Maxwell Air Force Base plans celebration to mark 100th year

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Maxwell Air Force Base will celebrate its centennial this weekend and 100 years of partnership with the City of Montgomery and the River Region.

"It's an inseparable bond that we have with the community," said Col. Eric Shafa. "Everything we've done all the way back to when the Wright Brothers were here. The reason why they actually came here, a big part of that, is because the community helped to get them here by offering them some incentives, offer them an area where they could actually build the first flying school here."

According to Air University historian Dr. Silvano Wueschner, Wilbur Wright, older of the two famous Wright Brothers, visited Montgomery in 1910 in search of a suitable area to experiment with a flying machine and establish a flying school.

Wright found the rolling clay farmlands and weather conditions favorable for year-round flying. The Commercial Club of Montgomery, the predecessor organization to the Chamber of Commerce, helped him find a suitable site for an airfield on an airfield site donated by a member of the Commercial Club.

The flying school operated from March 24 of that year until it was disbanded on May 25.

When the United States declared war on the Central Powers in 1917, Army Boards searched the country for suitable sites for military airdromes. On April 4, 1918, the federal government acquired that 302-acre site for approximately $35,000.

About two-thirds of the land was reserved for the flying field proper and the remainder was used for building construction.

This weekend, a number of events are planned to mark the anniversary. Friday, the Montgomery Biscuits will pay tribute to the centennial with a military-themed ball game against the Biloxi Shuckers. It starts at 6:35 p.m.

Saturday, Centennial Bash is planned from 2 to 5 p.m. in downtown Montgomery at Riverfront Park. It's free and open to the public. There will be live music, food, a car show and other family-friendly events.

As much as the weekend is about looking back on the history of Maxwell, it's also about looking toward future accomplishments.

"The future is unlimited right now," Col. Shafa said. "Air University is doing some tremendous work over here as far as leadership development. Everything we do here as far as officer development and the enlisted development is a key element to everything that's going to happen in the future here. We have some great ties with the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field, and the F-35 is coming there. We have some great bonds and ties with the 908th Squadron, our Reserve Wing, and we are doing some great things together."

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