Plattsburgh Air Force Base
USGS aerial photo as of 4 May 1994
|Owner||United States Air Force|
|Location||Town of Plattsburgh, near Plattsburgh, New York|
|Occupants||United States Air Force|
|Elevation AMSL||234 ft / 71 m|
Plattsburgh Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) base covering 3,447 acres (13.7 km²) in the extreme northeast corner of New York, 20 miles (32 km) south of the Canada–United States border, located on the western shore of Lake Champlain opposite Burlington, Vermont, in the city of Plattsburgh, New York.
The base closed on 25 September 1995, pursuant to the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990 (10 U.S.C. Sec. 2687 note) and the recommendations of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission. It is now a civilian airport and industrial complex, operated by the Plattsburgh Air Base Development Authority. The airfield is now known as Plattsburgh International Airport.
The former air base is bordered by the city of Plattsburgh and the Saranac River to the north and the Salmon River to the south. It lies on the western shore of Lake Champlain on the New York-Vermont border.
Military Presence Before the Base
Plattsburgh was the third oldest military post in the United States. The U.S. has maintained a military presence at the site of the now closed base since 30 December 1814.
- On 30 December 1814, the Federal Government purchased 200 acres for the construction of the "Plattsburgh Barracks".
- In 1838, additional parcels of land were acquired and stone barracks were built to house the personnel.
- During the Civil War, Union troops organized and departed from the base.
- During the Spanish–American War, the 21st Infantry was transferred from Plattsburgh Barracks to Cuba in June 1898. The troops returned to Plattsburgh in September 1898.
- During the Interwar period, Plattsburgh Barracks was the home of the 26th Infantry Regiment of the "Iron first " division.
- In 1944, it was turned over to the Navy and became "Camp MacDonough", an indoctrination school for officers.
- After the war, from March 1946 to 1953, the base was used for college student housing for area colleges and extensions schools.
Plattsburgh Air Force Base (PAFB)
In 1953, the site returned to the Federal government and Plattsburgh Barracks were renamed Plattsburgh Air Force Base. The Air Force held a ground breaking ceremony for the new strategic base on 29 January 1954, and construction began immediately. The runway was completed and the first aircraft landed on 7 November 1955. However, operational facilities were not completed until 1956 due to several work stoppages and severe winter weather.
Built during the Cold War, Plattsburgh AFB's runway is large enough to land the space shuttle. It was on a list of alternate landing sites for the space shuttle. Space shuttle Columbia astronaut Michael P. Anderson, born at Plattsburgh AFB, was an Air Force pilot at Plattsburgh AFB when he got selected by NASA in 1994.
Major commands to which the base was assigned:
Major units assigned
- 308th Bombardment Wing (Wing existed on paper, but was non-operational)
- 380th Bomb Wing
- 26th Air Refueling Squadron (7 August 1957 – 31 July 1959)
- 310th Air Refueling Squadron (25 January 1967 – 30 September 1995)
- 380th Air Refueling Squadron (16 August 1956 – April 1961; 15 September 1964 – 30 September 1995)
- 528th Bombardment Squadron (11 July 1955 – 30 September 1995)
- 529th Bombardment Squadron (11 July 1955 – 25 June 1966 and 6 January 1971 – 30 September 1995)
- 530th Bombardment Squadron (11 July 1955 – 25 June 1966)
- 531st Bombardment Squadron (1 May 1959 – 1 January 1962)
- 556th Strategic Missile Squadron: 15 September 1964 – 25 June 1965)
- 497th Air Refueling Wing (1 January 1963 – 15 September 1964)
- 820th Strategic Aerospace Division
During the period 1961 and 1963, 12 "Atlas F" missile sites were constructed within a 50-mile radius of the base, thus giving the 380th the capability to launch 12 missiles. All sites were in New York state, except for two located on the other side of Lake Champlain in Vermont. The 556th Strategic Missile Squadron, formerly assigned to Dow AFB, Maine, was transferred to Plattsburgh AFB on 1 October 1961, and became completely operational on 20 December 1962. It was inactivated on 25 June 1965.
BRACC 1991 and closure
During the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRACC) deliberations, PAFB wound up being pitted against Loring AFB in Limestone, Maine. The people of Maine put up a brief fight but, at the end, PAFB was spared.
Two years later, when BRACC reconvened for another round of closures, PAFB, along with McGuire AFB in New Jersey and Griffiss AFB in Rome, New York, were considered for closing. The local sentiment was that, again, PAFB will be spared mainly because the United States Air Force had plans to transform the base to a major Strategic Air Command base for the Northeast, expanding to add more aircraft and personnel.
It was a hard battle. Rallies were held and a local leadership group, dubbed Team Plattsburgh, was put together to save the base. Testimonies were held, before several BRACC members, to keep PAFB open and give it the intended expansion. At the end, McGuire AFB won over PAFB.
Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation (PARC), led by the nationally known planner, David Holmes, was created to manage the 5,000-acre (20 km2) property. Mr. Holmes had overseen the redevelopment plan which included a mixed-use solution to overcome the economic shortfall that occurred when the military moved out. Uses included Aviation, Biotechnology, Industrial and Recreation. Ultimately, PARC split up the base into 165 parcels for redevelopment.
While community leaders feared in 1995, at the time of the actual closure, that the North Country's economy would collapse, this did not turn out to be the case; the base actually only accounted for $42 million in economic impact (about 8 percent of the local economy) because it was so isolated. It was anticipated that it would take 20 years to replace the impact. But in 1996, Dave Werlin of Great Northeast productions and PARC's Director of Planning, Nate Sears, devised a way to make up $30 million in 3 days.
On 16 and 17 August 1996, PARC hosted a massive music concert on the runway of the old decommissioned airbase by the band Phish. The concert, known as The Clifford Ball, was attended by 70,000 people  and added $30 million to the local economy. The concert was the largest Rock Concert in North America in 1996 and drew attention from The New York Times, MTV and numerous news media world-wide. The concert was possible due to a coalition of entities, including the New York State Police, County Sherriff, City of Plattsburgh, CVPH Medical Center, the Clinton County Health Department and numerous other private & public organizations. Although PHISH wanted to return, PARC's Board of Directors decline in a 6-1 vote and subsequent PHISH concerts were held at the former Loring AFB in Limestone, ME, where they generated $25 million and $40 million for the local community, respectively in 1997 & 1998.
As of 2016, PARC tenants on former airbase properties include:
- Wood Group
- Pratt & Whitney Industrial Turbine Services
- UPS Air Freight
- FEDEX Air Freight
- Gradient etc.
The site also hosts a number of specialty services on site including acres of parks, trails and playing fields as well as an 18-hole golf course, a day care center and a gym.
On the original Military Reservation, on the shores of Lake Champlain, is the Old Base Museum Campus. There are 5 museums within 200 feet of each other - the Clinton County Historical Museum, the Air Force Base Museum, the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum, the Kids' Station Children's Museum and the War of 1812 Museum, all housed in former military buildings. Included on the Museum Campus are edifices built in the 1890s including Officers' Row, the old Headquarter's Building and the old firestation. The historic district around the Oval parade ground saw General Leonard Wood's founding of the Plattsburg Idea, a training program started to prepare officers for duty in WWI. There is also a Memorial Chapel, the Clyde A. Lewis Air Park, and the Old Post Cemetery, in which a Spanish American War Medal of Honor recipient is buried. Two of the original structures built just after the War of 1812 are still on Campus - the Old Stone Barracks and the original powder magazine.
The U.S. Air Force lists Plattsburgh among its BRAC "success stories."
The base's reuse and the circumstances surrounding it were chronicled in Flying High Again: PARC's Redevelopment of Plattsburgh Air Force Base, written by Marian Calabro and published by CorporateHistory.net in 2008.
Historically, site contaminants originally included volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethene (TCE), dichloroethene (DCE), and vinyl chloride, fuel-related compounds (mainly benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene), pesticides, various metals including chromium and cadmium, and lead and munitions waste from an old small arms range and an explosive ordnance demolition range. As stated in others sections of this site profile, most of the formerly contaminated areas have been cleaned up. In addition to groundwater contamination, other potential exposures included direct contact with and ingestion of contaminants found in soil. The only known remaining soil contamination at the former base is at the landfills, which have been capped and are fenced off.
Additional potential risk to human health exists due to soil vapor intrusion (SVI) into buildings by VOCs. However, this contaminant pathway has been extensively studied across the entire base, mainly in association with the FT-002 / Industrial Area Groundwater OU. Soil vapor extraction (SVE) systems were installed at 3 buildings in the industrial area of the base where concentrations of VOCs warranted mitigation and/or remediation. In addition, a large portion of the base is covered by a LUC/IC for SVI that requires either mitigation of risk or sampling and evaluation of risk prior to the construction of new buildings or modifications to or change in use of existing buildings. Any sampling and risk evaluations conducted would be reviewed by the Air Force and regulatory agencies, and continued monitoring or mitigation, as necessary, would be required. Affected property owners must also certify compliance annually with the Air Force, which also conducts annual LUC/IC inspections.
- "Public Health Assessment, Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Plattsburgh, Clinton County, New York". Plattsburgh, New York: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 5 October 2000. Archived from the original on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- "SAC Bases: Plattsburgh AFB". Marvin T. Broyhill. 2016. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Schumer Urges Airbus To Pick New York Facilities To Build New Aircrafts (sic)". Senator Chuck Schumer's Publicity Office. 25 March 2005. Archived from the original on 30 November 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- "ATLAS F Missiles Bases 556th SMS". atlas bases. 2016. Archived from the original on 2 April 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Decision to close PAFB blindsided community". Plattsburgh Press-Republican (NY). 26 September 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Welcome to PARC". Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Authority. 2010. Archived from the original on 17 February 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- "Small Adirondack Town Is Host of a Giant Concert". The New York Times. 18 August 1996. Retrieved 26 November 2007.,
- Weiss, Lois (4 September 1996). "Concert shows potential for military bases – Plattsburgh Airbase, New York". Real Estate Weekly. Retrieved 26 November 2007.
- "Plattsburgh International Airport". Plattsburgh International Airport. 2016. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Air Force BRAC Success Stories". Air Force Real Property Agency. 8 May 2002. Archived from the original on 17 January 2004. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- Calabro, Marian (2008). Flying High Again: PARC's Redevelopment of Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.: CoroporateHistory.net. p. 160. ISBN 0976833123.
- Heath, Dan (16 May 2008). "PARC success revealed in new book". Press-Republican. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/dsp_ssppSiteData2.cfm?id=0202439#Risk Archived 2 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine
- Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961, 521p (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
- Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-912799-53-6, ISBN 0-16-002261-4
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Plattsburgh Air Force Base.|
- SAC Bases: Plattsburgh AFB Marvin T. Broyhill, strategic-air-command.com., undated.
- Plattsburgh Barracks James P. Millard, historiclakes.org, undated
- 556th Missile Sites
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-326, "Plattsburgh Air Force Base, U.S. Route 9, Plattsburgh, Clinton County, NY", 117 photos, 38 data pages, 23 photo caption pages, and 114 other records for subsidiary structures