A drive down Amon Carter Blvd on the eastern tip of Fort Worth, Texas, feels like a drive down any other part of the DFW Metroplex. Going from north to south, the road cuts through an industrial park with major companies like Amazon , NBC, Cintas, and Bank of America. But go back in 50 years in time and you would have been driving down Runway 17, a 9000 foot runway that stretched over US Highway 183 (Airport Freeway) and into what is now DFW airport. Runway 17 was one of 3 runways belonging to Fort Worth’s failed Greater Southwest International Airport. GSW was only active for almost 21 years and was closed approximately 3 months after DFW airport was opened. Why did GSW fail? To find out we have to go back even further in time to the 1920’s with images from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection.
Regional Airport Idea
The idea to build a regional airport to serve both Dallas and Fort Worth began in the early 1920’s. Almost 2 decades after the first controlled flight by Orville Wright in 1903. Following the end of World War One in 1918, the Roaring Twenties began. From 1920 to to 1930 both Dallas and Fort Worth saw dramatic population increases. Dallas went from having a population of 158,976 in 1920 to 260,475 in 1930. Fort Worth experienced the same kind of growth going from 106,482 to 163,447 in the same period.
In the early 1920’s Fort Worth began plans to create a regional airport on the eastern end of Tarrant County to serve both Fort Worth and Dallas. However, Dallas had very little interest and in 1928 it purchased Love Field which had been a military airfield during World War 1.
Construction on site begins in the 1930s
In the 1930’s Dallas finally agreed to split the cost and the tax revenue, partly due to the Great Depression which began in 1929 and lasted until the beginning of World War 2. Construction began in the mid 30’s with plans to get funding from the newly established Works Progress Administration by the Roosevelt Administration. However Dallas pulled out of the project when the terminal was planned to be closer to Fort Worth.
Arlington Municipal Airport (Midway Airport)
When Dallas withdrew from the project, Fort Worth resumed construction of the airport. During World War II construction continued on the site and the airport was identified as Arlington Municipal Airport (Midway Airport).
Amon Carter Field
After the war Fort Worth annexed the site and the airport was renamed Amon Carter Field in 1950 and construction continued. By late 1952 the terminal was complete and on the 25th of April 1953 the airport was officially opened.
Greater Southwest International Airport (airport code “GSW”)
DFW Tunnel On Texas State Highway 183
In the late 1960s, runway 17 was extended to the north over Texas State Highway 183. The Highway was was rerouted and a 800 foot tunnel was constructed at a cost of approximately $3 million. About $25 million today. The tunnel was demolished in the late 1980s due to traffic congestion.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
In the 60s, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forced Dallas and Fort Worth to come up with a plan for regional airport after announcing that it would no longer fund both GSW and Love Field. The land just north of GSW was selected in 1965. In 1969 construction began and in 1974 DFW opened as Dallas Fort Worth Regional Airport.
The Decline and Closure of GSW
In 1969 commercial flights ceased with American Airlines being the last carrier to fly from GSW. The airport never reached full capacity. It stayed open for almost 5 years after as a training facility for American, Braniff and Delta but was closed in 1974. GSW was purchased by a developer in 1979.
Today all that remains of GSW is a section of Runway 17 to the north of Texas State Highway 183. The rest of the area now almost fully developed with new commercial and residential buildings like Hanger 19.
Images from Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries