This week, we flashback to Hobby Airport in Houston before it was Hobby Airport and before Southwest was a twinkle in Herb’s and Rollin’s eyes. I confess that I owe the inspiration for this post to Michael Bludworth who is a volunteer with the 1940 Air Museum at Hobby. (I’m saving that building for a future Flashback because it is a unique gem among aviation architecture.) Michael, who is a regular reader of this feature, shared some photos he took during the mid-60s and some earlier ones from his collection.
Let’s start with a photo before the current terminal opened. Michael pegs the date at 1954 for this photo, and those of you familiar with Hobby will notice that there are only two concourses. As built, the building bears a huge resemblance to the now destroyed Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth. Both airports opened about the same time, and they both featured a semi-circular restaurant between the concourses. Although jetbridges were many years in the future, the concourses are double decked, like those at Amon Carter. Passengers would walk from the terminal on the upper level until they found the stairway leading to the gate hold room on the lower level. As this point in time, the airport was known as Houston International Airport, and it wasn’t until 1967 that it was renamed for William Hobby, former Texas Governor (and father of Bill Hobby, former Texas Lieutenant Governor and a member of Southwest’s Board of Directors).
The photo above was taken about a year later, and it shows an Eastern Constellation parked at the concourse, and you can just make out another unidentified aircraft behind it.
Michael’s picture from 1965 shows the layout of the terminal with three concourses, which remained until the recent remodeling with its one central concourse. I know it’s hard to see with the small blog-size photos, but the top concourse belonged to Braniff, and that is a BAC-111 parking at the gate. On the center concourse, Trans Texas has three aircraft, a DC-3, a Convair 240, and a Convair 600 parked at the close-in positions with two Eastern 727s on the far end of the center concourse. Michael’s caption says the aircraft on the bottom concourse is a Continental 707, but I think it is more probably a Delta DC-8. Be sure to notice all the oil stains on the ramp from all the piston-powered aircraft.
Pan Am put the “international” into Houston International with their daily Boeing 720 flight to Mexico City, which continued to Guatemala, San Jose, Costa Rica, and Panama City. Four days a week the flight also stopped in San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and Managua. Here N781PA waits for the trip south.
Trans Texas Airways (TTA) was headquartered at the airport, and Michael’s photo above captures DC-9 N1301T, which was the prototype for the DC-9 series. After flight testing was done, Douglas refurbished the aircraft and sold it to TTA. Airline geeks will know that TTA morphed into Texas International, whose parent company acquired Continental.
And then the magnificent photo below captures Hobby today. Thanks again to Michael Bludworth for sharing his collection with us. And hopefully, we will be able to share some vintage photos of the airport’s art deco masterpiece original 1940 terminal, which is located across the airfield from the current terminal. The building has been restored to its original glory and now houses the 1940 Air Terminal Museum—a must see for any airline enthusiast.