by the Navy for aviation purposes in many years and is now officially known as the Blue Angel Recreation Park and is used for recreational purposes.


In 1939, the Navy purchased 640 acres near Perdido Bay for use as an outlying field (OLF), which was initially named Tarkiln Field. Initially, the facility was used by primary trainers from Corry Field. In March 1942, construction of a temporary wartime base began at the site. Around that time the Navy also purchased another 263 adjoining acres on Perdido Bay for a seaplane facility. On November 18, 1942, NAAS Bronson Field was commissioned, so named in honor of Lt. Clarence Bronson, Naval Aviator No. 15, who lost his life in a bomb explosion. The airfield consisted of a large circular mat crisscrossed by four 4,000-foot runways.

Bronson Field was used primarily for dive bomber, fighter, and seaplane training. Baseball great Ted Williams was among those trained at the base.

The field was decommissioned as a NAAS in 1946, and was thereafter used as an outlying field. The Navy tore down most of the temporary wartime buildings in the 1950s, but continued to use the hangars for parts storage into the next decade.

In 1967 Bronson Field was the last stop for Naval Aviators as they completed their flight training in the T-2 BUCKEYE jet aircraft. The tailhook-equipped T-2 was used at Bronson for field carrier landing practice prior to the final flight to the aircraft carrier Lexington just offshore for actual arrested landings. At that time the field was in such a state of disrepair that it felt like it had been abandoned many years earlier. Grass grew through cracks in the tarmac and the one or two remaining hangars seemed like they were left over from WWII. There was no other activity at the field other than 10 or 12 student pilots who flew the carrier landing pattern one to three times a day as they prepared to "hit the boat" on their last day. Ten or twelve T-2s were the only aircraft parked on the ramp. A few flight instructors were there for the first three flights, to act as landing signal officers during the field carrier landings, and to debrief the landings as the pilots honed their skills during the 10-day course of instruction and practice at Bronson Field. There were also enlisted mechanics on hand to service the aircraft, fix problems, and act as ground crew.

In modern times, Bronson Field is used by law enforcement training agencies to teach driving tactics to police cadets, namely those attending George Stone Technical College.

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