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>>

  • Bundick Lake drawdown gate opened

    Bundick Lake drawdown gate opened

    Thursday, July 27 2017 4:42 PM EDT2017-07-27 20:42:34 GMT
    Bundick Lake water levels (Source: United States Geological Survey)Bundick Lake water levels (Source: United States Geological Survey)

    The National Weather Service is forecasting Bundick Lake water levels to reach the 97-foot flood stage, according to the Beauregard Parish Police Jury Facebook page. Bundick Lake's drawdown gate was opened yesterday to control high water levels. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development says the gate will remain open until the water level is back below the 97-foot flood stage. Water levels are being constantly monitored, says the Beauregard Parish Police ...

    More >>

    The National Weather Service is forecasting Bundick Lake water levels to reach the 97-foot flood stage, according to the Beauregard Parish Police Jury Facebook page. Bundick Lake's drawdown gate was opened yesterday to control high water levels. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development says the gate will remain open until the water level is back below the 97-foot flood stage. Water levels are being constantly monitored, says the Beauregard Parish Police ...

    More >>
  • DISTRICT MAP: Mayor Hunter meeting with District B residents tonight

    DISTRICT MAP: Mayor Hunter meeting with District B residents tonight

    Thursday, July 27 2017 3:47 PM EDT2017-07-27 19:47:19 GMT
    District B mapDistrict B map

    Mayor Nic Hunter and the Community Advisement and Assessment Board will host a community meeting for the residents of District B Thursday evening. The meeting follows a July 13 meeting for District A residents, and is part of a series of community meetings planned for each district within the City of Lake Charles. If you're wondering where exactly District B is, here's a handy map: District B is the one marked in green.

    More >>

    Mayor Nic Hunter and the Community Advisement and Assessment Board will host a community meeting for the residents of District B Thursday evening. The meeting follows a July 13 meeting for District A residents, and is part of a series of community meetings planned for each district within the City of Lake Charles. If you're wondering where exactly District B is, here's a handy map: District B is the one marked in green.

    More >>
  • District Attorney: Community needs to come together to address teen violence

    District Attorney: Community needs to come together to address teen violence

    Thursday, July 27 2017 3:40 PM EDT2017-07-27 19:40:46 GMT
    (Source: Raycom)(Source: Raycom)

    There is a shocking trend in the Lake area—deadly violence with teens among those arrested. In fact we've seen two cases in just over a week.First on July 17TH, gunfire on North Simmons Street in Lake Charles left  31 year old Gary Obrien dead.       Four people face charges in connection with the case, including 16 year old Justin Ned. He's booked on charges of principle to first degree murder and armed robbery. And this past Saturday, 24-ye...

    More >>

    There is a shocking trend in the Lake area—deadly violence with teens among those arrested. In fact we've seen two cases in just over a week.First on July 17TH, gunfire on North Simmons Street in Lake Charles left  31 year old Gary Obrien dead.       Four people face charges in connection with the case, including 16 year old Justin Ned. He's booked on charges of principle to first degree murder and armed robbery. And this past Saturday, 24-ye...

    More >>
Powered by Frankly