A Piece of Aviation history in the San Simon Valley or When the Airlines Came to Rodeo New Mexico (kinda)

One might suppose that the somewhat isolated and remote boot heel of New Mexico would have an uncomplicated history but that is not the case. Because of its remote location transportation has played an important role in the valley’s history and development. An early map of the region shows a “coyote trail” running up the center of the valley, now replaced by Highway 80. Later came the railroad, the El Paso and Southwestern, connecting the valley to El Paso and Douglas and Bisbee. But little is known about the aviation history of the valley. Modern ranchers rely on aircraft and helicopters for many ranch operations and it is not uncommon to see a helicopter herding cattle somewhere in the valley. There are 3 registered airports in the valley and numerous airstrips on individual ranches. But what of early aviation in the valley? The first airport in the San Simon Valley was established by 1930, appearing in the early airport facilities directory. Named the Pratt Intermediate field the name was changed to the Rodeo Intermediate field in the early 1930’s. The Rodeo Intermediate field was part of the Department of Commerce’s early support system for the growing commercial aviation industry. The field, located on the west side of Antelope pass is still marked with a large red diamond and arrow pointing to El Paso and these aerial direction indicators can be found at other intermediate fields. There are 2 runways still visible, a north/south runway reported to be 3,140’ and an east/west runway 3,950’. On the southeast side of the runway intersection are several building foundations and a tank stand. Across Highway 9 is an old dump with remains of lighting, batteries, and other detritus from the airfield operations.

During World War II the airfield became part of the Army Auxiliary field system and was used by military aircraft. At some point after the war the airfield was abandoned and left for nature to reclaim.

Below is a short slideshow documenting the Rodeo Intermediate field and the southern route of Standard Airlines.

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