On Saturday, Sept. 30, the Madison County Airport will host an open house to celebrate 50 years of operations in the community. Visitors are welcome to tour the grounds and learn about the airport and its involvement with Madison County.
There will be a number of things for visitors to see, including planes and helicopters on display. Many of the static aircraft displays will be from companies which use the airport as training grounds and for storage purposes.
Planes on display
Fisher’s Ag Service, an aerial field application service based out of Morrow County, will have a plane on the grounds. The company uses the airport like a satellite location for local field application. The Champaign Aviation Museum plans to bring their Beechcraft Model 18 transport plane, offering visitors a look at a freight aircraft from the 1940s and ’50s. The Columbus Police Department will also have a helicopter on site. The CPD has previously used the Madison County Airport for chopper-training.
While the airport won’t be providing plane rides to the general public, the Experimental Aviation Association’s Young Eagles program will have free rides for children ages 8 to 17 with an accompanying parent or guardian.
Celebration and information
The airport was dedicated on Oct. 1, 1967 as part of governor James Rhodes’ “Legacy Airports” program. Rhodes believed that every county in the state should have an airport and managed to accomplish this goal in all but three of the 88 counties in the state.
“We want to show the locals and county people that there is an airport here to use,” said John Duhl, manager of the airport. “It’s really a county asset and a tool.” The airport is a general aviation port, meaning they do not have scheduled flights, commercial aircraft or a control tower.
The grounds include a 4,001-foot primary runway as well as a full parallel taxiway. The hangar facilities consist of 44 individual hangars, some with and without doors. There are four large hangars, three of which are rented, and one large space called the “Community Hangar” where there are 10 spots for parking planes.
“A lot of little county airports, they have a major tenant that uses the airport,” Duhl said. “Right now, we don’t have a major tenant.” Madison County is a public airport so it can be used by anyone. The Ohio State University often uses the grounds since it’s very near to the Molly Caren Agricultural Center which houses the Farm Science Review.
“Most people will come here for our inexpensive gas,” said Duhl. Day-to-day, the airport can function as a midpoint or stopping point between other cities. “The airport itself, we’re a county entity, the airport board itself is kind of self-sufficient. They survive on hangar rentals and fuel sales.” Duhl approaches the airport as a tool for the county.
“We don’t generate a lot of business ourselves,” he added. “We support other businesses.” When manufacturing companies in and around London need someone in from a different location, they can fly them into the airport.
Airport board and workers
The airport board consists of nine other people aside from Duhl who work to oversee the facilities. Board members include local residents, Bill Laney (president), Bennett Schellhaas, David Campbell, Eric Sommer, Henry Powers, Joe Slagle, and Jim Jones. Betty Wright is the secretary and Rebecca Arnott is the treasurer.
Duhl has been the manager since 2012, taking over from the previous manager, Jim Musgrave. There are a total of three full-time employees at the airport, but Duhl oversees the day-to-day operations. A native of the Springfield area, he began taking classes in aviation right out of high school. His passion for flying turned into a 33-year career as a corporate pilot. He worked for SEA, an engineering firm in Columbus and has worked as a professional pilot in some capacity since his years after college.
“Since I came from that world of being a pilot,” he said. “I’m trying to pick things from that world to bring to Madison County.”
The 50th anniversary event Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Madison County Airport, located at 1281 U.S. Route 40, three miles north of London. The event is free to the public and refreshments will be available from Rudy’s BBQ and Twist Ice Cream.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.
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