Bradley Field Enters the Jet Age
September 8, 2022 • Transportation, Windsor Locks
Murphy Terminal, 1952

Murphy Terminal, 1952. The now-closed Murphy Terminal reflected state-of-the-art design when it opened in 1952. A sole United DC-4 occupies the ramp area - Connecticut Historical Society

by Richard Malley for Your Public Media

After acquiring the World War II Bradley air base from the US Government in 1948, the State of Connecticut poured considerable resources into upgrading the facility, with the goal of developing a regional air transportation center. In 1952 a state-of-the-art terminal building, Murphy Terminal, was opened in the spirit of “if you build it, they will come.” Slowly but surely “they” (the airlines and their passengers) did come, validating the State’s vision.

The 1950s saw rapid advances in the size, speed, and luxury of commercial airliners. Cutting-edge piston-engine aircraft such as the gorgeously streamlined Lockheed Constellation and the popular Douglas DC-6 drew passenger traffic away from long-distance passenger trains and steamships. Turbo-prop aircraft like the Lockheed Electra brought the first application of commercial jet power to Bradley Field late in the decade.

The first passenger jetliner at Bradley Field, 1961

The first passenger jetliner at Bradley Field, 1961. A United Airlines Boeing-720 inaugurated Bradley’s passenger jetliner service in early 1961 – Connecticut Historical Society

The introduction of scheduled jetliner service at Bradley dates to 1961 when United Airlines inaugurated service with Boeing-720 aircraft. TWA and American Airlines soon followed suit, signaling the beginning of the end of piston-engine airline service. As jetliners increased in size and weight, the State undertook various improvement projects, including increasing the size and strength of taxiways and terminal ramps and lengthening the main runway. In a few short years Murphy Terminal sprouted its own wings in the shape of concourses with multiple boarding gates.

It is a bit difficult today to understand what a powerful symbol the commercial jetliner was in the early 1960s. The ability to fly farther, faster, higher, and more safely caught the imagination of an increasingly mobile generation.

Richard Malley is Head of Collections at the Connecticut Historical Society.

© Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network and Connecticut Historical Society. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on Your Public Media

Note: does not edit content originally published on another platform and therefore does not update any instances of outdated content or language.

Learn More


Connecticut State Library. “Bradley Field World War II Activities, 1942-1945 - Digital Archive,” 2017. Link.


Palshaw, Thomas C. Bradley Field: The First 25 Years. Windsor Locks, CT: The New England Air Museum, 2011.

Sign Up For Email Updates

Oops! We could not locate your form.