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Hagerstown Regional Airport

Home of the Flying Boxcar

For aficionados of big, boxy aircraft, or the Civil War, or both, Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) should be on your 2024 list of airports to visit. Troops wearing blue and gray marched across this landscape in the nineteenth century, while in the twentieth, Fairchild Aircraft Corporation made it home. Today, it’s a good base for visiting some of America’s most historic battlefields and one unusual aviation museum.
Photography by Dennis K. Johnson.
Photography by Dennis K. Johnson.

Hagerstown Regional Airport in Western Maryland is home to the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, one that is not dedicated to “aviation” per se, but to the history of one aircraft manufacturer, the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation. From 1931 to 1987, Fairchild rolled thousands of airplanes out the factory doors here. For years, it was the town’s largest employer. Hagerstown adopted the moniker, “Home of the Flying Boxcar,” after Fairchild’s C–119 “Flying Boxcar.”

But Fairchild wasn’t the first aircraft builder in town. The Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company was formed there in 1923 and by 1926 had designed its first aircraft, the “Midget.” Fairchild purchased Kreider-Reisner in 1929 and moved to Hagerstown in 1931. During World War II, Fairchild produced military cargo and training aircraft here, including the C–82 “Packet,” the PT–19 “Cornell,” and the AT–21 “Gunner.” After the war, Fairchild continued to build military cargo and transport aircraft while also producing regional passenger airliners, plus the Fairchild Republic A–10 “Thunderbolt,” often known as the “Warthog.”

The museum, the big iron are parked outside. Inside the hangar you’ll find a 1943 Fairchild PT–19A “Cornell” Trainer, a 1946 Fairchild 24R–46 four-seat monoplane, and several more Fairchild models. The oldest aircraft is a 1928 Kreider-Reisner Challenger sport biplane.Aircraft production ended in Hagerstown in 1984 and after numerous mergers and acquisitions, Fairchild was succeeded by M7 Aerospace LP, an aerospace company based in San Antonio, Texas, which was acquired by an Israeli defense contractor.

At the museum, the big iron are parked outside, including a 1953 Fairchild C–119G “Flying Boxcar,” a 1956 Fairchild C–123 “Provider” and a 1948 Fairchild C–82A “Packet.” Inside the hangar, you’ll find a 1943 Fairchild PT–19A “Cornell” Trainer, a 1946 Fairchild 24R–46 four-seat monoplane, and several more Fairchild models. The oldest aircraft is a 1928 Kreider-Reisner Challenger sport biplane. The museum also displays associated engines, such as a Kinner radial, and memorabilia from the factory. Currently, the museum is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They plan to open with extended hours and a grand opening event in the spring.

Photography by Dennis K. Johnson. Photography by Dennis K. Johnson. Photography by Dennis K. Johnson. The Fairchild Aircraft Corporation was located in Hagerstown, Maryland, from 1931 through 1987.

Sightseeing

Hagerstown, Maryland, is located a half-mile south of the Mason-Dixon line (the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania), between the scenic Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains in a part of the Great Appalachian Valley known as Hagerstown Valley. This valley continues north as the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania and south as the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. The valley is one of America’s most picturesque aerial routes.

The city’s location also makes it an ideal starting point for touring Civil War sites, with Antietam National Battlefield—site of the war’s bloodiest battle—16 miles south and Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site 27 miles northeast. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia—site of the infamous John Brown raid—is 27 miles south. At Fort Frederick State Park, visitors can tour the only stone fort built by the British during the French and Indian Wars. It’s located just 16 miles southwest of the airport in Big Pool, Maryland.

The town’s valley location made it a primary staging area during the Civil War. Confederate Gen. James Longstreet occupied the town while en route to Antietam in 1862. The next year, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s forces marched through during the Gettysburg Campaign.

Today’s troopers don’t have to trudge dirt roads and will find Hagerstown at the intersection of two modern interstate highways. I-81 provides easy travel south to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley or north towards Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I-70 heads west into West Virginia and east to Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

Hagerstown is only 27 miles northwest of Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), home to AOPA headquarters.

hagerstownaviationmuseum.org
Dennis K. Johnson is a private pilot and aviation writer.

Dennis K. Johnson

Dennis K. Johnson is an aviation writer and pilot living in New York City.

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