Welcome to the March 2015 edition of "It Came From the Internet." On a regularly recurring basis that may or may not be monthly, the intrepid crew of the H-PCAACA venture boldly into the farthest reaches of the internet to find interesting and offbeat sites relating to American, world, and popular culture.
Lost aircraft have dominated headlines in the past year, and have entered popular culture through media such as the Twilight Zone episode King Nine Will Not Return and the continuing interest in Amelia Earhart's final flight. The idea of lost aircraft is well understood, but how about lost airports? In a switch, today's It Came From the Internet focuses on two similar websites which seek to keep alive the memory of long vanished airfields across the United States.
Naturally, these lost airfields haven't vanished into thin air but have been forgotten, repurposed, or replaced. For years, students at Florida International University parked on the remains of the old Tamiami Airport landing strips, and the old control tower is still in use by the school, forlornly looking out over a parking lot and new construction. The near-legendary Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong was once home to one of the most dangerous and wild landings available to commercial aircraft. Flights would bank and zoom low over Kowloon on approach. Kai Tak, like the old Tamiami Airport, is now gone but enthusiasts and amateur historians have kept the memory and to some degree the mystery of these old airfields alive.
Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields, run by Paul Freeman, retains a charming late 1990s Geocities feel, unsurprisingly since the site was launched in 1999. The web site is dedicated to vanished airports across the United States, with nearly 2000 listed airports. The scope of Lost Airports of Washington is narrower, only covering airports in the Washington state area. Lost Airports is another relic of the late 1990s, and although the site has not been updated since 1999 it features a somewhat more flashy Matrix style look.
While both sites shine a spotlight on vanished airports, Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields has a great deal more information available in the form of extended commentary, quotes, postcards, and old photographs. Freeman has managed to acquire a good number of personal photos as well as government survey and historical images for his site, and it provides a fantastic glimpse into the past and present of the vanished airfields he chronicles. The Abandoned site also has done a great deal of research on each airfield, delving into local records and tracking down personal anecdotes, an impressive feat considering the nearly 2000 sites described. The two web sites are useful resources for urban explorers as well as historians, as a few of the airfields listed have vanished from records as well as memory.
These two web sites speak to the interests of private individuals in the past. While Freeman and the unknown author of Lost Airports describe themselves more as pilots than armchair historians, their efforts have kept the memory of these vanished airfields, as well as acting as a useful resource for others. Given the reach of the internet, what would have otherwise been a private book of clippings and notes is accessible to everyone, even though Lost Airports stopped updating in 1999. A few of the airfields described are the results of oral history and personal observation, as the web site authors have been unable to locate information detailing their use or construction. As Freeman phrases it, the records of these vanished fields are "history and mystery combined."
Take a flight to yesterday with Abandoned and Little Known Airfields at http://www.airfields-freeman.com/
Lost Airports resides at http://lostairports.com/
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Dan Fandino is a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida. Growing up next to Florida International University he often noticed the old control tower and landing strips on the university grounds, which provided the initial search impetus that led to these two sites.
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