Bill & Bob Clippard
Mt. Healthy Airport Stories
Bill Clippard - Bob Clippard
Bob: We were very young at the time, but I recall some of the old hangers there. I recall playing in some of the old junk planes that they had along side and around in back of some of the hangers there. This was the early fifties.
Bill: It was about the time we built the plant out here. 1951-1952 about that time, I would have been 6 or 7.
Bob: You would have been about 10-11.
Bill: I remember playing in an old Cessna, an old twin Cessna, the fuselage, still moved the stick, the wheels. A lot of fun, lot of fun. I remember there was an Old Ryan Craft, had the stays on top of the wings, radial type looking engine, open cockpit. I remember bucking some rivets in that. I was small enough to stick me in a hole and crawl back in there, and hold a hammer on the other side of these rivets, while they pounded on this thing for some repairs.
Bob: The runway on the thing, I don’t recall if it was paved or cinder.
Bill: It was a cinder.
Bob: What would you say that was, it was about 3000 ft, no more than that I wouldn’t think. It was 2500 to 3000 ft and it ran approximately 210, 030, 210 was sort of southwest.
Bill: Basically east, west as I recall. They had power lines at one end.
Bob: Yeah, on Colerain. The runway was fairly narrow, I don’t think it was more than
40 ft. wide. It was kind of a cinder path down through there. Maybe 30 ft. wide. It was dark in color and it was not paved, it was not asphalt, not concrete. It had grass growing right up to the edges there.
Bill: The power lines were on the Colerain Ave. end of it. They were good size lines there. They caused a lot of problems there for the airplanes. I don’t think they ever got them moved.
Bob: But back then airplanes didn’t get a lot of priority and small airplanes had even less priority. There were power lines on fairly tall telephone poles.
Bill: Pilots back then just kind of accepted power lines at the end of runways too. Back then you didn’t get a lot of play for having an airport. There had to be a road and power lines, most of airports went right up to the road.
Bob: The landing strip began basically at Colerain Ave. placed back a little bit because of wires. At Colerain and Springdale where presently there’s a BP station and the theater and Friday’s Restaurant in that general area. There were some hangers. I remember 3 or 4 different hanger buildings, different sizes. There were a couple of bigger ones. They were kind of grouped in an L, kind of along Colerain and Springdale Rd. in that corner.
The runway began a little bit south of there about where the entrance to Northgate Mall is right by Friday’s Restaurant. It began fairly close to the street there and the power lines were up there. It ran southwest from there right through the middle of Northgate Mall. The runway ran from that corner to kind of southwest somewhere about 210 degrees heading. Colerain School was not a problem on the other end. Colerain School was fairly far away as airplanes go. You’d be up high and above that.
Just off the southwest end of the runway, there was a fish hatchery, a number of lakes, a dozen little ponds. That was always kind of a landmark to pick out from a distance as you were approaching the airport. You could pick out those ponds as a pretty distinctive landmark, and when you circled around the airport and enter a pattern and to land there.
Bill: At that same southwest end of the runway, there was sort of a marshy area there, because I remember cattails growing there. I remember breaking off cattails and breaking them apart.
Bob: That marsh, there was sort of a dump down there where they dumped empty oil cans and other stuff. I remember finding some old piston rings. This was on the southwest side of the property off the end of the runway; it was kind of marshy. They had all kinds of neat things in the dump; at least they were neat to a 6 or 7 yr. old kid.
They didn’t have a control tower, but the way it is still done today at non-controlled fields, you enter a standard pattern. You determine the active runway, and enter that pattern, fly that pattern and land the aircraft.
Bill: I heard the airport referred to as the Mt. Healthy Flying Club. I believe Elmer mentioned the old Mt. Healthy Flying Club. Events such as spot landing, bomb dropping those were some of the unique things. People would just come out there on the weekends and just fly their planes.
Bob: I remember going to the airport more than once, Sundays, dad usually went out there on Sundays, and often didn’t want to really bother with the little kids. I remember on at least one occasion, hiding in the back seat, under a blanket, trying to hide. He probably knew I was there anyway, but I remember stowing away in his car, just so I could go to the airport.
At that point in time there wasn’t much on Colerain Ave. at all, out that way. The home I remember Elmer having on Colerain Ave. was down approximately across from Northside Bank on Colerain, maybe up just a little bit from Graeters. Pretty much in that area. Elmer lived on Colerain, for years, and years, and years. I remember his house very distinctively, and I remember when he finally moved out of there and sold it for commercial development.
The only large thing in the area of the airport was Bevis Tavern. Bevis Tavern was up around where Sun Electronics is now. I don’t remember anything on the northwest corner. Our father did have a plane at the Mt. Healthy Airport. It was kept in hanger, and the hangers back in those days were crammed full of planes, and sometimes to get your plane out you had to move 4 or 5 other planes around, push them around. It was a Cessna 170. It had fabric wings and metal fuselage or vice versa.
Bill: Yes, I think that was it. It was a metal fuselage.
Bob: And fabric wings. Our father had other planes after that. He went on to a Cessna 180, 1515 Charley, had that for a long time. He did a lot of flying in that. Did he get that 180 when he was at Mt. Healthy?
Bill: Must have been, because we had the 182 in 1956.
Bob: We had our own airport about 1956. We went from Mt. Healthy, which had shut down prior to that because we were at Lakewood Airport for a brief period. In fact, Lakewood was active after Mt. Healthy closed. Lakewood closed pretty quickly thereafter too. Lakewood was kind of surrounded by Northbrook, they built houses everywhere in Northbrook. I don’t know, there may have been some financial problems too. Lakewood was paved. They story about the jets landing at Lakewood is they were F-86's, there was a flight of two I thought.
Bill: I thought it was a flight of two and I thought one landed.
Bob: One made it to greater Cincinnati, the other guy didn’t make it to Greater Cincinnati, and he landed at Lakewood. They were looking for Wright-Patterson. They had come from over in the southwest. The flight was running out of fuel, and I thought the one guy made it to Greater Cincinnati, and the other guy did not and he landed at Lakewood, and managed somehow not to go through the fence at the end.
But it was a big event, and we were there when they took off again, because they brought in a bunch of experts and they strapped rockets on the side of this thing, had minimum fuel to fly it to Wright-Patterson. They got a test pilot who was brave enough to try this, cleared everybody back from the take off end, fired those rockets, and that was really a sight to behold, when they blasted that thing out of Lakewood Airport.
I’m sure the guy that landed there probably lost his wings. But that was exciting. But I think it was just the one, that had to be ‘54-’55.
Bill: It was pretty close to the end of that airport.
Bob: I’m sure the flight that landed there didn’t help the community support, for the airport there. Probably the biggest plane to land at Mt. Healthy was a Beech 18, twin engine, radial engine, and 7-8 seater. That was the plane Sky King used to fly.
Bill: He flew a Cessna before that, what was that?
Bob: No he flew the Beech first and then he got into the Cessna.
Bill: He flew a 310 Cessna toward the end, but earlier than that, there was a real boxy Cessna. It was real boxy.
Bob: It was something they built during the war to train Bombardiers in. It had the Delta tail, the double tail.
Bill: The Constellation sort of tail in the back.
Bob: As the crow flies, our airport, the Clippard Airport, was about a half a mile northeast of the old Mt. Healthy Airport. Present day, one end of it is in Wal-Mart’s parking lot, the middle of it was covered by I-275, and the other end is now present day Clippard Park, Colerain Township, Clippard Park.
It was 33 acres of ground, it did not front on Colerain Ave. but it had an easement along Colerain Ave. Where Stehlin’s Meat Market is, just to the north of Stehlins property.
Bill: I have a map of the airport.
Bob: We can give you a copy of that. It was 33 acres of ground and had a few rolling hills on it and dad spent quite a bit of money on it. Getting it graded, cut and filled to get the runway in there. He built a 50 x 80 ft building, Butler Steel building with a concrete floor. He put a 2000 gal. fuel tank in the ground and a fuel tip underground for refueling. The only pavement there was a taxi way from the hanger out to the runway, a little asphalt taxiway. This was about 1955 that he built that. It operated from 1955 until I-275 went in the early 1960's.
Bill: Our Debonair flew in and out of there and it was a 1960 Debonair. We had that for awhile, the early 60's.
Bob: I’m thinking it was right around 1962 when the state took the property for the expressway, so it was about 7-8 years. We hoped to be there longer than that, but we had a heck of a battle with the state of Ohio. They wouldn’t move their expressway, but we had a battle with them because they wanted to cut the property in two, and take the middle piece, and leave us the piece of each end and the back piece would be landlocked. We had to fight them on that to get access to the back piece, which is now the access to the park.
This was a private airport; it was a grass field, 1500 ft by approximately 125 ft. There had been an old farm house, and an old barn. The barn was demolished during construction. The farm house remained, and the hanger was built. I remember the old well on the property and dad had another well dug, deeper well for water, so we had water out there. Water and electric.
There were just 2 planes out there. Dad had gone from the 170 to the 180 1515 Charley and then about 1956, he bought this brand new 182 Cessna, with the variable pitch prop and that aircraft crashed at the airport. It crashed on takeoff, and Bill was in it. The prop broke; the pitch on one blade went flat. It lost power.
Bill: We were maybe 50 ft. in the air when the thing let loose. I broke my jaw in 4 places, fractured my skull, a few little cuts and things, but it was mostly head injuries. My father on the other hand had a lot of injuries. The engine kind of came back into his lap more or less. His right ankle was crushed, his left leg was compound fractured on the lower leg. His left hand was laid over backward, bones broken in there. His right elbow was crushed, his face was flattened, broke every bone in the face up here. He lost his right eye. He was in pretty bad shape after that.
Bob: Bill and dad both lost a number of teeth.
Bill: I was fifteen then. There was an old pear orchard down in front of the runway. In fact, the way the runway heading toward the west, we were taking off to the west, it drops off a hill kind of going down like this, and then the hill comes back up. This was a pear orchard, an old pear orchard, over grown.
When something obviously went wrong, it wouldn’t climb anymore, climbing out, had to put in straight ahead basically, and as it turned out a tree, a tall tree, caught the wing about a foot in from the wing tip, and just kind of spun the plane. The last thing I remember were patches of green and blue, green and blue, the sky and the ground flashing around. It cut off 2 pretty good size trees. The propeller going in, about 4 inch trees just wacked them off.
The engine was running quite well, but the propeller just wasn’t pulling. So it just kind of hit this tree and flipped up and cartwheeled in. That’s really why the injuries were as extensive as they were. These trees were not helpful at all, no, not really they would have been helpful to go between them and I think that’s what dad sort of planned, intended, but there was one big one over on the right, that kind of spun it in.
Bob: He had been flying about 10 years.
Bill: I don’t remember a lot about the Lakewood Airport but I did fly in and out of there. It was a long narrow piece of ground right there, hangers right along the side. The approach butted up right to Pippin Rd. right where Pippin makes it turn there up near the Northbrook Market, right were the road makes a 90 degree turn. The runway was right there.
Bob: That runway was pretty much east and west, more true than Mt. Healthy. Glenaire, the street could very well have been part of the runway.
Bill: I remember Elmer flying that old purple fuselage, an orange winged plane. And when you saw it flying around you knew it was Elmer. Plus he’d be doing some acrobatics.
Bob: I remember taking off from our field to the east in this little Piper Cub. He’s in the back; I’m in the front. The fuel tank was right in the front of the wind screen, and they had a rod with a cork on it. Little rod sticking up, that’s how you told how much gas you had, how much rod was sticking up.
We took off, and he just cruised up on down the runway a little bit, got about 20 ft. off the runway and we were getting close to the end. And there are some trees at the end, and I was kind of unconsciously pulling back on the stick a little bit and Elmer said, Oh you want to go up, and he pulled that stick back and we went up all right.