Runway Drive, as the name suggests, was a runway at the old Gilpin Airport.
In the late 1930s, Walter Douglas Jr., a longtime pilot and flight instructor at the Davis-Monthan Airfield, purchased farmland northwest of Tucson. The area, near West Prince and North Romero roads, was leveled in 1939 by Fred Grissom, who became Douglas' chief mechanic.
A control tower, which was built on top of the passenger terminal, was built later, surrounded by hangars to the north and south. These structures exist today as part of the R.E. Darling Co., west of Romero Road.
Farming next to the airport continued for a few years. Douglas operated Gilpin Airlines as well as a flight school, which trained members of the University of Arizona's Reserve Officer Training Corps, among others.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gilpin Speedway, an unpaved race track, drew crowds to watch midget-car and jalopy races.
In 1957, the airport was renamed the Central Airpark, and in 1958, under new ownership, it was rechristened Freeway Airport.
Thomas R. Borst purchased the 42-acre airport and several buildings in 1970. The airport went under in 1978. The land now is an industrial park, which includes the 25-acre Sun Tran Northwest Bus Facility.
Runway Drive is about a block east of Interstate 10, north of Prince. It runs parallel to the interstate.
Each week the Star will tell the stories behind Tucson street names. If you have streets to suggest or stories to share, contact writer David Leighton at email@example.com.
Sources: Ruth M. Reinhold, "Sky Pioneering: Arizona in Aviation History," University of Arizona Press, 1982; Bruce Smith, "Freeway airport may become business development," Tucson Citizen, July 4, 1977; Larry Copenhaver, "Most early airports gone, but Marana's still eyeing the skies," Tucson Citizen, December 16, 2003; Bill Norman, "Flying Tucson's Friendly Skies," The Desert Leaf, February 2010. Editor's note