Mt. Healthy Airport Stories
My earliest memory of the Mt. Healthy Airport, was when I was about eight years old, which would have been about 1933. Mt. Healthy Airport at that time was nothing but a grass strip and they had one hanger and two old bi-planes.
When we were kids we lived in White Oak, at Blue Rock and Cheviot, right in that area, and I loved airplanes. In the summertime, two of my buddies and I used to either walk out or thumb out to the airport, in hope that we might see one of these guys, take off or land.
Many a Sunday we were very disappointed because we might sit out there for two hours and nothing happened. When we were in grade school the area had a lot of truck farmers and they were always looking for people to come and pick their strawberries and raspberries, so it was the kids and women of the neighborhood area who would go out and help these farmers pick their berries. I think we got something like two and one half cents a quart.
In a summer or during a season, if you were lucky you might make up to five dollars. One Sunday afternoon, my two buddies and I decided we’re going to go out to the airport and see if we can’t get ourselves an airplane ride.
So we went out there and here’s this old guy. I don’t remember, you know I say old, we were kids so he might have been in his forties, probably a WWI pilot, who knows. He had this old OX-5 bi-plane, open cockpit, liquid cooled engine with a big radiator under the top wing.
The three of us pooled our funds and I don’t remember what we had totally, but we conned this old guy to take us for an airplane ride. So he strapped us in the front cockpit and away we went. The one boy was about ten, I’m about nine and the other kids seven. I was hooked on aviation from then on. It was great until we got home and explained
to our parents, that we had blown our berry picking money on an airplane ride. But we did, and it worked out fine.
This had to be 1933-1934 somewhere in that era. World War II came along and at eighteen, Uncle Sam caught up with me, as I recall I got out of school June 3rd and July 10th, I ended up over a Ft. Thomas and was inducted into the Army.
I tried to enlist in the Air Force on my eighteenth birthday; I wanted to be a hotshot fighter pilot. I went up to Dayton to take the exam, and lo and behold, I found out I was color blind and that was the end of that. I went into the service, spent approximately three years in the service, came home and found out I could use my G.I. bill to learn how to fly. And this was a godsend as far as I was concerned.
I went out to, quote, Mt. Healthy Airport, and by now there’s probably two hangers out there. I think maybe they had four of five airplanes. They had two Piper Cubs, and a couple I guess of the old bi-planes. I went out and signed up for flying lessons. No expense to me, but an expense to Uncle Sam. At that time I’m twenty-one years of age and working in Frey’s old garage there at Blue Rock and Cheviot or Frank Hermes’s old garage at that time.
I use to take off from work in the afternoon and go out and take my flying lessons. At that time we were flying the J-3 Cub, it was a tail dragger. When you flew it solo you had to fly it from the back seat, and since it was a tail dragger, when you’re looking out over the engine in the front of the cowling you had to lean out the side window, as you were taking off. That’s the way the airplane would turn.
After eight hours, I was allowed to solo in the J-3 Cub. Then they bought two Aeronca Champs. I thought this was like going from a Model-T to a Cadillac. But it’s basically the same airplane, 65 h.p. and its top speed was maybe 80-85 mph. I continued with my flying lessons. I think the requirement then was a total of forty hours and twenty was solo and twenty was dual. You also had to do some cross-country.
How to show you how much of a racket this was, I never went to the ground school. One of the requirements was cross-country flying. We flew cross-country from Mt. Healthy to Indianapolis to Dayton and back to Cincinnati.
The first time I flew that, I took a map. The planes in those days had no radio equipment of any kind. No radio navigation, no radio communication. All you had for navigation was a ball compass, and on a hot summer day, that ball compass would swing 90 degrees right, left, east, west, whatever. You never knew where in the heck you were going.
The first flight cross-country was with the instructor. He sat in the back seat and slept all the way over to Indianapolis. I hit all the checkpoints right on the nose. From Indianapolis over to Dayton. We followed route 40. That was no problem, and as you took off from Dayton, and you got up to a couple of thousand feet, you could see Hamilton. And from Hamilton it was a straight shot into Mt. Healthy.
Well that was fine, then about a month later, I went out and I had to do the same flight solo. I thought that’s a piece of cake, so I get in the plane and take off and head to Indianapolis. I get about half way to Indianapolis looking for Rushville, Indiana, which was one of the checkpoints and suddenly I realized I didn’t know, where in the heck I was.
This was in the late summer, and that airplane at 2000 feet is just bouncing all over the place. You couldn’t tell the compass heading over Indiana all these little towns look alike. They all have a railroad, all have a courthouse, so here I am, and I don’t know where I’m at.
So I said well, what are you going to do, so I came down to about 500 feet I guess, and start flying around this town. Back in those days, a lot of the towns would have the name of the town painted on top of one of the buildings. I came down and I couldn’t tell where I was. But all of a sudden, I saw a barn that had a windsock on it, and I said, Oh my goodness, it must be an airport. I looked at my map, no evidence of any airport.
I came down, flew real low and slow, and said heck; I can land here, which I did. Of course back in those days those airplanes, the only way you could start them, they didn’t have an electric starter on them, you had to pull the prop through by hand to start it. I landed and taxied up to this building and still no sign of anybody. I had no idea where I was, other than it apparently was an airport. But I left the engine idle, got out of it, went up to the barn. Nobody around, no name, so I walked out to the highway with my map and flagged down a truck driver. He said can I help you, and I said yes I’m lost. He looked at me and said what do you mean your lost. I said I’m flying to Indianapolis, I’m looking for Rushville. He said, well this is Connersville.
I said great which way is Indianapolis. He said I don’t know, north, south, east, west, where ever it was, which direction is that? So he pointed, I said fine. I got back in the airplane, took off, made it to Indianapolis, made it to Dayton, and made it back to Mt. Healthy. The instructor said, where have you been? When I explained to him that I had to stop a truck driver for directions, he just shook his head in disbelief. This all occurred back in the late summer of 1946.
I got my license, don’t know why, but I did. And I decided I would take my friend Ralph up for an airplane ride. Well up until then Uncle Sam was paying for this. So when I had to pay for it myself, would you believe it was eight dollars an hour, and that included the cost of the fuel.
So Ralph and I went up and flew around White Oak and Groesbeck and all those places. That was the last time I flew until twenty-three years later I suppose. I didn’t fly anymore because I couldn’t afford the eight dollars an hour, because I’m working in a garage making a dollar an hour. Then I decided to go to the University of Cincinnati and
pursue an engineering degree, which I did, that was still worse. That was seventy-five dollars a month. Seventy-five dollars a month doesn’t go too far, and you sure as heck can’t
afford to spend eight dollars an hour to rent an airplane. So I didn’t fly anymore after that I was married and had a couple of kids, and decided I’d get into it again, which I did.
Mt. Healthy typically was a left-hand patterned airport. So if the wind was out of the east, you would have to fly parallel to Springdale Rd. toward Colerain High School. Make your left turn at the high school, that would be your base leg, and then turn left again, that would be final, which take you into the airport.
There was a low marshy area out there, as I recall, and of course the airport was not a paved field. It was dirt and cinders, and when we had a lot of rain, we had a quagmire, which was great because you could land and stick right in that mud and it wouldn’t bounce all over the place.
If the wind was out of the west, and then you would have to fly parallel to Poole Rd. as you crossed over Colerain Pk, you would make your left hand turn to base. Then as you would approach Springdale Rd. and the airport, then you would turn left again on final.
When you came in over Colerain Pk., you had all the utility lines to worry about. So you had to come in high enough to clear the lines and then drop in on the field. I’ve been an aviation buff, nuts I guess, you could say all my life. I remember when I was a kid, flying into Lunken Airport at that time. What they were using was the Ford Tri-Motor. If I were to guess, there maybe two flights a day and one seemed to be about five-thirty, six o’clock in the evening.
I can remember sitting at our dinning room table, eating our evening meal, and I’d hear that plane coming. And I’d excuse myself and run out in the back yard just to watch it go over. Then I can also remember, when they started flying mail, using what was called a Northrup Gamma. That was a low wing airplane with a big radial engine and fixed landing gear.
I can remember, it was the Macon or the Akron. One of the Zeppelins came over Cincinnati and flew over White Oak one time, and that was a big treat. Occasionally the Army would come by with its P-26, the Pea Shooter. The little low wing all metal monoplane. They would fly over in formation some times.
They didn’t have air shows at Mt. Healthy, but they did have them at Lunken and at Blue Ash, Hugh Watson Airport. And that was always a treat as a kid, to go out and watch some of there barnstormers and stunt pilots. Powell Crosley had his estate on Kipling Rd, when I was a kid growing up, I thought it was a golf course. Now maybe it was part of a golf course. He did have a golf course of some kind there. He also uses as his own private airstrip.
Two things I remember about Powell Crosley. One, I could sit in the front yard and watch him take off and land over there. This was over on Kipling Rd. And he flew a Lockeed Electra, I think it was an Electra. The same airplane that Amelia Ehrhart flew. The one she got lost in. He had one just like that.
Crosley was a great sportsman. He loved to fish, and he loved to hunt. He had some kind of fishing lodge or hunting lodge up in Canada, on one of the lakes up there. I can remember, he had Grumman Amphibian that he would fly in an out of his strip on Kipling Rd. Of course he could land on the land over there and when he got up the Canada, he could land on the water.
Crosley was also out in Blue Ash, I think somewhere out there, and was in the business of making airplanes. But that was one of the ill-fated businesses he was in. The man was a pioneer with not only radio, automobiles, refrigerators and those good things. But he was also a real aviation buff.