The History of NAS Chase
Field, Beeville, TX
A 1944 aerial view looking east at Chase Field (National Archives photo).
This site was originally the Beeville Municipal Airport. The date of construction of the Beeville Municipal Airport is unknown. The land was leased to the Navy in 1943 for the construction of Chase Field, a training base for Naval Air Cadets. It was used as one of three satellite airfields for Corpus Christi NAS.
The 1943 San Antonio Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy) labeled the field as "Chase (Navy)".
"Chase (Navy)", as depicted on the 1945 San Antonio Sectional Chart (courtesy of John Voss).
Chase Field was closed by the Navy in 1946.
The 1949 San Antonio Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy) depicted as a civil field, "Chase", and described it as having a 4,600' hard-surface runway.
The Chase Field property was used for a few months in 1947 as the temporary campus of the Arts & Technological College (later to become Texas A & M University at Corpus Christi).
The base was reopened in 1953, due to the Korean War & the need for training in jet aircraft. This resulted in a significant expansion of the original facilities.
Louie Diot recalled, “I was sent to Chase Field in September 1957and was assigned to the line at ATU-213, we flew the TV-2. The other ATU assigned there was ATU-203 & they flew the F9F-8T.”
Chase Field was depicted in the 1960 Jeppesen Airway Manual (courtesy of Chris Kennedy) in its enlarged, jet-capable configuration, with a total of three paved runways (8,000' Runways 13L/31R & 13R/31L, and 6,000' Runway 17/35), as well as a number of taxiways, a large ramp, and two hangars.
According to USN Cdr Dave Winiker (ret), “NAAS Chase Field hosted 3 of the Navy's advanced training squadrons (VT-24,25,& 26) in the early 1960s.”
An undated postcard (courtesy of Steve Cruse) of several scenes at Chase Field.
An undated photo (courtesy of Steve Cruse) of the guard shack at the entrance to Chase Field.
Larry Dunbar recalled "a remarkable incident involving a Chase Field aircraft. I believe it was 3-3-66 when a Grumman F-11 Tiger crashed in Sinton. This was an incredibly close call for so many people. The pilot had to eject as the plane had lost it's hydraulics, and he was not far from my hometown of Sinton. Myself, I was a 7th grader. This was before air conditioning in every school, and as it was a beautiful south Texas morning, all the windows in the classroom were open.
All us kids were used to the sound of military aircraft, as Sinton sat surrounded by Chase, Corpus NAS, and Kinsgville NAS.But we knew something was wrong as we heard that jet screaming to the ground. The thing went in vertical, in an alley, between houses, missing the school by a few yards. The fireball from the explosion shot straight up, and only fences & a few trees were lost. No deaths or injuries, but a slightly altered descent would have resulted in what would probably still be Sinton's worst day."
An aerial view by Steve Shanker looking northeast at Chase Field's ramp during the 1967 air show. Steve recalled, “I was stationed down there from August 1967 - April 1970 working on the Ops Line crew as well as being a plane captain on both the UH-34J & UH-2B.”
A photo by Steve Shanker of the Blue Angels' C-121 Constellation taken at Chase Field ramp during the 1967 airshow.
A circa 1960s aerial view looking east at Chase Field (courtesy of Steve Shanker).
Gerald Cochrane recalled, “I was stationed at NAS Chase in the middle of 1969 at TRARON 25 (Training Squadron 25) or VT-25. I worked first as a Plane Captain, then Petty Officer in charge of flight crews, then as ground tower officer (after the birds landed the main tower would hand the incoming bird over to me and I would direct him to parking & take any maintenance info). I would then hand that info over to the flight line Petty Officer and he would assign a plane captain to park that bird. We worked 10-12 hours per day ^ it was so hectic that there were many times that we could not eat nor drink.
Even though the temperatures soared to well over 100 degrees daily. We were a close knit brotherhood & struggled through each day with jet blast hitting us and sometimes knocking us off the bicycles which many of us used to get out messages to the crews of men working out on the flight line.
The combination of the blazing sun & the heat from the jet exhaust & the reflection of the sun from the white birds was nearly unbearable on many days but we considered ourselves serious professionals and we all had a great deal of pride in our abilities.”
Gerald Cochrane continued, “There were two others Squadrons at Chase Field as well, VT-24 & VT-26. When I arrived at Chase, all the birds there were TF-9 Panthers & TF-9 Bakers, 2-seat / 1-seater, these were relics of the Korean Conflict but make no mistake about it, they were fast & devastating on the gunnery range down in Freer TX.
With 20mm nose cannons & rocket pods under their wings they could quickly destroy ground or air targets and could pull an amazing 9 Gs without going through maintenance upon their return. That is a huge amount of Gs back in those days.
The F-9s were made by Grumman and had centrifugal flow engines (these needed to be wound up all the way to suck a man into the intake) which differ from axial flow engines (these could suck a man up off the deck from six feet away at idle).
The T-2s came latter as the war wound down.”
Gerald Cochrane continued, “We met many ace heroes from Viet Nam who came to our station out of mechanical or other reasons. Two of whom shot down two MiG's while flying Spads (A-1 Skyraiders), a really old propeller drive plane from an even earlier war. Their story was amazing.”
Gerald Cochrane continued, “I was there at Chase when Hurricane Celia came ashore and Tropical Storm Fern followed within hours. Tropical Storm Fern was the most devastating to us. My crew & I towed in 60 jet aircraft while the rain fell at such a ferocity that the water was a foot deep on a flat concrete surface & lightning bolts fell like rain.
One lightening bolt struck the tail of a plane we were towing and went through the body of an airman named Whirley from WV. I caught him before he hit the ground. He survived & ended up marrying one of the richest women in that part of TX. Who says getting struck was bad luck?”
By the early 1980s, Chase Field
had a complement of 2,500, along with over 160 aircraft.
A June 1, 1989 DOD photo by Scott Allen of a Navy T-2C Buckeye flashing past a fresnel lens optical landing system as its student pilot makes a practice carrier landing at Chase Field.
Chase Field was identified for closure during the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure process, and shut its gates in 1993.
An undated photo of Chase Field's flight line, taken as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record.
An undated photo of Chase Field's Building 1015, a hangar formerly used by Training Wing 3.
The photo was taken as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record.
An undated photo of the hangar
roof trusses of Chase Field's Building 1015.
Satellite view of NAS Chase Field today
Recent views of the Operations Building & Tower, and Hangar 24.
Recent views of Hangar 26's exterior & interior.
Apparently, the airfield has never been reused for civilian purposes,even though the facilities are extensive & in excellent shape.Most of the non-aviation buildings of the base have been taken over by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which operates a prison on the site. The local government is trying to redevelop the remainder of the base as the Chase Field Industrial Park.
The airfield includes three paved runways (each approximately 9,500 ft long), extensive taxiways, ramps & buildings.It is depicted as an abandoned airfield on current Sectional Charts.
In the words of Navy pilot Mike Strobach, Chase is "a big, beautiful field.We practice low approaches there for training. At least once since I've been stationed here, somebody has landed there due to an emergency. Rumors arise from time to time that the Navy will again use the field as an OLF to alleviate congestion at the other Corpus-area airports. Probably just rumors, but it sure is a waste of a great field."
Scott Beadle reported in 2003, "This summer I flew skydivers at the dropzone in Beeville Texas. During my checkout with the owner, the old Beeville NAS was pointed out as a good alternate landing site.
On the current San Antonio sectional it is listed as an abandoned airfield. There is no description, which is confusing because it is a huge landmark. The hangars & runways remain in good condition as far as I could see."
An article entitled “Beeville wins aircraft firm, 300 jobs” by Fanny Chirinos appeared in the December 31, 2005 Corpus Christi Caller-Times (courtesy of Steve Cruse). “Aviation returns to Beeville after almost a 13-year absence and is expected to bring more than 300 jobs, Bee County officials announced Friday. A lease agreement was signed Friday afternoon between Chicago-based military subcontractor Kay & Associates Inc. and the Beeville Development Authority. Kay will occupy two hangars at Chase Field Industrial Park, formerly Naval Air Station Chase Field.” “This is huge for the area”, said Laura Fischer, president of the authority. “We have been trying to get aviation to Beeville since the base closed. We're expecting initial work to begin in the next couple of months. Kay should be fully operational by mid-summer.”
The article continued, “Kay has a contract with the Department of Defense to repair helicopters and has a one-year lease with four one-year options, Fischer said.
The authority anticipates an average employee salary of $40,000 & an annual payroll of $12 million, she said. Company vice president Brad Kay said the company was having a lease signing but he would not offer further details, saying the company awaits a news release from the Army, one of its clients.
According to its Web site, Kay provides organizational, intermediate and depot-level repair on an extensive range of platforms, which includes Army helicopters.”
The article continued, “The Beeville authority has spent almost $3 million repairing the hangars & runways in the past six months, Fischer said. One hangar is near completion & the second hangar should be completed by summer, she added.”
Beeville Mayor Kenneth Chesshir said the effort has been worth it. “We've had a lot of foul balls and this is the first time we've hit a home run”, Chesshir said. “The number of jobs is huge for this area.”
A January 2007 aerial view by Lex Ramsey looking northwest at Chase Field.
A January 2007 aerial view by Lex Ramsey looking southwest at Chase Field, showing the huge amount of aviation infrastructure which remains intact at this abandoned facility.