“Kind of in the spirit of the Wright brothers, McCook Field is the birthplace of aerospace innovation in Dayton,” said Rebecca L. Westlake, an event organizer and vice director of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson.
Three early Army aviation installations brought the military to Dayton.
While nearby Wilbur Wright Field trained military pilots and mechanics and the Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot supplied parts and equipment, McCook was home to the Army’s airplane engineering department, according to 2003 book “Home Field Advantage,” written by Wright-Patterson historians.
“What stands out to me regarding McCook Field is a good portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s current missions trace our mission back to McCook Field itself,” Col. Bradley McDonald, Wright-Patterson installation commander, said. “As a consequence, with this being the Air Force’s center of innovation, that’s very noteworthy.”
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McCook engineers and researchers designed airplanes, engines, propellers, instruments, bomb racks, bomb sights, aerial spraying, launched wind tunnel and high-altitude flight testing, advanced aerial photography, and spun out aviators’ clothing, documents show. McCook’s workforce also modified and produced British, French and Italian warplanes in World War I, according to Wright Patt historians.
Similar work today happens at the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at the Miami Valley base that has grown into Ohio's largest single-site employer with more than 27,000 employees and a $4.3 billion regional economic impact.
McCook Field was named after Union Army Gen. Alexander M. McCook, who fought in the Civil War and once owned part of the property.
When McCook Field became too small for expanding engineering operations, Dayton residents and city officials donated property that would become the more than 4,500-acre Wright Field to keep the workforce in the area. McCook Field was shuttered in 1927; its buildings were demolished by the next year. Wright and Patterson Fields merged in 1948 to become Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
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Wright-Patt expects up to 3,000 people to show up for the anniversary Thursday.
“… We wanted to bring our employees down to see where aerospace innovation got its start and we wanted to celebrate with the city because it’s through them that we are here,” Westlake said. “If it wasn’t for the city spirit to keep us here, we wouldn’t be here.”