Mt. Healthy Airport Stories
My earliest memory of the Mt. Healthy Airport goes back to about 1939. 1937 to 1939 along in that area. I was just learning to fly at that time. We’d fly down there and shoot a few landings in the old Aeronca C-3, that I soloed in, in 1935 or 1936.
I knew a few of the people down there. Coming up here from down there I know Bill Clippard, Bob Clippard, They have Clippard Instruments Co., in Cincinnati Ohio. They have 2 airplanes that are based here at Hamilton, Ohio, right now. One is a Baron and a 36 model Bonanza.
Another fellow was Harold Bains, he was a mechanic. He worked for the Telephone Co. He came up to Hamilton here after work, and would work 4 or 5 hours every day until he got his license. Then he went down and worked as head mechanic at Mt. Healthy for awhile.
When the war came along he wound up out in California, out there I think he was with Lockheed. He has passed away since. Then there was Louis “Moose” Glos, he’s now over at Blue Ash Airport. He’s running that. Then there’s Jerry Greenfield, I knew him during the period right after the war, when all the G.I. students were going on the G.I. program down there. I don’t know what happened to Jerry, but I think he may have gone to Florida somewhere around Ft. Lauderdale.
Then there was Carl Muhlberger, he was the one who owned the airport or had a part of it. He use to come up from Florida and collect his rent every year. Muhlberger started the Hamilton Airport in 1928 with an Air King. He was from Newtown and came up here and started flying students and just started the airport going.
We got a hold of the airport in 1932, after Muhlberger turned in back in when the depression hit, and he couldn’t keep up the payments. The Hogan family kept it going as an airport and just farmed the whole countryside up here.
My dad was a big time farmer, we negotiated with the bank to get the airport, and it was in our family until 1984 when we sold it to the Cities of Hamilton, Fairfield and Butler Cty. So those three now own the airport and they have 9 board members, 3 from each one. With it in their hands, they can go down to get federal funds to improve it.
When Muhlberger left Hamilton Airport he went down to the Mt. Healthy Airport. That was in 1932, as I remember, and that’s when he took over that airport. It might have been in limbo at that time and he may have picked it up and carried it on. He was involved in it until the war, 1941. That’s when the government closed up most of the little airports.
They gathered up these little trainers, everybody had them, and you had to take the wings off and store them in a barn or garage or some where. Or else, sell them to the airport contractors that had these contracts to fly W.T.S, War Training Service Students, what we had here at Hamilton from the University.
We had about 10 of those airplanes going here at Hamilton during the war, and that ran for about 3 years, until they built the airport over at Oxford. Then they moved all these students and took them all back to Oxford, and got their training at Miami University Airport. George Wittekind, is the one who ran the flight program, that Queen City operation at Miami University.
One of the reasons airports closed down during the war was they couldn’t get gas. We had this contract with Miami University flying the Navy program over here, so we were just unlimited on fuel here at Hamiliton. When I first flew into Mt. Healthy Airport back in 1937-1938 some where along there, there wasn’t much down there, maybe about a dozen airplanes and an old cinder runway. It was all grass and cinders down on the southwest end.
If you went too far they had a swamp down there, and you’d get stuck in it. When we were learning to fly and just building up time, we’d fly down there and shoot a landing. Just flight time to get our license, cross-country flying.
Joe Niehaus, I think he learned to fly down there. His dad was a medical doctor. Joe was flying with Pan-American out of Miami, Fla. I guess he’s retired from there now, I haven’t heard from him in a long time. He lived and had a home near Ft. Lauderdale. My brother Joe used to go down there in the winter time and he’d look up all those people down there. He knew where they lived and go visit with them.
Jerry Greenfield had a very good program at Mt. Healthy after the war. We did too up here. I don’t know how many hundred students we had going through here at Hamilton, and Jerry was going Gung Ho down at Cincinnati. He had a lot of student activity going down there. After that, the G.I Bill ran out, that was sometime in the fifties. That was for WWII veterans. Then the Korean conflict, after approval from Congress got flight training going again. I believe they had 36 months to go to the school of their choice. Whether it was a college or any other kind of school, that they can use later on in life, for their lives work.
We bought a few airplanes from the military toward the end of the war. Muhlberger bought a T-6, I think the last one he had. That was a North American Advanced Trainer, AT-6 they called it. That had 450 h.p. engine on it, and that thing gobbled 20-25 gallons an hour. That kind of got a little expensive.
You could buy these planes for $300-$400. I think we bought a Waco UPF-7, we wanted the engine off it, to put on a Waco Cabin that we had. That had a 210 h.p. Continential engine on it. We figured we could modify that and put this 220 h.p. engine on it, which the UPF had. I think we got that on a bid for $400 down in Florida somewhere.
Joe my brother would go down there and fly it back up here. We’d take it apart recover and rebuild it. We rebuilt the whole airplane later on, picked up another engine, and put it on it. We had a couple of the UPF-7's. We ran those on the training program as an advanced airplane, a little heavier airplane that what those Aeroncas, Taylorcrafts, and Cubs, old J-3 Cub, is what we had at that time.
We had mostly Aeronca planes. Because that’s the airplane we just started out with. Joe and Freddie bought a couple of C-3's when Aeronca was down at Lunken Airport. We used them as trainers. I don’t remember when Aeronca closed at Lunken Airport.
Al Wineberg was an instructor down at Mt. Healthy. Al was also down at the old Western Hills Airport. Al kind of ran that airport about the same time Greenfield was at Mt.Healthy. George South learned to fly with Carl Muhlberger here at Hamilton. He worked at the Journal-News, the Hamilton paper here. He bought a Beech Travelaire 2000, it was a bi-plane airplane, 3 place, 2 in front, pilot in the rear.
This was back in 1933-34 and George and my brother Joe were the instructors here at Hamilton. George started pulling out on his own, so he took his travelaire and went down to Mt. Healthy and he was flying down there for quite awhile before the war came along. George went with the F.A.A. in 1940-41. George was with the F.A.A until he passed away 5-6 years ago.
Lee was his wife’s name. They ran the airport together. She took care of the books and George did the flying and maintenance work. The Souths and Muhlberger were in some manner together at the airport. George was the head instructor and Muhlberger was kind of backing off on flying, but he was running the airport. But they both flew quite a bit.
Carl did have the lease on that ground. He didn’t own it, or buy it, but he did manage to get a lease on it. I don’t know too many of the details on that part of it. Carl was a bachelor, but he finally got married. He had a girlfriend, o’golly, for maybe 50 years I guess. I think he was about 75 when he married down in Florida. I went down there on a couple of times, he was way out in the boonies out there in a trailer, living there all by himself.
Then he had his girlfriend, I forgot her name now. They lived together for a long while, and then they finally got married when old Carl was about 75 years old. Norm Purdy came up and flew here at the Hamilton Airport. He also flew at Oxford, Middletown, Lunken. I don’t know if he did any instructing, I don’t remember if he had an instructors license.
I don’t know if Joe Niehaus was younger than me or not, I’m 76 so I go back a little way on that. Merrill McDonald was just kind of a mechanic, nut on his own. He loved flying and didn’t pay too much attention to the F.A.A stuff. He did things his way. Here at Hamilton, he had a Twin Beech here and we rented him a T-Hanger down here, he kind of made a shop out of that and did a lot of maintenance work there.
He was with Ford maintenance, trucks and that. He was a troubleshooter, anybody that had trouble with their big trucks, Merrill would take a look at them and tell them, Ford you replace this part. That’s what he did. Harold Bains also had an inspection authority where they relicensed airplanes after they ran the 100 hrs. inspection on them, they had to have the inspection authority or the F.A.A men sign them off on a manual. It was a renewal of the air worthiness certificate. I did that myself for several years, I had the inspectors authority.
There was quite a bit of activity around the airports in the 1930's. It was coming up, out of the depression. People began to get a few bucks, and many of these planes were selling for $300 to $500 on up I guess. At that time Joe and Bernie had a Waco-10. And they sold that for $500 - $600. The first one they bought. I don’t know what they paid for it, $300 - $400. At that time nobody had too much money, so percentage wise, I guess it’s about the same now as it was back then.
Gasoline was selling for 18-20 a gallon. That was aviation gasoline. As the years passed, it just kept going up. I think, today it’s about $1.55 a gallon. Muhlberger had parachute jumps on Sundays up here at Hamilton. They’d pass the hat for the jumper to pick up a couple of dollars.
I don’t think they had any air shows down at Mt. Healthy. I don’t remember any. We did have a couple here in Hamilton. We had a pretty big air show here in 1936. We had some of the top people in the country that were flying. Tex Rankin was one, he was a stunt pilot and had a S T Ryan. He put on air shows across the country.
Here at Hamilton we had some of these Tri-Motors. They’d come in for barnstorming. Come in over the weekend. The old Ford Tri-Motor. Bill, my brother, a little squirrelly guy, got up in there and got to joking with the pilots. They’d take him along and put him in the right seat and let him drive it around up there. It was like me teaching my kids, when they were 12-13 years old, put them in there and just let them fly.
We had a lot of people come out on Sundays, just to watch the landings, and the takeoffs. I think that’s what really kept us going on Sunday afternoons. We had that Waco Cabin, 4 place airplane. We’d get it going, and take some of those students flying. Had a big loud speaker and Victrola and played that for advertising.
We took passengers for rides in the airplanes, some days I’d be in there for 2 hours at a time. Nothing but takeoffs and landings. I think we charged them about a dollar for a trip, for maybe 10 minutes. Circling the City of Hamilton and back in then. They did the same thing at Mt. Healthy, they called them pleasure rides.