GOSHEN — The same year Superman took to the imaginary sky, the pioneering Goshen airport moved to its present location, helping real people take to the skies now for 75 years.
To celebrate the anniversary of the Goshen Municipal Airport, airport personnel will open the facility to the public for a day of events June 29, starting with a 5K Runway Run and including chances to fly. The theme of the day is Rotors and Ribs, and the event could turn into one of the largest helicopter fly-in events in the country.
While the airport’s prominence in cross-country aviation diminished with new communication technologies and the disappearance of air mail, its importance to this community has grown.
“We’ve come a long way since 1938,” said Randy Sharkey, airport manager. From a pair of grass strips on 280 acres to a paved 6,050-foot main runway with full instrument landing capabilities, the airport has grown to one of the busiest general-aviation airports in the state, not counting airports served by airlines.
With 26,320 takeoffs or landings a year, the airport is an important one, Sharkey said. “We have a premier flight-training facility that has full-time instructors and a full-motion simulator,” Sharkey said. There’s also a helicopter flight training school, a midsize charter service and a car rental service at the airport. All in all, 34 employees work at the airport on C.R. 42 west of U.S. 33. “You have to look a long way to find another airport our size that employs that many,” he said.
While Sharkey said most economic impact studies are ridiculously inflated, he said he’s comfortable with putting the annual impact of the Goshen Municipal Airport on the area at close to $10 million.
This year’s special Rotors and Ribs event — the second one in Goshen — will feature ribs from Tony’s in Findlay, Ohio, a spot famous among helicopter pilots.
“I’m hoping for it to be the largest helicopter fly-in in the country,” Sharkey said. “We are a helicopter-friendly airport,” drawing 46 choppers last year. If they reach 60 this year for the anniversary celebration, it will be larger than fly-ins in Pennsylvania and California, Sharkey said.
Registration for the runway run, sponsored by New Horizons, the flight school, starts at 7:30 a.m., with the $20 entry fee benefiting the 4-H Aerospace Club. The run starts at 8 a.m. and will have prizes, said Randy Gingerich, who’s coordinating the run. Entry forms are available at flynewhorizons.com.
The main events, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature various helicopters and two seminars for pilots. At noon, pilots will fly a pair of Vietnam-era Hueys in formation as part of a tribute to Goshen veterans.
There will be chances to buy rides in the Hueys, in an AH-1F Cobra attack helicopter or in helicopters from Goshen Helicopter, as well as airplane rides from New Horizons, and skydivers will jump out and land at the airport.
There will also be commercial exhibitors, food vendors and ice cream for sale from the 4-H Aerospace Club.
1924: Original Goshen air field opens on 40 acres on C.R. 40 as an emergency landing field for transcontinental airmail service.
1928: Goshen receives one of seven radio ranges in the country for air navigation.
1929: American Legion takes over and expands the airport, naming it Goshen Municipal Airport.
1931: Passenger service to Goshen by Century Airlines starts, but lasts only a year before a strike by the Airline Pilots Association led to the airline’s demise. Also in 1931, a radio report station was established in Goshen for air travel, then voice communication was added.
1937: A new improved radio range was installed.
1938: The airport moved to its present site on C.R. 42, starting out on 280 acres. Also that year Howard Hughes contacted the Goshen radio station during a transcontinental flight.
1951: Goshen gets one of the first three VHF direction finders in the country.
1955: The first fly-in, drive-in chicken barbecue happens, an annual event that goes into the following decade.
1958: 26 aircraft are based at the Goshen airport.
1959: Goshen becomes the only airport in Indiana where pilots could get helicopter ratings.
1961: The newly upgraded lighted 3,200-foot runway was dedicated, using the city’s proceeds from selling the fairgrounds. Also that year the Goshen navigation stations were closed.
1968: The runway is lengthened to 5,000 feet.
1974: Visual approach slope lights were added.
1985: A ramp replacement and expansion project is completed.
1986: 54 airplanes are based at the Goshen airport.
2006: Work starts to extend the main runway to its current 6,050-foot length.
2013: 70 aircraft are located at the Goshen Municipal Airport.
Source: Goshen Municipal Airport records, including a 1986 history written by Melvin Miller.