The Roswell International Air Center (RIAC) is located five miles south of the central business district of the City and is the core of southeastern New Mexico's industrial activity.
HistoryThe airport was Roswell Army International Airfield during World War II, and Walker Air Force Base during the Cold War. When it closed, the 4,600 acre base was the largest of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command. Roswell International Air Center (RIAC) was developed after the closure of Walker Air Force Base on June 30, 1967.
Walker AFB was named after General Kenneth Newton Walker, a native of Los Cerrillos, New Mexico. He was killed during a bombing mission over Rabaul, Papua New Guinea on January 5, 1943. Though intercepted by enemy fighters, his group scored direct hits on nine Japanese ships. General Walker was last seen leaving the target area with one engine on fire and several fighters on his tail. For his actions, General Walker was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. The base was renamed in his honor on January 13, 1948.
In 1966 the Air Force announced that Walker AFB would close. This was during a round of base closings and consolidations as the Defense Department struggled to pay the expenses of the Vietnam War within the budgetary limits set by Congress.
RIAC is also known for the Roswell UFO incident, an event that allegedly occurred on July 4, 1947. It is alleged that a "flying disk" crashed during a severe thunderstorm near RIAC at Corona, New Mexico.
The site was used for several years to launch stratospheric balloons for Air Force projects.
RIAC also serves as a storage facility for a number of retired Airbus A300-600R wide body jetliners formerly operated by American Airlines.
The airport was used by Felix Baumgartner to launch his record-breaking freefall jump from the stratosphere on October 14, 2012.