Solo, a donkey, was chosen for the Gibbs Field mascot.

Solo, a donkey, was chosen for the Gibbs Field mascot.

Whenever a cadet completed his first solo flight, he had to kiss the real Solo mascot kept at the air base.

Whenever a cadet completed his first solo flight, he had to kiss the real Solo mascot kept at the air base.

Gibbs FielD, Pecos County’s Training Base FOR WW II FightER Pilots

Gibbs Field, and another landing strip (Winfield) just off of I-10 where the old, abandoned hangar remains today.

  • Gibbs Field was named for Maj. David R. Gibbs, who was killed in the Philippines. Gibbs Field is now the Fort Stockton Airport.

  • Winfield Hangar was built in 1936 by the WPA. It is an adobe structure with a tin roof that is still standing

  • Pecos County was chosen because of the number of flying days (clear weather) per year and the unlimited visibility.

  • The training bases had civilian instructors under the Pacific Air School but military administrators.

North American Aviation T-6 Texan

North American Aviation T-6 Texan

Fairchild PT-19

Fairchild PT-19

The airplanes

North American Aviation T-6 Texan

The best indication of how good a trainer the Texan was/is can be seen by the fact that here we are 4- years into the jet age and there are still countries around the world using the North American T-6 as first-line trainers. As recently as five years ago, major air forces still used it and it is the updating of those air forces which has pumped so many surplus T-6s into the American civilian market.

Compared to the earlier biplane trainers, the Fairchild PT-19 provided a more advanced type of aircraft. Speeds were higher and wing loading more closely approximated that of combat aircraft, with flight characteristics demanding more precision and care. Its virtues were that it was inexpensive, simple to maintain and, most of all, virtually viceless. The PT-19 truly lived up to its nickname, the “Cradle of Heroes”. It was one of a handful of primary trainer designs that were the first stop on a cadet's way to becoming a combat pilot. These planes were delivered to various bases all over the country by WASPs (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) between 1942-1944.

Lost Cadets.jpg

The wide-open spaces and nearly limitless visibility meant that there was not a lot to “run into” out here, but nevertheless there were two deaths recorded while Gibbs Field was open. A student and instructor (Fasanella and Ferguson, shown above) perished upon attempting a landing. They were immortalized in the Solo yearbook given to all graduating cadets. The open country beckoned pilots to fly over the nearby Sierra Madera to the south, including this pair of P-38 Lightnings. Hundreds of fighter pilots received their wings in Pecos County, then were sent to Europe, or the Pacific, for combat.

A pair of P-38 Lightnings flying over the Sierra Madera just south of Fort Stockton.

A pair of P-38 Lightnings flying over the Sierra Madera just south of Fort Stockton.