Blythe Army Air Field last saw full-scale military training action during World War II. Back then the Army used the field to support the California-Arizona Maneuver Area.
Both the 46th and 34th Bomb Groups also called the airstrip home. The B-17 and B-24 bombers were assigned to the field along with A-31 and A-36 attack aircraft. Nearby Ripley had two landing strips and Gary Field was also located in Blythe. The airspace over Blythe was loaded with military aircraft and most supported the operations of legendary Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and his troops.
With the exception of hit-and-miss operations and some general aviation uses, not much has happened to make Blythe Airport, now owned and operated by Riverside County, the thriving place it was back in the mid 1940’s. Today this airport and the airspace above it are vital to our military once again. While military aircraft and contracted aircraft dot the skies above Blythe Airport on a regular basis, it is paratroopers that are using the field for tactical training — not military bombers and attack aircraft. Working with Riverside County Aviation Department, a division of the Economic Development Agency, Blythe Airport is beginning a new chapter in support of our military and, for that matter, paratroopers from other allied nations as well. The U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and United States Marine Corps have all sent paratroopers or military parachutists to train at Blythe Airport.
According to Simon Powell, President of Military Freefall Solutions, the team responsible for breathing new life into this once-proud and important military air field, Blythe air field provides ideal weather for military freefall and static line jumps year around. Powell should know. He has completed hundreds of military parachute jumps while serving with the Royal Marines. The field can also support heavy drop support services and air cargo operations as well.
Military Freefall Parachutists are highly trained, they are the best of the best. They are jumping out of aircraft above the unincorporated areas around the Blythe Airport as high as 25,000 feet. Before they can even jump out of these planes they must pre-breathe 100 percent oxygen on the ground for 30 minutes or more to prevent central nervous system disorders such as bends or chokes. In addition to a main parachute they carry a reserve chute and other specialized gear. These jumps and the men and women that make them hone valuable skills and training at historic Blyhte Airport are vital to the community.
Along with the the restoration of the historic Army Air Corp hanger and other facilities, Military Freefall Solutions has worked closely with Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, his staff, and the Economic Development Agency to make gradual improvements to the field by Powell’s company.
In fact, the city of Blythe, its hotels, restaurants, and stores are benefiting as well. Troops from the U.S. Armed Forces of every branch and allied forces are staying in the local hotels, eating in dining establishments, and shopping in the local stores. These are important direct and indirect economic impacts for the city of Blythe and Riverside County worth millions of dollars each year. It’s great to see the government and business working together to create jobs and investment in the Palo Verde Valley and Riverside County. So the next time you are driving along the Interstate 10 in the Palo Verde Valley and you see paratroopers landing north of the freeway, it’s all good. Those are paratroopers from friendly forces and the friendly skies.
- Blythe, California map: Shutterstock
- Blythe Airport Sign: Mapquest
- Blythe Airport: Aero Pacific Flightlines