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The Roaring 20’s; an era of dashing men in leather flying caps climbing into open cockpit biplanes and racing down grassy runways into the thin air. Perhaps even taking you away on the adventure of a lifetime. And Bridgeport, Connecticut was right smack in the middle of it...

When we think of the Golden Age, it's generally considered to be book-ended by the end of World War I (1919) and the beginning of World War II (1939). It was a time when civil aviation, supercharged by many daring and dramatic record-breaking feats, became popularized. This craze, fueled by lucrative prize-money created the perfect storm for aviation to thrive. Many people associate this period with “barnstorming”. Stunt pilots would tour the country selling airplane rides and performing tricks individually or in groups.

On July 5th, 1929 the Bridgeport Airport was dedicated and officially opened for business. That same year, directly across the street from the airport, a Russian immigrant came to the airfield and found the area suitable to open up a new major manufacturing business building seaplanes. That man was Igor I. Sikorsky. The Curtiss Flying School was also started by Glenn Curtiss to compete against the Wright Flying School (of the Wright brothers fame).

One hangar utilized a straight roller sliding door system and the other, much larger used a track system that allowed the doors to stack inside against the sides. The bigger hangar was wrapped with glass creating almost a “Cathedral of Aviation” In the mid 30’s the hangar was leased to the Bridgeport Flight Service. In 1938 all hell broke loose when a category 5 Hurricane slammed New England.


New England Hurricane of 1938 – Bridgeport got really wet…

Between 1928 and 1929, four buildings were constructed at the airfield. Two arched hangars, a converted farm house turned caretakers home, and a small terminal building. This Terminal building was the first commercial air service location in the state.

The New England Hurricane of 1938  was the first major hurricane to strike New England since 1869. It made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Long Island on September 21. The hurricane was deadly and it is estimated to have killed between 700- 800 people, damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at US$306 million ($4.7 billion in 2012). As late as the early 50’s , damaged trees and buildings were still seen in the affected areas.

Bridgeport Municipal Airport saw extensive water damage from the storm. The Curtiss hangar lost its west wall. It was later replaced with a cinder block lean to hangar area, big enough to house a Cub and an office with storage. In the late 30’s flying was coming into it’s own and the Hangar was featured in a newspaper column “Inside the Hanger” in the Stratford Messenger.

Many of the guys haunting the Hangar became famous (at least locally). During World War II the general aviation business was more or less shuttered. Pilots were working for the War effort and numerous J3 Cubs were stacked tail up, nose down in the hangar.

Charles Lindbergh became involved as a consultant with Chance Vought during the war, and helped optimize the fuel efficiency for the F4U Corsairs, having to fly great distances in the South Pacific.

In 1972 the blue metal building was added on. December 31st 1998, Bridgeport Flight Service was locked out of their fuel farm by the airport over issues with rent & maintenance. From that point forward the old hangar quickly became an eyesore with some calling for its demolition.

During World War II the airfield was littered with Chance Vought F4U Corsairs being built across the street at the Vought-Sikorsky Plant. Over 7,000 Corsairs were built at the factory, among many other aircraft.

Working with the Town of Stratford and City of Bridgeport in 2015, the museum was able to secure a 98-year lease for the dilapidated Curtiss aircraft hangar. It is the goal of the Connecticut Air & Space Center to restore the hangar back to its original splendor and display it's growing fleet of restored aircraft and displays! To become a significant regional cultural educational location like no other in Southern Connecticut! Help us save our history!

We would like to thank Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford, Connecticut for their continued support of this project and efforts to raise funds through events to help us realize this dream.

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