The Early Years - Golden
Spread Historical Aviation - English Field Collection
|James and Thornton Oxnard played
pivotal roles in the development of early aviation in
the Texas Panhandle. They were from a well to do Garden
City, New York family and were heirs of the Anaconda
Copper Mines Conglomerate. Both were highly educated
with degrees from Rutgers, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia
and MIT. During 1923, Thornton studied in Paris France.
Both men learned to fly at Curtiss Field, Long Island,
New York. Thornton, who had soled in 1925 after logging
8 hours flying time, had a going business transporting
students and friends across the country in an OX
In early 1928, James Oxnard arrived at an Albuquerque
New Mexico airport which had just been started by two
Santa Fe Railway workers Frank Speakman and William
Franklin. James, impressed with Speakman’s work and
vision, bought out Franklin’s interest in the airport,
renamed it Oxnard Field, formed his own company called
Aircraft Holdings Inc. and started vast improvements of
In the spring of 1928, Thornton, who was very interested
in investing in the fledgling air transportation
business, was traveling by air to Albuquerque to be
with brother James. Thornton landed at Amarillo’s
English-Bivins airport where he met Harold
English--manager of the airport. After several days in
Amarillo and numerous visits with English, Thornton was
taken by the potential of both English and his airport.
Thornton and James concluded that the geographical
location of Amarillo--between Albuquerque and Oklahoma
City east and west, as well as between Denver and Fort
Worth north and south--and the expertise of English and
his personnel were air transportation opportunities
worth their investment.
In May of 1928, James, Thornton and Harold English
formed Amarillo Airport Corp. as a subsidiary of James’
Aircraft Holdings, Inc. and began upgrading all
facilities at English-Bivins Airport.
In early 1929, the city of Amarillo, in order to
position itself to take advantage of the nation’s
growing air transportation industry, acquired land and
began construction of the city’s Municipal Airport. In
mid-1929, Amarillo Airport Corp offered to lease and
operate the new Municipal Airport but was rejected by
the city (although, Amarillo Airport Corp was the lowest
Irate for being snubbed by the City of Amarillo, English
and Oxnard proceeded to find and subsequently lease 710
acres of land 7 ½ miles east of the city of Amarillo
and 4 miles east of the city’s new Municipal Airport.
Within two months, English and Oxnard had converted
their 710 acres into an airport--English Field--with a
modern terminal building and hanger. Within three
months, Oxnard had, through deft corporate financial
manipulation, persuaded the major airlines to transfer
their operations from Municipal Airport (which then
operated as a private airport for 25 years) to English
Field (where the city’s airport has been located, at
this writing, for nearly 80 years).
In 1935, Harold English died in an automobile accident.
In 1937, English Field’s terminal building and hanger
burned completely to the ground. Oxnard put temporary
facilities in place to keep the airlines operational.
In 1939, Oxnard sold the last of Amarillo Airport Corp’s
planes. Oxnard and Fred Smith formed Amarillo Flying
Service and moved from English Field to the old
Municipal Airport where they established a very
successful flying school.
In 1940, Oxnard leased English Field to the city of
Amarillo, joined the US Army Air Force, flew for the
“Fire Ball Express” in support of the China Burma
campaign and reached the rank of Major.
Returning from the war, Oxnard sold the sold the last of
the English Field buildings and equipment to the city
Amarillo and semi-retired in California.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Albuquerque, James’
operation parallelled that of English Field until 1942
when the Army condemned the property for the military
for $95,000. Part of the old Oxnard Field is now
Kirtland AFB. And, James departed the area to go on a
Additional military and civilian
aircraft may be seen at the Texas Air & Space Museum.
Press the back arrow
or [Up] button to
return to previous page.