Hawthorne School of Aeronautics, Orangeburg, SC
33.42 North / 80.85 West (South of Columbia, SC)
The Hawthorne School of Aeronautics airfield,
as depicted on a 1943 Regional Aeronautical Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
The Hawthorne School of Aeronautics was a civilian flying
school which was chosen by the Army Air Corps in 1940
to provide primary flight training for its pilots. This training commenced in 1941, using the Boeing PT-17 Stearman biplane. The president of Hawthorne was Beverly "Bevo" Howard, who had learned to fly at the age of 16. The date of construction of Hawthorne's airfield is unknown and no indication has been found that it existed prior to WW II. It evidently was built by the Hawthorne School of Aeronautics at the beginning of their contract. The military designation of the Hawthorne school was the 2162nd AAFBU.
A series of photos showing the Hawthorne School of Aeronautics at Orangeburg, circa 1945.
The primary trainer used at Orangeburg by the Hawthorne School of Aeronautics, the Boeing PT-17 Stearman.
From the above 1940s picture, the configuration of the
facility consisted of a group of housing buildings surrounding an
oval-shaped grass area at the northern end of the property. A pair of hangars sat just to the south, and just to the south of
the hangars was a large paved ramp area. A large open grass area to the south of the ramp evidently constituted the flying
field (apparently there were no paved runways).
During the Second World War, Hawthorne trained 5,924 military pilots at Orangeburg, including more than 2,000 French Air Force students. For his leadership, Bevo Howard was presented the French Air Force Wings, the coveted French Medaille de L'Aeronautique, and later the Ordre National de la Legion D'Honneur for his pilot training & accomplishments as an aerobatic flyer.
The Hawthorne School of Aeronautics ceased operations at Orangeburg at the end of WW2, but went on to continue operations at Jacksonville FL & Moultrie GA. The firm eventually became the large Piedmont-Hawthorne chain of aviation Fixed Base Operators, which continues in business as of 2003.
It is not known if the former Hawthorne airfield at Orangeburg was ever reused after WW2. It was definitely abandoned by 1949, as it was not depicted at all on the 1949 Savannah Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy).
The two hangars from the flying school were relocated at some point to the Orangeburg Municipal Airport (3 miles north) and are still in use today. There is also an excellent historical display of the activities of the Hawthorne school there.
In the above 1994 USGS aerial photo, the area of the former flying field is now occupied by what appears to be some kind of large industrial building, along with wastewater ponds & a railroad spur leading on the to the property from the line of the Southern Railroad which runs along the east side of the site.
The remains of the asphalt aircraft ramp area at what is now know as "The Methodist Oaks" in Orangeburg.
Photo by George Miller 2002.
A historical marker, erected in 1991 by the WW2 Hawthorne Pilot Training Association & French pilot association.
Photo by George Miller 2002.
The site of the housing area at the northern end of the former airfield is currently used as a Methodist Home. The only recognizable remains of an airfield are some minor hardstands. The airfield site is located at the western terminus of State Route S38 57, west of Route 21, five miles south of Orangeburg.