Roswell Air Center
The Skies the Limit for Roswell Air Center with airport projects taking off
For those that may not be aware, Roswell, New Mexico is known among other things for the topic of aliens. In 1947, as legend has it, a weather balloon or flying saucer crashed in the desert out of town. The subsequent creation of a secretive military base, Area 51, added to the conspiracy and for the last 70 years, folks have flocked to the area looking for proof of life among the stars.
“Roswell Air Center allows people from all over the world to come and peek at our alien tourism,” laughs Jenna Lanfor, Property Manager and Contract Coordinator for the Roswell Air Center. It may seem cliche, but it really is a thing for some people. When they get here, we encourage them to explore, because we have such a rich history in the Roswell region and the southwest in general in terms of rocketry and space.”
Describing the beautiful area surrounding Roswell, Lanfor relays that “Roswell is only two hours away from White Sands, a beautiful national park but also home to the White Sands Missile Range, a testing area not far from where the first atomic bomb was detonated. Spaceport America, which houses Virgin Galactic, is within driving distance as is Blue Origin. The Carlsbad Caverns are not too far away and then if we want to go the cowboy route, Lincoln is close, with mountains and skiing….Then there are the arts. We have the Contemporary Art Museum, the Roswell Art Museum, and a flourishing art community. It is just a really unique place, and if you come [to Roswell], you will never be bored. There is always something and you will always leave not having seen it all.”
Roswell Air Center (ROW) traces its history back to the Air Force as well. The airport was known as the Roswell Army Airfield during World War II and Walker Air Force Base during the Cold War. When it closed, the 4,600-acre base was the largest of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command. Walker Air Force Base closed in 1967 in the wake of the outcry over the Vietnam War, and the airport was renamed the Roswell Industrial Air Center.
ROW is also known for the Roswell UFO incident, an event that allegedly occurred on July 4, 1947. It is alleged that a “flying disk” crashed during a severe thunderstorm near the base at Corona, New Mexico. For a few years, stratospheric balloons for Air Force projects were launched at the airport as well. ROW also serves as a storage facility for several retired aircrafts, including Airbus A300-600R wide-body jetliners and MD80 formerly run by American Airlines.
The property has gone through highs and lows since the beginning – but they are currently able to supply services across the aviation sector. It covers 5,029 acres and has two paved runways, 3/21 which is 13,001 ft x 150 ft, and 17/35 at 9,999 ft x 100 ft. The 13,000-foot runway is one of the longest in the United States and a holdover from the military days, but it is a drawing factor in terms of research and experimentation.
“It was the largest United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base prior to the City of Roswell taking it over,” explains Lanfor, “fast forward to what we are today, and we currently house three MRO operations (maintenance, repair, overhaul) as well as three or four other companies that are doing dismantling. North American Aerospace Industries·is a newer
company at ROW who are looking at recycling aircraft. Our model here is, if you will, cradle to grave… We start with research and development, which we have a long history of due to the extremely long flat smooth runway, then we can do maintenance and repair during the lifetime of the planes and then they come here at the end of their lifecycle for storage or recycling.
Some of the larger corporations that are in the field include Dean Baldwin Painting, which specializes in the outside of aircraft, CAVU aerospace, Aersale, and General Airframe Support as well as other research and development, maintenance, and non-related industries. There is no flight school although Lanfor thinks it would be the ideal location with clear skies, non-congested airspace, and a long runway.
Perhaps the military history of the area lends itself to this, but some 60% of the flights at Roswell are military. “We get a lot of touch-and-go traffic,” Lanfor explains, “with the big cargo C130s coming out of Albuquerque and the many flyovers with jet fighters going across the country. We’ve had harriers here that have stopped from Yuma, and Ospreys. The KC 135 squadron flies in a couple of times a year and so we really appreciate the military traffic.
American Airlines operates two to three flights a day to Dallas depending on demand, and they usually do one flight a day to Phoenix.
Roswell Air Center is in the process of creating a strategic plan – it has been recommended by the Advisory Committee, passed by City Council and they are in the process of creating an RFP for a strategic planner. The idea is to start evaluating assets and look at where the airport can be in the next five to ten years. Without waiting, however, they are working on terminal upgrades – fresh paint and new flooring, perhaps as well as a cafe and a bar. Within the next 18 months, they will also begin rehabilitation of runway 17/35.
“Our local Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has been so very, very supportive as well,” Lanfor explains, “they are great at going out and marketing what we have available to bring other companies in. They also do a lot of work with our housing developments and other things to offer support to anyone. We also have a good working relationship with Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. They have an aviation maintenance program and they are able to work with the EDC as well to provide a workforce to the MROs or anybody coming in on the maintenance side of things.”
“When looking to the next couple of years, I think we would like to focus on what we have, on creating a better foundation for companies to look at, so – on making sure that we get all of our upgrades done and then working alongside our current tenants to grow in a way that helps everyone.” Concludes Lanfor, “Roswell Air Center has been extremely busy during the pandemic with our large storage base here, but now we have to ask, how do we diversify, and what should be our main focus into the next stage of development? Whatever it is, our main focus here is to provide the support systems for our current, and new tenants to grow.”
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AT A GLANCE
Roswell Air Center
WHAT: One of the largest commercial and general aviation centers in the southwest United States
WHERE: Roswell, New Mexico
Ascent Aviation Services – www.ascentmro.com
Ascent Aviation Services is one of the largest aircraft MRO operations in the world providing fully integrated aviation maintenance of widebody, narrowbody, and regional aircraft. Ascent is a Class IV 14 CFR Part 145 certified Repair Station operating three maintenance facilities located in southern Arizona and New Mexico. www.ascentmro.com