In 1940, Sebring Officials and citizens contacted their Florida congressional delegation to see about getting an Army base in the area. A committee of four representatives of the City of Sebring traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for locating a military activity in the vicinity of Sebring. The motivation was both patriotic and financial. The city wished to offer its facilities for the war effort while obtaining a war-related activity to boost the area economy. Sebring offered a central location in the state with availability of railroad, power, water and housing backed by a record of cooperation by city officials and citizens.
In the summer of 1940, and in early 1941, a group of Army Air Corps officers surveyed the area. On June 12, 1941, Congressman J. Hardin Peterson advised that an area of 9,200 acres (3,700 ha) of woodland had been approved for a basic flying school. The City of Sebring purchased the land and leased it to the government at $1 per year for 99 years. With the end of the war in 1945, the training program began to wind down during September and October, and by mid-November the order came to inactivate the base by December 31, 1945. Photo shows training planes!
On February 21, 1946, the city received a permit to operate a civilian airfield on the site and on May 1, 1946, the abandoned airfield was turned over to the City of Sebring to become Sebring Air Terminal, now Sebring Regional Airport & Commerce Park.
In May 1946, the city began airfield operations under a Right of Entry Permit and the field’s first two occupants, Eighth Air Depot and Veterans’ Airlines, opened for business. Both companies provided aircraft repair and maintenance. Under the permit, the airfield, three hangars and all buildings immediately adjacent to the landing area were turned over to the City of Sebring.
In January 1947, unable to secure absolute title to the field, the City of Sebring agreed to take over management of the airport. The airport’s name was changed to Sebring Air Terminal to avoid confusion with the wartime activities and to give it an advantage in attracting industry to the field. Under the terms of the transfer from the U.S. Government, the airport buildings could not be used for any purpose other than one relating to aviation. They included six connected with the field’s water supply, nine buildings associated with sewerage, nine administrative buildings involved in care of the field, one building housing electrical equipment, one building with telegraphic equipment and eight buildings housing equipment for the repair of aircraft. The Army Air Force reserved the right of use of 25 percent of the capacity of the field during peace time. Some 221 other buildings on the base site were not included and remained the property of the government. Soon after assuming management of the field, the city sold most of the airport land so that, essentially, the present airport property line was formed. In June 1947, the City of Sebring purchased the railroad system at Hendricks Field for $4,000. Photo shows original switchboard.
In December 1950, the first sports car endurance race was held. A portion of the old runway system is now Sebring International Raceway, home to the 12 Hours of Sebring which has been held every March since 1952. The race uses the East-West ramp and the closed Runway 9/27, along with some streets of the former air base-turned commerce park. The airport is also home to a business park and is a Department of Commerce-certified Foreign Trade Zone—FTZ No. 215
In November 1958, the City Council passed an ordinance establishing an Airport Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the City of Sebring relative to the operation, management and control of the Sebring Air Terminal..
In 1967, the city turned over the deed of the airport to the Sebring Airport Authority, which had just been formed by the State Legislature.
Only the main hangar, restored in 2000, is now in use. New water and sewage systems were completed, and the military’s former high water tower, a very noticeable landmark, was brought down in December 1997. The original military control tower was brought down in December 1999 and has been restored and re-erected as a historical icon, although the airport continues to operate as an uncontrolled airfield.
Currently a restaurant, the Runway Café, operates on the premises. Every Wednesday morning, there’s a fly-in of small planes
coming for breakfast. The restaurant opens at 8:00am. If you arrive by 7:30am, you can watch the fly-ins, which start about 7:45. and enjoy breakfast, too. The pilots only stay for about an hour so be early. Restaurant hours are M-F from 8:00am-2:30pm; Sat-Sun from 7:00am-2:30pm.
“List of Foreign Trade Zones by State”. Import Administration, US Department of Commerce. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
Rogers, Bill (January 6, 2008). “Aviation Expo Bringing Business To Sebring Airport”. Highlands Today. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
“11th Sebring Expo overcomes weather, tragedy”. Sport Aviation: 14. March 2015.
“N25656 Accident description”. Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved August 1, 2010.