Airport set for takeoff for another 50 years

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Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
John Duhl (left), airport manager, and Bill Laney, airport authority president, stand outside the terminal.

(Posted Sept. 28, 2017)

Madison County Airport 50th Anniversary Open House
The Madison County Airport, 1281 U.S. Rte. 40, SW, London, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 30. The free event includes aircraft displays, a proclamation by Senator Robert Hackett at 1 p.m., and Rudy’s BBQ and Twist Ice Cream.

Additionally, the Young Eagles program will offer free airplane rides from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages 8 to 17 years old. Youths must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

For details, contact John Duhl, airport manager, at (740) 852-5040.

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By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

A recent lunchtime visit to the Madison County Airport afforded the chance to see a variety of planes come and go.
One carried a pilot-in-training who traveled from the Ohio State University Airport in Columbus to practice touch-and-gos on the London facility’s less congested runway.

Another belonged to an aerial photography company based out of Darby Dan Airport near West Jefferson. The Madison County Airport is the company’s primary source of fuel, the pilot said, adding that he stops to gas up at least twice a week.

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
With hangars in the background, a plane used for aerial photography wheels up to fuel tanks at the Madison County Airport. On Sept. 30, the airport will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a public open house.

On any given day, over 100 take-offs and landings are logged at the airport, said John Duhl, manager.

“We have some corporate traffic, like Beck’s Hybrids, Stanley Electric and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers,” he said. “BCI (Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation) uses it to stage drug sweeps and other operations.”

Every September, several visitors fly into Madison County Airport for the Farm Science Review held across the street at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center.

“We’ve had as many as 75 planes parked out here during the Review,” Duhl said.

From new pilots testing their wings to corporate customers conducting business, from recreational flyers out for a spin to cropdusters flying low over fields, the Madison County Airport serves a wide variety of people and planes–and has been doing so since Oct. 1, 1967.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the airport is holding an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 30. The public is invited to learn how the airport got its start and to see how far it has come.

As for its beginnings, the facility is one of Ohio Gov. James Rhodes’ “legacy airports.”

“He had the idea that every county should have a public airport,” Duhl said. The purpose was to attract industry to bolster Ohio’s economy.

The state supplied $100,000 in matching funds to get the project rolling in Madison County. Land was purchased along U.S. Route 40, three miles north of London.

Among the first to serve on the airport authority board were Floyd Alexander, Harry Crawford, Kermit Creamer, Howard Foust Jr., George Gearhardt, Forrest Hanson, Joseph Murray and Dean Roberts. John Sawyer, a prominent agri-businessmen, owner of Orleton Farms, co-founder of the Cincinnati Bengals, and a World War II pilot, also was instrumental in founding the airport.

In recent years, the airport has implemented several improvements, including installation of an on-field weather observation system, repaving of the taxiways, and construction of more hangars. Today, 52 aircraft “live” at the airport. Hangar rentals and fuel sales account for the majority of the airport’s revenues.

“The airport is good for the community and on its way to being self supporting,” said Bill Laney, airport authority president.

As a general aviation airport, the Madison County Airport can accept aircraft up to 30,000 pounds in weight, including small jets. It is not set up to accept scheduled passenger airlines. The runway is 4,001 feet long and 75 feet wide.

Duhl has spent 43 years in aviation, 33 as a professional pilot and the last several as manager of the airport. His staff includes Mary Knopp and Dick Matthews.

In addition to Laney, the airport authority board includes Dave Campbell, Jim Jones, Harry Powers, Bennett Schellhaus and Eric Sommer, with Joe Slagle serving as vice president and Becky Arnott as treasurer.

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