Amid changes, Donaldson Center plays vital role

business historic military


Planes are lined up at Donaldson Center in Greenville by pilots taking part in the South Carolina Aviation Safety Council FAA Wings Weekend March 24, 2007.

Named in honor of Capt. John Owen Donaldson, a Greenville High and Furman University graduate who Greenville native and decorated World War I pilot, the Donaldson Center – now officially known as the South Carolina Technology & Aviation Center (SCTAC) – is the site of a former U.S. Air Force base that was transformed into a thriving industrial center following the base closing in 1963.

The 2,600-acre center surrounds an 8,000-foot runway that remains known as Donaldson Field.

Located six miles south of downtown, the center is home to several manufacturing facilities and about 4,000 workers.

U.S. Government activated facilities in 1942 as Greenville Army Air Base, to be used for training B-25 crews; first troops arrived in August 1942.

The base was deactivated at the end of WWII, but reactivated in 1946 as the home of the 9th Air Force. In 1948, the name was changed to Greenville Air Force Base.

In March of 1951, with the onset of the Korean War, the base was renamed for a third time as Donaldson Air Force Base in honor of Captain John O. Donaldson, the fourth ranking aerial ace of WWI. It was also in March of 1951 that the 18th Air Force (Troop Carrier) was activated, the first such organization in U.S. Air Force history.

Airlift units based at Donaldson played an instrumental role in airlift/mobility operations such as the Berlin Airlift and Operation Deep Freeze, an exercise involving airlifting supplies and personnel to Antarctica.

In December 1962, the Air Force announced plans to close the base permanently, moving the Air Transport Command to Hunter Air Bae in Savannah, Ga. The City and County retook the facilities on January 25, 1964. In 2008, the Donaldson Center was renamed SC Technology and Aviation Center. The name change reflects the park's progressive development plans and continued focus on the future. Today, there are about 4,000 workers employed by more than 80 companies and organizations at the center.

Among the more prominent companies is Lockheed Martin, whose Sustainment Services offers extensive aircraft maintenance and state-of-the-art upgrades for vital military aircraft, including the P-3 Orion, C-130 Hercules, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22A Raptor, and the C-5 Galaxy.

Abe Hardesty