I am not having a good time: It’s a springlike, bluebird day, more like April than February, and 72B is sitting in Piqua, Ohio, for its annual spa treatment; my tooth ached all weekend (why do toothaches always start on Friday nights?) and was cured expertly but painfully with a root canal on Monday; and the Powers of Darkness are trying to close down Blue Ash Airport.
Oh, we’re doing our damnedest to save it, but the emperor of Mongo, Ming the Merciless, and his dysfunctional council of advisors (Cincinnati’s mayor and City Council) want it gone. Mercifully, for the moment, at least, they’ve run into a large roadblock.
For 60-some years the large plot of land that made up Blue Ash Airport (ISZ) was owned by the city of Cincinnati and maintained with federal funding. Then the city split it up a few years ago, selling everything except the runway and a few adjoining acres to the city of Blue Ash, which surrounds the property. Blue Ash wanted the land for a park and recreational development, and Cincinnati wanted the money — big-time. So, currently, the runway is still a Cincinnati airport, but the city has refused any FAA funding, since accepting federal money requires that you maintain the airport for 20 years. Word is the airport will soon be history and Cincinnati will sell the property for ... who knows what?
The roadblock is an FAA regulation and federal law: You can’t sell a federally funded airport and use the money for anything other than aviation purposes. So Ming the Merciless (Mayor Mark Mallory) and his minions realize they’ve screwed up; they want to cancel and then immediately renegotiate the sales contract with Blue Ash.
But as I write, Blue Ash is dragging its feet and won’t commit to spending more money, even at a fire sale price, to keep the airport. Lacking a miracle (who’s the patron saint of airports?), by summer the runway will get a “Mayor Daly-Meigs Field” treatment and be jackhammered into oblivion.
Most important and distressing is that this kind of political maneuvering threatens GA airports all over the country — not just in “my corner of the airman’s world.” And if you’re saying, “But, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association ... ,” forget it. I’m a longtime member, but the unfortunate truth is that, unless the issue is newsworthy and big enough to commit lots of manpower and dollars, AOPA will provide advice, indignation, sympathy and a modicum of publicity but you can kiss your airport goodbye.
Way back around 1921, this “green meadow sod,” just a “clearing by a road,” had become a popular spot for local daredevil aviators with their high-flown dreams. Cincinnati wanted an airport for the lucrative federal funding and the airmail routes and to serve as home to the Army’s 359th Reserve Observation Squadron, but, of course, it had no money to buy land. So Edmund H. Lunken and a few other “civic-minded” (read “rich”) guys bought the site and named it Grisard Field for a World War I Cincinnati aviator killed in France. They planned to deed it to the city as its municipal airport, but the post office wasn’t happy. The excessive distance — six miles — from the main post office downtown was just too far.
So Eshelby Lunken (E.H.’s son and the aviation enthusiast) and Maj. E.L. Hoffman of the Army Observation Squadron combed the area in “dear old Hof’s” Waco and decided to relocate to “the Turkey Bottoms,” an area on the banks of the Ohio River. Despite its lying in a valley between hills, its propensity for morning fog and seasonal flooding, and its lack of room for expansion, it was flat and only four miles from downtown. So the guys divested themselves of Grisard, bought land in the Turkey Bottoms and deeded it to Cincinnati with the proviso that it be forever known as “Lunken Airport.”