Abandoned airfields in SWLA - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Abandoned airfields in SWLA

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

It was 1917 when the United States decided to construct Gerstner Field southeast of Lake Charles. The Army needed a place to prepare its pilots for a new type of warfare in the air. Historian Adley Cormier says their practice sessions caught the attention of Lake Area residents.

"We're talking about a time when people would come out of their houses to look at a biplane flying overhead," said Adley Cormier, local historian. "Here they were in SWLA practicing dogfighting and practice bombing with bags of flour. It's got to be a glamorous experience for someone raising rice in Sweetlake."

So the Lake Area's love with airplanes may have gotten started then. An airstrip soon was developed east of Lake Charles, close to where Chennault Air Base would eventually locate. Then came the Doug and Nola Mae McFillen, who built their airstrip south of Lake Charles, near where Burton Coliseum is today. Daughter Susan Castleberry grew up thinking air travel was perfectly normal.

"I didn't think there were roads between places," said Castleberry.  "I figured the road ended in Moss Bluff where my grandmother lived.  That's as far as we drove.  I thought everybody went by air."

The old abandoned McFillen airstrip is now just a road that goes back to a rent house. Hundreds of people learned how to fly on this airstrip.

Ernie Nettles learned from the McFillens and eventually flew helicopters in Vietnam. Nettles says the days of the grass airstrips are practically long gone.

"There's not near as many as there used to be," said Nettles. "Aviation, airplanes are a lot more expensive than they used to be for private pilots and there's not as many small airstrips. Mostly big airports like Lake Charles Municipal airport."

In her book "Airplanes for Breakfast," the late Nola Mae Ross recalls the early days of private aircraft in the Lake Charles area.

"The airstrips all over SWLA like the east Lake Charles airstrip served to satisfy the itch of SWLA people to fly," said Cormier.

They're gone now, but are being remembered on a webpage that highlights abandoned airstrips across the United States.

For more information on abandoned airfields:  http://www.airfields-freeman.com



Copyright 2014 KPLC.  All rights reserved.

  • More Local NewsNewsMore>>

  • BREAKING

    Safety investigation board releases final report on PCA explosion

    Safety investigation board releases final report on PCA explosion

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 6:34 PM EDT2018-04-24 22:34:20 GMT
    The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has released its final report on the 2017 explosion at Packaging Corporation of America that killed three people. (Source: U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board)The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has released its final report on the 2017 explosion at Packaging Corporation of America that killed three people. (Source: U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board)
    The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has released its final report on the 2017 explosion at Packaging Corporation of America that killed three people. (Source: U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board)The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has released its final report on the 2017 explosion at Packaging Corporation of America that killed three people. (Source: U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board)

    The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has released its final report on the 2017 explosion at Packaging Corporation of America that killed three people.

    More >>

    The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has released its final report on the 2017 explosion at Packaging Corporation of America that killed three people.

    More >>
  • FIRST ALERT FORECAST: Warm again Wednesday, but a cold front arrives early Thursday with rain possible

    FIRST ALERT FORECAST: Warm again Wednesday, but a cold front arrives early Thursday with rain possible

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 4:52 PM EDT2018-04-24 20:52:37 GMT
    Cold front approaching late WednesdayCold front approaching late Wednesday
    Cold front approaching late WednesdayCold front approaching late Wednesday
    A weak cold front will bring a chance of rain later this week.  It may be hard to believe, but the weekend looks dry! Tonight, will be mostly clear with lows ranging from the low 50s north of I-10 to near 60 at the coast. Wednesday will be warm with highs topping out in the low 80s.  A weak cold front will move through early Thursday morning.  This will bring scattered showers and possibly some thunderstorms to our area, so the forecast calls for a 40% chance of rain...More >>
    A weak cold front will bring a chance of rain later this week.  It may be hard to believe, but the weekend looks dry! Tonight, will be mostly clear with lows ranging from the low 50s north of I-10 to near 60 at the coast. Wednesday will be warm with highs topping out in the low 80s.  A weak cold front will move through early Thursday morning.  This will bring scattered showers and possibly some thunderstorms to our area, so the forecast calls for a 40% chance of rain...More >>
  • BREAKING

    Kinder man found after driving car through park and crashing into a ditch

    Kinder man found after driving car through park and crashing into a ditch

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 3:47 PM EDT2018-04-24 19:47:53 GMT
    (Source: KPLC viewer)(Source: KPLC viewer)

    Lake Charles police officers are searching for a man whom they say ran after crashing his vehicle into a ditch on Henderson Bayou Road. Lt. Kevin Kirkum said the crash was a single-vehicle accident. Henderson Bayou Road runs along the south side of Prien Lake Park. A witness said the man was driving erratically, driving onto the sidewalks at the park before crossing the bridge over the bayou and crashing the vehicle.

    More >>

    Lake Charles police officers are searching for a man whom they say ran after crashing his vehicle into a ditch on Henderson Bayou Road. Lt. Kevin Kirkum said the crash was a single-vehicle accident. Henderson Bayou Road runs along the south side of Prien Lake Park. A witness said the man was driving erratically, driving onto the sidewalks at the park before crossing the bridge over the bayou and crashing the vehicle.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly