Commercial Airport

Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport

 The Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport serves the city of Alamogordo, as well as Holloman Air Force Base and Otero County, New Mexico. The field opened in late 1959 as the Alamogordo Municipal Airport with the name change occurring in the mid-1970’s. Commercial airline service was first operated through Holloman Air Force Base but was shifted to the Alamogordo Municipal Airport upon opening. By July, 1928, a New York businessman by the name of James G. Oxnard appeared on the scene and bought out the interest that Langford Franklin had in the new airfield. Oxnard then quickly invested in building the airport into a first-class field by constructing more facilities and lighting. Frank Speakman would be the airport manager and he and his wife would live in the new administration building. In early 1929, the airfield was expanded to 480 acres and the runways were extended. More facilities were constructed including a clubhouse and a second, much larger hanger. Within one year of opening, the first of two commercial air carriers began service to the airport, Western Air Express (WAE) on May 15, 1929 followed by Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) on July 9, 1929. Both carriers operated twelve passenger tri-motor aircraft on a competing east-west route between Los Angeles and Kansas City with a stop in Albuquerque. WAE operated other routes as well but this was the only route for TAT. TAT also built its own terminal building at the airport. WAE was soon concerned of safety at this airport due to its close proximity to the Sandia and Manzano Mountains as well as the strong winds that often develop through Tijeras canyon directly to the east. The carrier then made the decision to build their own airfield on the west side of Albuquerque which was up and running within a few months. WAE moved their operation to the new airport by the fall of 1929 while TAT remained at the Albuquerque Airport. The fall of 1929 also saw the beginning of the Great Depression at a time when the United States government was awarding a new mail contract for the east-west route through Albuquerque. Both airlines would need the lucrative mail contract to survive so TAT and the Los Angeles to Kansas City route of WAE were merged by the summer of 1930. The merged entity became known as Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) and all airline operations were then moved to the West Mesa Airport.
The Albuquerque Airport then became known as Oxnard Field and remained operational as a general aviation airport through the 1930’s until the outbreak of World War II when it was acquired by the Army in 1942. The field was then used as a military facility and stored hundreds of aircraft after the war ended in 1945. Oxnard Field was closed in 1948.

Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport terminal building.
Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport terminal building.

Historical commercial airline service:

Regional Airport

 The first commercial service was initially planned in 1948 for Pioneer Air Lines to add Alamogordo as one of several stops on a new route between Amarillo and El Paso. Pioneer did start the route however the stop in Alamogordo did not materialize. Six years later Continental Airlines received authority to serve the city by making a stop on the carriers’ route between El Paso and Albuquerque. Flights began on August 31, 1954. The northbound flights continued from Albuquerque on to Denver making stops in Santa Fe, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs. Initially Douglas DC-3 and Convair-340 aircraft were used but by 1959 the flights were upgraded to four-engine, 52-seat Vickers Viscount-II aircraft.

Continental Airlines Vickers Viscount II.

Continental Airlines Vickers Viscount II.

 On July 10, 1963 service was transferred to Frontier Airlines which began flights on the same routes using Convair-340 and Convair-580 aircraft. At Albuquerque, some flights would continue to Salt Lake City rather than Denver, again making several stops. Flights to El Paso ended in 1978 and some flights to Albuquerque began stopping in Silver City, New Mexico. All of Frontier’s service was discontinued by year end 1979. As Frontier was designated as a local service carrier by the federal government and the carrier was serving Alamogordo at the time of airline deregulation in 1978, Alamogordo became eligible for guaranteed Essential Air Service (EAS) with government subsidy.

Frontier Airlines Convair 580 at Alamogordo in the mid-1960’s

Frontier Airlines Convair 580 at Alamogordo in the mid-1960’s.

Smaller commuter airlines then began serving Alamogordo shortly before the departure of Frontier.
Airways of New Mexico, based in Alamogordo, began flights to El Paso in October, 1977 using Piper Navajo aircraft. Service to Albuquerque was added in late 1981 under the EAS program with some flights stopping in Las Cruces, NM. Cessna 402 aircraft were later added to the fleet and a Beechcraft 99 was planned to be added in 1983 but reportedly never went into service. All flights were discontinued when the airline ceased operating on March 30, 1985.

Airways of New Mexico Piper Navajo Chieftain

Airways of New Mexico Piper Navajo Chieftain.

Zia Airlines began flights to Albuquerque on January 21, 1978 with Cessna 402 and Handley-Page Jetstream aircraft. Some flights would also stop in Las Cruces and service continued until Zia ceased operating on May 12, 1980. The carrier was the first to receive Essential Air Service (EAS) authority funded by the U. S. government to serve Alamogordo after Frontier ended service in late 1979.

Zia Airlines Handley-Page Jetstream at Alamogordo in the late 1970’s

Zia Airlines Handley-Page Jetstream at Alamogordo in the late 1970’s.

Air Midwest provided flights to Albuquerque from August 4, 1980 through September 30, 1981 using Swearingen Metroliner aircraft. The carrier received the EAS authority after the failure of Zia Airlines. The authority was then issued to Airways of New Mexico (above) after Air Midwest ended service.

JetAire began a single flight to Albuquerque on June 3, 1985 after Airways of New Mexico ended service. The carrier used a Handley-Page Jetstream aircraft and was aiming to receive the EAS authority but the award went to Mesa Airlines (below). Service was discontinued within a month.

Mesa Airlines began flights to Albuquerque on June 4, 1985 and later received the EAS contract for the Alamogordo to Albuquerque route. Initially Beechcraft 99 aircraft were used and later upgraded to Beech-1900’s. Flights to El Paso and Tucson were briefly operated in mid-1986 and select flights to Albuquerque began stopping in Las Cruces. Mesa became the mainstay airline at Alamogordo until service ended on May 26, 2002 after nearly 17 years. Mesa was ordered to return to the airport with flights from Albuquerque and Roswell on September 24, 2006 after several subsequent carriers receiving EAS authority had all failed. Service ended once again on December 31, 2007.

Mesa Airlines Beechcraft 1900D at Alamogordo in 2000

Mesa Airlines Beechcraft 1900D at Alamogordo in 2000.

Trans-Colorado Airlines, operating as Continental Express on behalf of Continental Airlines, provided flights to El Paso using Swearingen Metroliner aircraft from April 1 through early June, 1987. Although the service was very brief, Trans Colorado was the only carrier to have provided a code-share service at Alamogordo with a major airline.
Air Ruidoso operated flights to Albuquerque, El Paso, and Ruidoso, from 1988 through 1989 using Piper Navajo aircraft.
Rio Grande Air provided flights to Albuquerque beginning May 27, 2002 after receiving the EAS contract. The carrier used Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft and service continued until June 23, 2004 when the airline went out of business.

Westward Airways was then issued the EAS authority and began flights to Albuquerque on November 30, 2004 using Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. Service continued until the carrier ceased operating on July 25, 2005.

Valley Airlines was selected to provide EAS subsidized flights to Albuquerque in 2005 using Piper Navajo aircraft however this carrier never began service. Mesa Airlines (above) was then ordered to return servicing Alamogordo.

Pacific Wings/New Mexico Airlines was the final carrier awarded the EAS contract and began flights to Albuquerque, El Paso, and Carlsbad on January 15, 2008. The carrier used Cessna Caravan aircraft until all flights ended on March 31, 2012 when the EAS subsidized service was cancelled due to low passenger volumes. Alamogordo has not seen passenger air service since then.

New Mexico Airlines Cessna 208B Grand Caravan.

New Mexico Airlines Cessna 208B Grand Caravan.

Alamogordo is also served by the following air cargo operators:
Ameriflight began airfreight service to Alamogordo in September, 2014 on behalf of UPS. The carrier operated one daily flight to Albuquerque using a Beechcraft C99 aircraft and service continued until October 7, 2020. There was a short interruption of service in mid-2019.

Ameriflight Beechcraft C99 at Alamogordo in 2020.

Ameriflight Beechcraft C99 at Alamogordo in 2020.

South Aero now provides a daily flight to Albuquerque on behalf of UPS using a Cessna aircraft after Ameriflight ended their service in 2020.

The Alamogordo airport is also designated as a United States Forest Service Fire Tanker base and services firefighting aircraft including large MD-87 jets operated by Erickson Aero Tanker.

Erickson Aero Tanker McDonnell Douglas MD-87 landing at Alamogordo.
Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport terminal building.