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819. Dec. 3, 2003 -- Depression program trained pilots in Butler County: 
Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2003
Depression program trained pilots in Butler County
(This column is part of a series on the history of flight in Butler County in observance of the Centennial of Flight in 2003.)
By Jim Blount
Students arriving on the Miami University campus in Oxford in the fall of 1940 discovered a new opportunity in the academic offerings. Miami was among the schools that introduced pilot training that year, thanks to a federally-funded program designed for college students. The Civilian Pilot Training Program was a multi-purpose project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration.
CPTP was a Depression-fighting measure aimed at helping the aviation industry, including economic boosts to operators of small airports. It also had a military objective -- produce a pool of young trained pilots to be available to the armed forces in case of war.
Miami University in Oxford launched its program in 1940 as a ground school under the direction of Eugene Albaugh. The late Don Schirmer, a 1938 graduate of Hamilton High School, was among the CPTP trainees at Miami. He recalled attending classes in Oxford until noon, then being driven to Middletown for flying lessons in the afternoon.
George (Pappy) Wedekind of the Queen City Flying Service directed flight instructions at Middletown Airport, using Aeronca and Luscombe trainers. Later, the CPTP also operated at Hamilton Airport under Joe Hogan.
For Schirmer -- later a successful Hamilton businessman and county commissioner -- the training led to service in the U. S. Air Corps from October 1942 through December 1945.
Schrimer piloted planes for the Air Transport Command (ATC), which had been established March 20, 1941, as the Air Corps Ferrying Command. The mission of the ferrying service, renamed the ATC June 20, 1943, was to fly new aircraft from factories in the U. S. to air bases in England.
Among other distinguished graduates of the Civilian Pilot Training Program was John Glenn. The future astronaut and Ohio senator, while a student at Muskingum College, learned to fly at an airport in New Philadelphia, Ohio.
The CPTP was the brainchild of Robert H. Hinckley, an original member of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The CAA was created as an independent federal agency in 1938 by the Civil Aeronautics Act. The CAA was charged with promoting the development, safety and regulation of civil aeronautics.
With President Roosevelt's backing, Hinckley planned to boost the private flying business by annually teaching 20,000 college students to fly. Congress complied and the Civil Pilot Training Act became law June 17, 1939. By that fall, 404 colleges offered the program.
Later, the training also was extended to non students. By Jan. 1, 1941, the CAA reported 63,113 private pilots trained.
Miami's CPTP program was hampered by the lack of an airport in or near Oxford. That problem was solved in January 1942 with a $30,000 grant from the state for creation of a Miami University Airport. A 330-acre site was acquired west of Oxford between Fairfield, Riggs and Brookville roads.
A steel hangar was purchased and moved from the Mount Healthy Airport (now the site of Northgate Mall) at Colerain and Springdale roads in Hamilton County. The first plane landed at the Miami field Jan. 27, 1943. The airport was dedicated July 17, 1943.
Construction had started in May 1943 on a new hangar, named in honor of Ensign Lawrence A. Williams, who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. Williams, an Oxford native and 1932 graduate of McGuffey High School, had earned a bachelor degree in architecture from Miami in 1936. He enlisted in naval air corps in 1940 and was a pilot of a scout plane on the battleship USS Arizona when he died.
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820. Dec. 10, 2003 -- Middletown's Hook Field and Aeronca partners since 1940
Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2003
Middletown's Hook Field and Aeronca partners since 1940
(This column is part of a series on the history of flight in Butler County in observance of the Centennial of Flight in 2003.)
By Jim Blount
What is now Hook Field had its origin in 1924 as a narrow mowed strip on a farm east of the Great Miami River and north of Middletown. The field, now owned by the City of Middletown, got a boost in 1940 when a successful aircraft company relocated to a site next to the airport.
In 1924, George J. Wedekind, who was associated with several early flying ventures in southwestern Ohio, was permitted by Sam Farnsworth to use part of his farm for takeoffs and landings. Within four years, according to George Crout, Middletown historian, Wedekind had "flown over 14,000 passengers without a mishap." Crout said Wedekind "took many air enthusiasts for a ride over the city."
Wedekind had served 24 months as a flight instructor in the U. S. Army during World War I, including duty at the Second Aviation Instruction Center at Tours, France.
In 1925 the Middletown Airport Park Inc. was formed on the former Farnsworth, Smith and Wolverton farms under the leadership of David Harlan, president of the Crystal Tissue Co. Other Middletown civic leaders involved were J. A. Aull, William O. Barnitz, Charles R. Hook and George M. Verity. Charles B. Stiles was secretary of the group with George Wedekind as manager of flying services.
Interest in aviation increased in the 1920s. When the air age was still in its infancy,
a world's altitude record (37,800 feet) was set in the skies over Butler County. Lt. John A. Macready established the mark while flying between Hamilton and Middletown Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, 1921. The highlight of the decade was Charles Lindbergh's historic 3,600-mile solo flight from New York to Paris May 21, 1927.
At the same time, local airports were struggling to pay their bills with proceeds from flight instructions, charter flights and freight service. Crout said the Middletown airport supplemented its income by "billboard rentals, sale of hay and rentals from airplane owners," plus selling some land for residential development.
The Great Depression, starting in 1929, put many small airports out of business in the 1930s, but a Cincinnati misfortune was a boon to Middletown aviation near the end of that decade. The January 1937 Ohio River flood swamped Cincinnati's Lunken Airport and the adjacent aircraft factory of the Aeronautical Corporation of America, formed in 1928.
The prospect of more floods, the availability of land adjacent to the Middletown airport and the alertness of the Middletown Industrial Commission convinced company officials to move to Middletown in 1940.
As part of the Aeronca agreement, the airport was acquired by the City of Middletown, assuring the aircraft manufacturer that it would have a reliable air field as a neighbor, a necessity for its business.
The company, now Aeronca Inc., built popular light planes. Of 33 certificates of official world records issued by the National Aeronautic Association in 1936 for all categories, Aeronca C-2 and C-3 [models] held 12, and by 1937 Aeronca planes held 19 official world records for light planes," Crout noted.
The Middletown plant produced thousands of planes for the U. S. military during World War II. Aeronca's light aircraft performed a range of war duties -- from training student pilots and messenger service to scouting enemy positions and spotting for artillery.
Aeronca planes built in Middletown in the early 1940s included the Chief with a 50-horsepower engine. Crout said "this plane made a 2,785-mile non-stop cross-country flight in 30 hours at a speed of 91 miles an hour, and at a cost of less than one cent per miles."
Middletown's Hook Field is named in honor of Charles R. Hook (1880-1963), an Armco executive and Middletown civic leader. Hook served the steel company for 57 years, including 18 years as its president, 1930-1948.
Aeronca no longer builds complete airplanes, but it continues operations in Middletown next to Hook Field. For more than 50 years, the company has been a major subcontractor to the air and space industry.
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821. Dec. 17, 2003 -- Regional airport began as graded farm field in 1929: 
Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003
Regional airport began as graded farm field in 1929
(This column is part of a series on the history of flight in Butler County in observance of the Centennial of Flight in 2003. Today, Dec. 17, is the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' successful flight at Kitty Hawk, N. C.)
By Jim Blount
"Commercial Airport South of Hamilton Established," said a headline in the Thursday, March 28, 1929, edition of the Hamilton Journal. The article said C. R. Muhlberger had leased 115 acres of farm land from Robert Shank and Al Seevers along White City Park Road, a mile east of Dixie Highway, for "a commercial flying field where passengers may leave for all parts of the United States" and for "a school of aeronautics." That 1929 story heralded the start of what today is known as the Butler County Regional Airport-Hogan Field on Bobmeyer Road on the Hamilton-Fairfield border.
Muhlberger -- whose name was spelled Muhlenberger in a city directory and Muhlberg elsewhere -- was president and general manager. The article said "grading of the field had begun" with operations expected to begin the next week (the first week in April 1929).
The newspaper said the airport "will be greeted by industrial executives and businessmen" because Muhlberger "proposes to use his ships [four planes] to transport small freight from home factories in Hamilton to cities where the need for the parts is imperative."
Muhlberger operated the airport until 1932, a Depression year, when ownership passed to the Hogan family. A Champion Papers publication in 1934 said Joseph Hogan, a carton maker at the North B Street mill, had started flying lessons under Muhlberger in 1929 and in April 1930 made his first solo flight. For several years, Hogan worked at the airport after completing his eight-hour shift at Champion.
"In 1932 he [Hogan, then 25] took over Muhlberg's interest and has operated the airport on his own since then," joined by "a younger brother, Bernard," reported Champion Activities. The article said Joe's planes included "the Waco which he operates for special sightseeing trips." That plane, it was later recalled, had cost him $350.
It was still a grass air strip as the Hogan brothers -- Joe, Bernie, Art and Bill -- took over the business that for 50 years was known as Hamilton Airport. The Hogan brothers, and later other family members, shared many responsibilities -- flight instruction, charter operations, freight service, air demonstrations and a range of flight and repair services.
By the late 1970s, the existence of privately-owned airports was threatened by burdens of increased costs of operation, the shortage of capital to pay for improvements and modernization, and the demands of federal regulations. An option was closing the airports and yielding to offers from developers who wanted the land for conversion to residential, business, industrial, warehousing or multiple uses.
The City of Hamilton initiated action to preserve the airport by studying the possibility of public ownership -- a move that would make the facility eligible for federal assistance through the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA saw Hamilton Airport as a "reliever" for increasing traffic at Cincinnati airports.
Aug. 31, 1984 -- after a few years of negotiations -- the Hogan family sold the 256-acre airport to Butler County and the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield. The purchase totaled nearly $2.5 million with $1.7 million provided by a FAA grant, and included a pledge of additional federal funds for airport upgades.
It was renamed the Hamilton-Fairfield Airport, under the control of a newly-created Butler County Regional Airport Authority, with the Hogans as operators until 1989.
During nearly 20 years as a public facility, thanks to FAA support, the airport has realized numerous service and safety improvements, erection of a new terminal and has added acreage. It also has survived controversies involving operations, management, sharing local financial support and naming disputes.
July 13, 1999, the airport authority dissolved and transferred the property to the Butler County commissioners. The commission changed the name to Butler County Regional Airport to reflect its broader role in county-wide economic development.
In 2002, Hogan descendants and present and former airport users petitioned to add Hogan to its designation. County commissioners agreed to lengthen the name to Butler County Regional Airport-Hogan Field, and signage was revised in March 2003.
A proposed improvement is an eastern extension of Bobmeyer Road to connect to Ohio 4 Bypass for better airport access to and from Ohio 129 (the Fox Highway), Union Centre Boulevard and interstate highways.
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822. Dec. 24, 2003 -- Future of aviation topic of Deeds in Hamilton speech: 
Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2003
Future of aviation topic of Deeds' Hamilton speech
(This column is part of a series on the history of flight in Butler County in observance of the Centennial of Flight in 2003.)
By Jim Blount
The uncertain future of aviation was the topic when about 150 men gathered in a Hamilton church in 1920 to hear an expert speaker. He was Edward A. Deeds, the midwife of United States air superiority. Deeds had assembled the hardware for a flying corps in a brief time after the U. S. entered World War I in April 1917. His experience showed what it would take to develop the nation's aeronautic industry to support and maintain military air supremacy.
The industrialist-inventor was well known in Hamilton and environs. Deeds was one of the Miami Valley civic leaders who formed the Miami Conservancy District after the disastrous March 1913 flood. He was instrumental in promoting, planning, building and, after its completion, directing the flood control system along the Great Miami River.
In 1917, his credentials included leadership of the Delco Company, National Cash Register Company and Dayton Metals Products Company. Deeds and Charles F. Kettering headed "the Barn Gang," a group of inventors who met in a barn on Deeds's estate, Moraine Farm, south of Dayton.
Deeds and Kettering had combined to develop a self-starter for automobiles in 1909 -- alleviating the pain and broken arms associated with the primitive hand cranking system.
As chief of the Aircraft Production Board, Deeds realized that the U. S. lacked the industrial know-how and experience to build war planes in 1917. He also learned there was no American commercial aviation to supply the trained and experienced pilots and mechanics that a war demanded.
To help fill the void, Deeds joined Kettering, Orville Wright, H. E. Talbott and H. E. Talbott Jr., all of the Dayton area, in forming the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company shortly before World War I.
June 3, 1920, Deeds recalled some of the struggles of building a military air service during the war when he spoke at the Presbyterian Church on South Front Street. He also looked ahead to the need for airports and navigation aids and the encouragement of domestic aviation industries.
Flying "will play an important part in our future," he predicted. "The armored plane will be used in the future. These will carry machine guns and small cannons. The next war will see this type of plane," he said, and they'll be faster and have a greater range.
Deeds said aviation would grow, as the automobile industry had, progressing from a novelty and sport to an integral part of the economy. He advocated government support of air experimentation, including commercial aviation.
"Every city of 10,000 population should have a landing place," Deeds said. "We could fly today if we had these." He also urged erection of wireless stations to guide flyers in bad weather. "Landing fields should be entirely a municipal proposition, excepting for those used in the mail service, which is a federal matter. Until we get these two things, we won't fly," he said.
Deeds was 43 years old and a veteran engineer when the U. S. entered World War I. He was commissioned a colonel in the Signal Corps Reserve. Later he was appointed chief of the Signal Corps equipment division. In that post, he was responsible for the development and supply of Army aircraft during the war.
What today is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, had its start when Deeds joined Kettering, Orville Wright and others in choosing land north of Dayton for an experimental engineering field. First known as McCook Field, it was the army aircraft engineering and procurement center during World War I.
In 1917 and 1918, Deeds remained in the U. S. to establish and supply the army air service. He sent his chief assistant, Sidney Dunn Waldon, to France to handle logistics at the front. Waldon, whose World War II contributions were in Hamilton, will be the topic of this column next week.
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823. Dec. 31, 2003 -- Aviation pioneer worked in Hamilton during World War II: 
Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2003
Aviation pioneer worked in Hamilton during World War II
(This column is part of a series on the history of flight in Butler County in observance of the Centennial of Flight in 2003.)
By Jim Blount
The Walden Ponds Golf Club and housing development in Fairfield Township suggests Henry David Thoreau and his woodland house on Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. Instead, the tract northeast of Hamilton once was the pastoral residence of a Waldon, spelled with an o, not an e. He was Sidney Dunn Waldon, often called Colonel Waldon because of his brief, but distinguished service in World War I.
He was born in London Jan. 29, 1873, and educated in England. He moved to the United States in 1892 and became a naturalized citizen. His early business associations included Cooper Iron Works, Mt. Vernon, Ohio; Ball Engine Co., Erie, Pa.; Foster Auto Co., Rochester, N. Y.; Cadillac Motor Car Co., Detroit; and Packard Motor Co., Warren, Ohio, and Detroit. His civic contributions to the Detroit area and Michigan were numerous, most involving highway and transportation projects.
When it appeared World War I would involve the U. S., Waldon resigned as vice president and general manager of Packard to become a captain in the signal corps, the army branch that included the air service.
Waldon also was appointed to the United States Aircraft Production Board (APB) that was responsible for developing and assembling an air force almost from scratch. According to one report, the army had 142 obsolete planes and only 12 expert pilots when the U. S. entered the war in April 1917. His aviation interest was traced to meeting the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, in 1913.
Waldon became the assistant to Colonel Edward A. Deeds, a Dayton industrialist and inventor, who was chief of the APB. During the war, Deeds worked in the U. S. while Waldon handled details in France, directing formation of air fields and equipping and supplying the air corps. With their background in the auto industry, Deeds and Waldon encouraged American car builders to develop an engine to power World War I planes.
The most significant effort was the Liberty engine, designed by automotive engineers in about a week in May 1917, and authorized by the APB in June. Waldon was credited as being one of the designers.
"Designed to be mass-produced with interchangeable parts, the Liberty became the standard wartime aircraft engine," according to a Centennial of Flight web site. "More than 13,000 engines came off the assembly line before the armistice" Nov. 11, 1918. They were produced by auto companies -- Packard, Lincoln, Ford, Buick, Cadillac, Nordyke and Marmon.
Between wars, Waldon was involved in the auto and aviation industries, promoted the building of local, regional and national road systems and headed the Detroit Street Railway Commission.
At the start of World War II, Waldon brought his engineering skills to Hamilton. He was a director and treasurer of the General Machinery Corp., and an officer of its associated companies, the Niles Tool Works and the Hooven, Owens, Rentschler Corp., all based at 545 North Third Street.
He helped direct the war-time expansion of General Machinery facilities and its varied war output. One of its products was another Liberty engine. This one powered the Liberty ships that hauled cargo to U. S. and allied forces.
June 27, 1928, Waldon had married Helen Rentschler, his second wife. She was a sister of George A. Rentschler, who in 1945 was president of the General Machinery Corp.; Frederick B. Rentschler, chairman of United Aircraft Corp., Hartford, Conn.; and Gordon S. Rentschler, chairman of the National City Bank of New York.
The couple resided at their estate, Pine Knob, near Detroit, until moving to the Hamilton area in 1941. They occupied the former Gordon S. Rentschler estate, northeast of Hamilton and east of Ohio 4 and Millikin Road in Fairfield Township.
Colonel Waldon, then 72, died Saturday, Jan. 20, 1945, at the Rentschler Farm. His funeral was held at the home. Edward Deeds and Orville Wright were among the honorary pallbearers as Waldon was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton. Mrs. Waldon resided at the 349-acre Rentschler Farm until her death Sept. 10, 1967.
The Walden Ponds housing and golf complex -- constructed on the former Rentschler property -- opened in June 1997. When announced, the original plan included 675 homesites with residences in the $160,000 to $350,000 range. The total project was estimated at $165 million with the golf course costing $7.5 million. The layout includes a 7,022-yard championship course and a 5,021-yard short course.