Frank Airport

Frank Airport - By Kyle Vath


Summary of the History of Frank Airport Picture Section
Pages 1-14
Maps
Then and Today
Map of Bridgetown
Articles From the Western Hills Press
1928
1929 1945 1978 1990 1997
Memories Thanks


In late 1928, nearly 50 acres of land was purchased from Judge George F. Eyrich, Jr. by Dr. E. S. Simmonds, a well known physician. This land was located slightly off of Bridgetown Road, then called Cincinnati-Louisville Pike.

Dr. Simmonds and an automobile repairman and sales manager, Mr. Harry A. Frank, planned to build a small airport to accommodate the rising population of the community and the growing interest in aviation. This airport was to be one of the many satellite airports planned for the greater Cincinnati area.

This airport had a rather humble start and by looking at the various articles, it seems as if the managers tried to keep a low profile while they "worked the bugs out" and put the final touches on the airport. This was a large event in which the Sohio Standard Oil, sister ship to the Spirit Of St. Louis, along with many other aircraft from surrounding airports attended and performed "barnstorming" and parachuting.

Only 25 years after the historic flight of the Wright brothers' at Kitty Hawk, the aviation fever was sweeping the nation. Hearing about these events in the newspaper was exciting enough for people, but having these flying machines zoom over their houses was even more astounding.

Plans were developing and the buildings around the area were springing up quickly. An article announcing the formal opening of the airport listed the futuristic machines the airport would be using. The article stated things like, "a restaurant with the most modern cooking equipment.....". The airport was to be equipped with a north-south and an east-west grass runway. The north-south runway was used most of the time and the remaining runway was used only during strong cross-winds.

"The roaring 20's" were at their peak time and Western Hills seemed to be teeming with excitement. The airport staff planned to have the formal opening in early May, but due to construction delays it was put off unfit Saturday, August 10,1929 at 2:30 p.m.. Finally, the long anticipated day came and thousand of people arrived to wish everyone well. They also hoped to get a "sneak peak* at what everyone had hoped would be the "most important air depots in the Middle West".

Frank Airport also had "barnstormers" and parachutists jump every Sunday afternoon. People came from miles around to watch the "dare-devils in the sky*. For several months, the airport thrived and interest in aviation was at its peak. But less than two months after the opening of Frank Airport, disaster struck.

In October of 1929, the stock market crashed and The Great Depression began. This was the first of several major problems that would plague the area. Before the depression, only the middle and rich classes could own airplanes, but after 1929, even the well to do had trouble affording the costs of aviation.

By 1932, twelve million Americans were out of work and poor. During those years, flying was not one of the main things people were concerned about Instead, it was a struggle to simply keep their families fed.

Ironically, one of Ohio's worst disasters ever, turned out to be the greatest help for the airport. Shortly after the long years of The Depression, a major flood of the Ohio River consumed land for miles around, covering Cincinnati and eastern Indiana with hundreds of gallons of water. Roads and main highways were blocked by high waters so the city turned to air transportation for help.

Immediately, business leaped to a start and once again, Frank Airport was back in business. The aircraft were mostly used to transport people from Indiana back to their homes and families. That [The 1937 Flood) took us out of the red and put us in the black as far as operation is concerned*, said Howard Geiger, who ran the airport from the mid thirties until the early forties. The Waco 10 biplane (NC6974) owned by Geiger, was one of the main airplanes that transported people to and from their homes during the flood. During this time, the airport changed hands several times and the name was finally changed to The Western Hills Airport.

The next problem that the airport came to was the onset of World War II. This would be the problem that finally shut the airport down. Nearly all of the aviators from Western Hills Airport were called to war to fight for their country. Some were used to actually fly the aircraft, others trained and helped train others to fly, and still others used their experience to work on and maintain the aircraft.

In 1942, Howard Geiger, the manager at the time, was called to inspect aircraft at Pearl Harbor. To cover the duties in his absence, his wife stayed and kept the airport running. But sadly, due to lack of pilots and lack of income, the airport was forced to dose down several months later. One other factor was that during the war, gasoline and certain metals were rationed for The War, cutting the flying down to virtually nothing. The airport land was left vacant for several years later.

In 1945, the airport was reopened one last time by Mr. Al Weinburg who had learned to fly at Frank Airport in about 1935. This time it was opened under the name of Cheviot Airport. Wienburg lengthened the landing field from 1,700 to 2,250 ft. The old curved roof hanger was taken down and moved to the Oxford Miami University Airport where it still stands today. Several T-hangers were placed on the land to better equip the airport. However, the airport did not last long and shut down once and for all in about 1946.

One reason the airport became unused was that after World War II, the knowledge of aircraft was increased and airplanes became much larger. These massive aircraft needed much longer runways to be able to take off easily, which the Western Hills Airport did not have.

The landing strip was used to land on by private pilots for some time but the airport was soon left desolate and uninhabited. Also, the rotating beacon on top of a large metal tower was left standing for awhile. Although not completely confirmed, rumor is that the tower was cut down and placed on top of the Mack Fire Department where it still stands today.

Where airplanes had once softly landed on the rolling fields, by 1950, most remnants of the airport were gone and neighborhoods and houses began showing up. It is unfortunate that a lot people do not even know that the airport existed. Many are completely unaware of the aviation pioneers that landed in their backyards nearly seventy years ago.

< >This is a view of the airport looking to the northwest taken in 1940. The street winding between the houses and the airport is Coral Gables (see map on page 15). The street ended where the road narrowed, but the rest of the dirt road led to a gun club farther out in the field. The larger road in the upper right corner is the Cincinnati-Louisville Pike, known today as Bridgetown Road. The two houses near the right side of the picture still stand on the street today. They are in the below photograph as they appear today. Across the street from them is the house where I currently live.

These two houses are marked D and E on the map on pg. 15.


This is a picture of the Wilke Memorial Church (now called Oak HDk Methodist Church) cornerstone being laid. Taken in 1940, in this picture we are looking towards the east In the distance the airport can be seen. The house with the large white dormers is the house where I now live. See next page for more information on the house.

The church still stands on Bridgetown Road near Ebenezer Road.


3636 Coral Gables Road
My house was built in 1938 by a bricklayer named Joe Baker. He then moved into and lived in the house during many of the peak years of the Frank Airport. At one time our house was the last house on the street. When remodeling our attic, our family found many old newspapers around World War II that the builders had placed in the ceiling and used for insulation. My family moved here in 1990, long after the times of the airport.

This is a picture near my house facing north. Notice where the old street ended and the newer and wider street began. My house is marked F on the map on page IS.
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After the closing of the Western Hills Airport, the hangar was dismantled and then moved to Oxford, Ohio where it is still used today as a storage area for the Miami University Airport Notice the area of metal cut out of the center of die hangar. We are not sure, however, this was probably done to allow the tails of larger aircraft to tit in the hangar.


(right) An overhead view of the airport and the surrounding area (looking to the south). Note the small house with the curving sidewalk leading to the front porch. This is the house where I currently five, (below)


(above)This is a picture of the members of a vintage glider ctub called the Albatross Club that was based at Frank Airport, (right) This was a publicity photo taken of Howard Geiger in the cockpit and Eddie Castella on the wing of NC6974, posed for a jump. (See next page for more information on the airplane NC6974).

The 1928 Waco 10 NC6974
As mentioned in the previous article, the Waco 10, owned by Howard Geiger, was obviously the pride and joy of the Western Hills Airport. The beautiful Waco 10 'NC6974* was built In 1928. It also played a major role in the flood of 1937, transporting families to and from their homes. "6974* as seen in the black and white photo is being flown over the Western Hills High School during the time of Frank Airport.

Howard Geiger had about 1300 hours In this aircraft before selling it to John Hatz. The "6974" was later featured on the prestigious aviators' magazine, EAA's "Sport Aviation* shortly after Mr. Hatz completely restored the aircraft. John Hatz was a well-known aircraft designer and builder. Unfortunately, Mr. Hatz just recently passed away. He was best known for designing the sporty "Hatz Biplane".

It must have been a thrill to fly the NC6974, which was then a "brand new" aircraft.


N-number NC6974 Aircraft Serial Number 1554 Aircraft Manufacturer WACO
Model: GXE

Engine Manufacturer WRIGHT
Model CURTISS 0X5 Aircraft Year 1928

Owner Name: KENAERO INC Owner Address: 11 CHABLIS DR
FAIRPORT, NY, 14450-4606 Registration Date: 26 Jan 1996 Airworthiness Certificate Type: Standard Manufacturer Name: WACO Model Name: GXE
Aircraft Type: Fixed Wing Single Engine Engine Type: Reciprocating Category: Land Number of Engines: 1 Number of Seats: 3 Aircraft Weight: 3500 Ib. Cruise Speed: 119kts Aircraft Code: 9600702 ENGINE SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer Name: WRIGHT Modal Name: CURTISS 0X5 type.: Reciprocating Power 90 hp Fuel Consumption: 6.75 Engine Code: 67002


(above)This is a picture of three unidentified women sitting in front of die rear (west) end of the hangar. Probably taken in the mid 1930's.
(right) This is a picture of the same side of the hangar as it appears today.


(above) This is a picture of three unidentified women with the southern side of the hangar in the background. (1930's)

(right) This is the same side of the hangar as it looks today.


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THEN
This is a picture facing the southwest looking towards the hangar. This was probably some sort of large social event or possibly the formal opening of Frank Airport
TODAY
This is a picture also facing the southwest This is what the area in the above picture looks like today. The runway would have run parallel to the street and was located slightly to the left of where I was standing when I took the picture. The road in the photograph is today called Neiheisel Avenue. Note: white house in picture is represented by C on the map on page 15.

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This is a picture of the Frank Airport's rotating beacon. It was probably taken around the 1930's. Although not confirmed, rumor has it that this tower is now on top of the Mack Fire Department Building near the intersection of Bridgetown and Ebenezer Roads.


BELOW
These are pictures of the Mack Fire Department today. It is obvious that both towers appear to be similar except for the platform on top. The old platform could have been replaced sometime later by the newer one we see today.
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The bracket that held the wind sock at Frank Airport and was shown in various other pictures is still on the ????


13
Though not verified, many neighbors have told me that this house was once a restaurant at the airport that served snacks and hot-dogs. This house looks very similar to the building located next to the hanger in some of the pictures. The building was then moved into and made a home after it was supposedly moved from the airport to Eyrich Road where it still stands today. Eyrich runs parallel to Coral Gables Rd. See map on page 16,



(above) An unidentified couple
stands in front of a J-3 Piper Cub
with the Frank Airport hangar in the
background.
(below) This is a picture of a tragic
accident that happened at Frank Airport in the 1930's. Nearly everyone who knew anything about the airport at all remembered the crash that killed two pilots from the airport See article on page A20.


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