The Madison County Airport celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday with an open house outside of London. Visitors were able to tour the grounds, learn about a variety of planes on display and families with children were able to take free plane rides courtesy of the Young Eagles.
Some of the guests included Rodger Baker, one of the original engineers who designed the airport and became the first solo pilot to fly out of the grounds, Senator Bob Hackett (OH-10) and County Commissioner David Hunter, who presented a plaque to airport board secretary, Betty Wright, for the airport’s 50 years of service to the county.
“This is going to be the heart of the growth of Madison County,” Hunter said. “I’m really hoping that this just continues to grow and get bigger and bigger and it’s going to help Madison County.”
John Duhl, the airport manager, said that although there wasn’t a way to count the amount of people coming in and out, he was happy to see the turnout.
“It was great to see all the people come out to celebrate with us and learn about this part of the county,” Duhl said. Duhl, as well as members of the Madison County Airport board put the event together as a way to commemorate the dedication of the grounds on Oct. 1, 1967. The project was part of Governor James Rhodes’ “Legacy Airports,” a vision Rhodes had to build an airport in all 88 counties.
One of the most popular features of the event was the free plane rides for children ages 8 to 17, put on by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). The organization, based out of Wisconsin, has several chapters around the country, dedicated to building a community of aviation enthusiasts.
Andrew Hale, EAA Chapter 9 president in Columbus, said the free plane rides are a way to educate and cultivate an interest in aviation in young people. “We’ve been with kids that started with (the Young Eagles) and are now pursuing a degree in aviation,” Hale said. “Being able to ride gets them interested in flying.”
EAA Chapter 9 had between eight and 10 planes throughout the day, taking kids on 20 minute rides around the area. Their pilots range from people new to the program to pilots who have taken more than 1,000 kids into the air.
“Madison County is a great little airport,” Hale said. “When you take a ride, it’s assumed you’re coming to Madison County.” Hale as well as other pilots praised the layout of the grounds as well as the airport’s cheap fuel. The spot has become a stop for nearly all local pilots.
The EAA does several Young Eagles events throughout the year, the next one is scheduled for Oct. 7 at the airport in Urbana.
Back on the ground, visitors could also walk or ride the shuttle to the west ramp where there were nine planes on display. Among them, a 1940s Beech 18 cargo plane from the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana which allowed visitors a glimpse at the type of aircraft that used to fly freight through Madison County.
A light sport aircraft, an agriculture applicator plane and personal helicopter were also on display.
Rudy’s BBQ and Twist Ice Cream were both on-site providing refreshments.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.