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Fort Worth’s newest park celebrates local aviation achievement

Posted Jan. 15, 2014

Dedication of marker

Richard Zavala (right), Parks & Community Services Department director, and Jim Hodgson, director of the Fort Worth Aviation Museum, shake hands by the First Flight historical marker. Photo by Rick Gibson and provided courtesy of the Fort Worth Aviation Museum

Although the Wright brothers achieved powered flight in 1903, most Fort Worthians in 1911 still hadn't witnessed machines winging through the air.

In front of a crowd of 15,000 on a windy Jan. 12, that all changed.

A little over a century after Fort Worth Star-Telegram founder Amon G. Carter and other local business men brought a traveling flying troupe to wow Cowtown, aviation enthusiasts and community leaders gathered in the city’s new First Flight Park to dedicate a historical marker — the first piece of a new Fort Worth destination.

First flight

High winds threatened to cancel the proceedings Jan. 12, 1911, but a French pilot by the name of Roland G. Garros was undeterred.

Garros was the only pilot in the aviation troupe to brave the windy conditions, taking to the skies and performing a “seven-mile, cross-country jaunt” at 1,500 feet before landing without incident a few minutes later.

Since Garros’ initial first flight, Fort Worth has become one of the world’s foremost aviation centers. Home to Meacham International Airport, Alliance Airport and the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base; partner in one of the busiest airports in the world, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; and headquarters for both American Airlines and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, flight has left a lasting mark on Fort Worth history.

A driving park takes to the air

First Flight Park is located at 2700 Mercedes Ave. on the land that was once the Fort Worth Driving Park, the site of Garros’ demonstration.

The park, situated just north of West Seventh Street near Montgomery Plaza, received a Texas historical marker, which was dedicated along with the park at a Jan. 11, 2014, ceremony.

Highlights from the First Flight Park’s dedication included an aircraft fly-over, as well as comments by Jim Hodgson, Director of the Fort Worth Aviation Museum; Richard Zavala, Director of the Parks & Community Services Department; Zim Zimmerman, Mayor Pro Tem, District 3, City Council; and several others. The ceremony concluded with a balloon launch by members of the crowd.

The park will soon by home to a sculpture of Garros’ Bleriot XL.

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