DOTHAN REGIONAL AIRPORT HISTORY AND INFORMATION
The City of Dothan opened its first airport in August of 1940 on the west side of the city in a location that is known today as Westgate park. Eastern Airlines began service into Dothan that same month with Douglas DC-2 aircraft which were soon replaced with DC-3s. Eastern continued to serve Dothan through the 1940’s and 1950’s upgrading to the Martin 404 aircraft in the fifties. Southern Airways began service into Dothan in 1958 with DC-3s. For a short period, both Eastern and Southern operated in Dothan before Eastern discontinued their service. Southern Airways continued to serve Dothan with DC-3s and Martin 404s though the mid-1960’s when Southern began acquiring McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 jet aircraft. It was not possible to lengthen the runways at the original airport to accommodate the jets so the airport moved to its present location at the former Napier Army Airfield in February 1965.
The Dothan Regional Airport opened to commercial activity on February 15, 1965. It is one of the finest aviation facilities in the State of Alabama. It is something for which we can all be proud. It has taken hard work on the part of many dedicated citizens to develop the Dothan Regional Airport into the outstanding facility which it is today. The present Dothan Regional Airport had its beginning in 1941 with the construction of Napier Field as part of an expanding United States Army Air Corps project to train additional personnel to meet the needs of World War II.
Napier Field was named in honor of Major Edward L. Napier of Union Springs, Alabama. Major Napier was one of the Army’s first flight surgeons and was killed in a plane crash at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. The first aircraft began operating on the field on October 1, 1941. On December 20, 1941, the first group of British cadets arrived for training. The first American cadets graduated on July 3, 1942 (42-F). In late May 1945, officers from the Mexican Army began P-40 training at Napier Field. The Army deactivated the field on October 31, 1945.
The airfield and its improvements were subsequently made available to the City of Dothan and Houston County under an Agreement in 1946 which was jointly accepted at that time. The airport lands lay dormant for a period of time and Houston County later turned its share of Napier Field to the City. The Dothan Houston County Airport Authority was formed and eventually, the aviation activities of the City of Dothan were transferred to Napier Field. The airport facilities have since been progressively expanded to offer the citizens of southeastern Alabama a first-class aviation center.
The Airport Authority has invested several hundred thousand dollars of its own money and Federal grant money in resurfacing runways and taxiways, purchasing new safety equipment, and making security improvements in the past few years. Additional industrial property was acquired to provide long term income to the Airport Authority and to attract new industry to our community. The industrial park opened in 1993. Numerous other improvements have been made since 1986. For example, the north side of the airport was opened for development with the construction of a mile long access road and an additional 4,800 feet of security fence.
Dothan was originally served by Eastern Airlines which was later replaced by Southern Airways in 1958. Southern Airways merged with North Central Airlines and Hughes Airwest to form Republic Airlines in 1979. Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Southeast Airlines commenced operations in Dothan in October 1982. Southeast was bought out by Atlantic Southeast Airlines in 1983. Republic Airlines ceased their operations in Dothan in April 1985. Eastern Metro Express came to Dothan in June 1985 and ceased operations with the demise of Eastern Airlines on January 17, 1991. Northwest Airlink began service to Dothan in September 1987 with six flights per day to Memphis. Northwest Airlink became a wholly owned subsidiary of Northwest Airlines in the late 1990’s and terminated service to Dothan on March 3, 2001. Dothan is presently served by Delta, courtesy of ExpressJet, formerly Atlantic Southeast Airlines.