Acadiana Regional Airport
New Iberia, Iberia Parish, Louisiana
Iberia Parish Airport 1952 USGS aerial photo.
Courtesy Paul Freeman Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Louisiana: Baton Rouge area (airfields-freeman.com)
Naval Auxiliary Air Station New Iberia
As time marched on, the US Navy was looking for a new location to build a jet fighter training airfield for defense needs. In 1954, the US Navy made the official announcement of intent to build a jet fighter training base somewhere in Louisiana, listing a number of cities being considered. Later in October of that year, the Navy announced the intention to purchase 4000 total acres of land, which included the Iberia Parish Airport for the training base.
After the announcement was made, the Iberia Parish Policy Jury passed a resolution in favor of the Navy's decision to publicly show support for the new construction project. As the resolution came, the local politics kicked into gear, as some farmers in the area did not support the building of a larger airport. Eventually, the local, state, and national government officials all worked alongside Admiral A.K. Doyle, the Chief of Naval Air Training, and pushed the legislation through to accept the donation of the Iberia Parish Airport, purchase 4000 acres of land to build the air station, and appropriate the funds for construction. You might recognize the name of Admiral Doyle from the major thoroughfare named Admiral Doyle Drive which bisects the western side of New Iberia and leads directly to the entrance of where the Navy air field would be built.
Next, negotiations were held between the Civil Aeronautics Administration, Congress, and the Dept of Defense, starting in 1956, over joint civilian and military use of the air field. The CAA did not want to approve the base for civilian use, with Naval jet aircraft also using the airport alongside civilian aircraft.
However, in 1957, when the Sputnik satellite was launched, the focus of national defense using jet aircraft lessoned, moving towards ballistic missiles.
With high-performance aircraft no longer being needed, the Navy changed the training role to operate piston operated anti-submarine warfare aircraft at the air field, which prompted the CAA to approve the joint use agreement for the base. In turn, this paved the way for the red tape to be lifted and the final approval hurdle for the air field to move forward with construction. The new need stipulated by the Dept. of Defense stated that the fleet of Soviet submarines were rapidly expanding, which necessitated the submarine detection aircraft's expanding role.
After six years from the original announcement, on March 5th,1960, the Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) New Iberia officially opened. Many high-ranking guests and speakers were present. The keynote speaker was Admiral Arleigh Burke, along with Vice Admiral Goldthwaithe.
The Naval air station was home to training squadron VT-27, which flew the Grumman S-2 Tracker. As the jet aircraft need dissolved prior to the building of the NASS, the piston engine powered S-2 aircraft (and it's variants) were the only aircraft ever used for training at the base.
The training squadron was very active during the almost five years that the air station was open. Almost a thousand pilots were trained at the base during the time it was active, and it had a great safety record. In fact, it was awarded The Aviation Safety Trophy for 1962 by the Naval Air Advanced Training Command. Each month, typically 10,000 flight operations took place at the air station.
Prior to being in New Ibera VT-27 was located in Kingsville, Texas. Once the airfield was closed, the squadron relocated to Corpus Christie, Texas, very near their old home.
While the base was successfully training thousands of new anti-submarine warfare pilots, the local economy boosting air station would soon close on December 31st, 1964.
During the time of the air station's operation, the old Iberia Parish Airport was not utilized for operations. All of the infrastructure built by the US Navy was located to the south of the original airport. However, the taxiway built along with the new 8000 ft runway (Runway 35/17) by the Navy was connected to the central taxiway of the original airport complex.
Naval Auxiliary Air Station New Iberia Aerial Photos
Courtesy US Geological Survey
Post NAAS New Iberia Closure
Once the closure of the base took place, the Iberia Parish Policy jury petitioned the federal government to release the land and airport back to the civilian government. After two years the Iberia Parish Airport Authority was created in 1966 to manage the civilian airport, and 2000 of the original 4000 acres of the NAAS became a civilian airport.
Finally, in June of 1970, after a short career as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station, the airport was renamed Acadiana Regional Airport, to start the next phase of serving the community.
Acadiana Regional Airport
Utilizing all of the old infrastructure from the original airport, and the vacated buildings from the Naval Air Station, the huge airport complex became more than just aviation industry based. Utilizing the unique assets left behind, the airport grounds have been repurposed into everything from a community college to a massive ceramics plant.
However, the original buildings on the first Iberia Parish Airport still stand. The 1940's era hanger is still in place, the main access road is still drivable, and the original runways and taxiways have never been taken up. Most of the concrete areas of the old Iberia Parish airport have had buildings erected on them. But on the west side of the old airport, new hangars have been created and still serve the needs of pilots based in New Iberia.
The large spread of open land area both around the footprint of the NAAS, as well as the relatively abandon Iberia Parish airport, have been successfully marketed by the airport authority over the years. The Iberia Parish airport is now occupied by many different companies that have been able to utilize the old airport's concrete runways and taxiways where now less than a quarter of the concrete area is open.
Every one of the buildings on the NAAS that still stands is currently occupied and in use by a multitude of occupants, other than the original operations building attached to the control tower, and the administration building. Those buildings have been left as-is due to asbestos, with no one looking to pay the cost of remediation.
The occupant of the original US Navy maintenance hanger on the flight line, AVEX International, has expanded the flight line. Specializing in aircraft exteriors, AVEX has build two additional hangars near the apron and original Navy hangar. The flightline now has three large hangars, a smaller hangar that belongs to an FBO, and a row of tee hangars owned by the airport authority.
Acadiana Regional airport, which is located northwest of the city of New Iberia, has been around since the early days of aviation in Louisiana. Originally starting out as a small airport with two four-thousand foot runways and one hangar, the airport complex grew into a US Navy Auxiliary Air Station, which was a small town unto itself.
After closing down only five years after becoming an operational air station, the airport was transferred to the New Iberia Parish Policy Jury. The eight thousand foot long by two hundred foot wide runway, built by the US Navy to expand the original footprint of the airport, received a new lease on life as a civilian airport.
Iberia Parish Airport
In 1942, the Iberia Parish Airport was started, when the parish decided to purchase approximately 926 acres of land in a joint venture with the military. The airport, which was intended to become a military airfield was not finished before the end of WWII, and construction stopped. The federal government, that built the runway and taxiways at its cost, entered into an agreement with Iberia Parish to turn over the airport back to the parish. The agreement stipulated that the parish would take over the airport, which stated that both parties would share the cost of building a hangar and terminal building, and that the airfield would be for joint use. Iberia Parish Airport came to be in existence.