By Jim Beal Jr.
The Stinson family came to San Antonio from Alabama in 1913 to teach people to fly airplanes at Fort Sam Houston. Sisters Katherine (the fourth woman in the United States to be licensed to fly), Marjorie (the ninth) and their brother Eddie set aviation records and instructed military and civilian pilots. During the Mexican Revolution, the army banned civilian instructors from Fort Sam Houston. The Stinsons moved their operation south, leasing 500 acres from the city.
The Stinson School of Flying closed at the beginning of World War I, and the city took over the airfield. In 1927, it was briefly renamed Winburn Field in honor of a San Antonio Light City Hall reporter killed in an airplane crash. In 1928, the airport began attracting commercial flights and was the local home of Texas Air Transport (which became American Airlines), Braniff Airlines and Eastern Airlines. In 1936, the facility was renamed Stinson Municipal Airport. That year, the Works Progress Administration built the main terminal building.
Beginning in 1942, the Army Air Corps trained pilots at Stinson. At the end of World War II, commercial airline operations moved to San Antonio Municipal Airport. Stinson, the second oldest general aviation airport in continuous operation in the U.S., remains a busy place as the designated general aviation reliever airport for San Antonio International Airport. It’s also home base for other air operations including light aircraft, law enforcement aircraft, the Civil Air Patrol, Palo Alto College’s aviation department, helicopter tours and the Texas Air Museum. The original terminal building remains the hub of Stinson operations. The airport designation code, SSF, pays tribute to the Stinson School of Flying.