Mt. Healthy Airport Stories
My father started the Mt. Healthy Airport, and most of the people involved were from Mt. Healthy. We actually expected it to be part of Mt. Healthy someday. If we ever expanded, that would be part of Mt. Healthy.
He had the vision, the ideal place on the hilltop to get airmail. He thought that was the coming thing. Every spring Lunken Airport would get socked with the water, and the dike didn't hold it all. They would bring the airplanes out to our place until the water went down. Then they'd take them back down there.
Between here and Hugh Watson Airport in Blue Ash, they'd park them and then take them back when the water went down. We thought we had an ideal spot. We had a ground school in Cincinnati and Hamilton, and we thought when we got big enough we could build the airmail, but that's a political plum; we didn't have enough clout to do that. I believe it was 1927 when we started. We were out about three years when we had an accident when a pilot and a student got killed. That sort of took the air out of the sails of my father. He said, "Let’s just pay the bills and get out of here. I'm still a tailor." My father was Al Hochscheid. He was from Mt. Healthy and he got the airport started. He was president. Today he'd be called a C.E.O. He didn't know much about airplanes, but he knew about business.
He got the gentlemen together and they all bought stock. It was a corporation. There were Clyde and Clint Yerkes. Mr. Honnert, the contractor, put money into the airport. I know my father had fifty-one percent of it. Ed Matre was in stocks and bonds. He was in on it.
Clyde Yerkes was with the bank. My father owned several tailor shops. Matre was in the investment business. Clint Yerkes was in the automobile business, and had an agency.
They were looking for as level an area as they could get. In those days you didn't move earth as you do today. We didn't pave the runways; they were seeded in grass and kept mowed.
We had about a mile runway east and west, and about three-fourths of a mile north and south. That ground was about as level as they could find around here and most available because of Colerain Pike. There wasn't anything really close to Mt. Healthy. Bosserman owned it. He lived on Springdale Road in the big white house across the street. He agreed to lease my father a hundred acres there, so that's how they got started.
They did all the grading. I imagine Honnert helped with that, since he was in the business. We had a nice hanger. We had four American Eagle Airplanes. They were built in Kansas. We had one from Troy, Ohio, and it was a Waco. They were three‑seaters a pilot and two passengers sit in the front. You could also add the controls if you wanted to train people, in the front and in the back. There was a drainage ditch not too far out from the Hanger, that had been filled in, but they still tried to land on the other side of the ditch to avoid it. They would land and then taxi over that spot. It was the same way going out. They had plenty of runway after they got to this little dip. It wasn't that bad of a dip. Today it wouldn't be anything, but in those days it was a big deal. We bought the Waco first, and then two American Eagles. We were doing pretty well on training pilots, with our ground schools, so we bought two more American Eagles. They were good planes.
On Sundays we had parachute jumps, and also people took rides. The rides were a dollar or two. A friend of mine, Paul Fernbach, and I use to run a little concession stand out there and sell hot dogs and bratwurst. In the front of the place we had an office and a place to eat. Harry Buzig ran that, and on Sunday we had quite a few people out there. They all came out to see the parachute jumps. In those days that was a big deal.
We didn't have any air shows or wing walking, but one Sunday our parachute jumpers didn't show up. People were asking, “Where's the parachute jumper?” There was a man and his family, three or four children and his wife. He said, "I'm a parachute jumper. I got my chute right here." My father was in between, so he made the decision to let him jump, so Stormy, the pilot, took him up about three thousand feet and he jumped. The chute didn't open, and my father said, “ I'm going to jail. He's not signed up or anything.” All of a sudden, both chutes opened. He was below the tree line when the chutes opened, and he never got a scratch.
All my father could think of was that the jumper wasn't signed up. We didn't even know his name. Stormy, the pilot, was from Terre Haute, Indiana. My father and I went out and hired him and brought him back here. He moved here, and he was the only pilot we ever had. My father was learning to fly. People did not think much of airplanes in those days, and many people were afraid to fly. My father said that as soon as he learned to fly and get his license, then I could learn to fly, because Stormy was there all day.
After Stormy's accident my father was never in an airplane again. The plane in which Stormy crashed was an American Eagle. At the inquest, the coroner stated that there was nothing wrong with the plane. Stormy was giving the student pilot instructions coming back from Hamilton, and the student put the plane into a spin. They said the student froze at the controls. He was in the back cockpit where instruments were, and Stormy took a fire extinguisher and reached back and hit him over the head. Stormy was bringing the plane out of the spin and if he had twenty more feet, he would have made it.
The plane was almost level, and he would have been out of the spin, because it takes so long to get it righted into a level flight. That's what the coroner said. They were killed immediately. We were at the tailor shop, and they called us and we went over there and saw the plane and everything, and they had already gotten the pilot out of there.
That was over off Pippen Road, on Wm. Muehlenhard's Farm. Stormy, the pilot, was a very nice gentleman and he really knew his flying. He knew aviation and weather and did a lot of instructing in our ground school, and had a wide range of airplanes. The year was 1928‑29. I went to high school in '31 and the crash occurred before that.
My father closed up the airport after the crash. He said, “I don't want any part of it. Pay all bills, and we're out. We're done.” And he didn't have anything to do with flying after that. When I was in high school, I don't remember the airport being active. I was over this way several times. I had a car and I don't remember them flying over here. The first remembrance of the airport that I can recall after we closed it was King Bee Leasing. We sold the planes. The planes went; everything was liquidated. They bought off the lease, and the airport was down. Bosserman may have leased them the ground. It was his ground. All we had was a lease on it. The hangers were still there when Eagle (King Bee Leasing) was there.
I never heard of a man called Pop Muhlberger. I remember a man possibly Henry Abbott. He lived on Pippin Road, going up the hill off Compton. He had an old Jenny Airplane from World War I, and he would fly out of a little patch of ground where Panda is. They have a building down there where they make things, but there was a little patch of ground he would fly out of there. How he got it out of there I don't know. He was very interested in planes, and he was always flying or doing something. I was not affiliated with the airport; after my father was out, I was out. The one runway was about a mile long, and about three hundred feet wide. It ran a little up hill going west. The ground ran almost to Colerain School. The other runway was just about where Sears is. That was about three fourths of a mile long. It wasn't paved.
They leveled it, planted the seed, and rolled it, and it was good and
solid. I don't know about big planes, but with these small planes there was no problem. The biggest plane I remember was a Folker six passenger that came over from Hugh Watson, that landed there. That's the biggest plane I remember.
We had to fly down Colerain Pike, over the wires, the office building, and the hanger, and land there. The office building and the restaurant were all together. I don't know if they had liquor or not, but I know they served food. We would have a lot of people out there on a Sunday.
The only thing that I can remember is that diagonally, Tiny Ludwig had an oil station, on the northeast corner, where he worked on cars. He was a guy about three hundred pounds, and they always called him Tiny. That's the only two buildings that were out there. There was just one Big Hanger that took care of four or five airplanes, and it was on Springdale Road. I would say the airport closed down sometime in the fifties. The Folker airplane was a cabin plane, pilot, a co‑pilot and four seats. They had a Tri‑Motor at Watson's, but I don't think they ever brought that over here. We went over there and rode in it. That was one of the big planes in those days, a three engine airplane.
There was Dixie Davis. He flew off Lunken Airport on the north side of the airport. He had a little field there where he barnstormed, and he did acrobatics. Whenever the water would come up, he'd come up here and stay here. I don't know what kind of plane he had, but it had a big engine, because he would do a lot of spins and stuff like that.
When the airport started, Al Huber, a real estate man, Neil Sudbrack, in the blackboard business, an investor Bert Hughes, a contractor, may have been involved.
I don't think Powell Crosley was involved at the outset, but he did own all the ground across the street in the southeast corner of Colerain and Springdale before the airport started. I imagine that they had to come up with one hundred thousand dollars to get the airport started. In those days one hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money. Airplanes in those days cost three thousand dollars. You can't buy the wheels for that today.
Ed Honnert built all big stuff, big Catholic churches. He built our church, the Lutheran Church, on Kinney Avenue in Mt. Healthy in 1928. He might very well have built Powell Crosley’s Estate. He lived on Colerain Pike at Galbraith, in the northeast corner.
He had a big house with a lumber yard in the back. Star Bank, the First National, bought that property from Ed Honnert. The first problem we had at the airport was the crash, in which Stormy and the student‑pilot were killed. My father said, “If Stormy can't keep up, I'm not going to be able to keep up.” He had a lot of faith in Stormy. He thought the world of Stormy.
I believe that the price of aviation gas back in those days was ten to fifteen cents.. During the week we flew students, but on the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday, we took people for rides. I think the school, and so many hours of flight was $120‑130. They could go to Mt. Healthy, Hamilton, or Cincinnati for ground school, three nights a week or something like that. They learned what made a plane fly and how to keep it in the air, and how to read charts. If you wanted to fly from here to Hamilton and it was eighty degrees, you flew maybe eighty-five degrees because there was a five mile crosswind. They called it crabbing the airplane. You’re flying sideways, but you're going straight. When the plane went up, you didn't talk to anyone until the plane came back down.
We had a windsock, but no radio or no fire equipment, etc. When you flew down here, you were on your own. If you were going to fly from here to Indianapolis, you'd get from the weather bureau which way the wind was blowing up there, but down here you had to rely on the sock. You didn't know the speed it was blowing, just that the sock was standing out.
You always landed against the wind, but if the wind were blowing sideways, it would blow the plane sideways. If it was blowing behind you, you needed a lot of runway to land the plane.
We always kept the planes in a hanger, especially if there was a storm coming. When there was a rain, that was the end of things. We'd keep the chocks under the wheels. When a plane would come in and they were going to let it stand there, they'd always put chocks under it, so it didn't move away.
When they cranked up a plane, you always used the propeller. The one that's in the cockpit would turn the switch off when the guy outside would say, “Off.” Then they’d take the propeller around two or three or times and then they’d say, “Contact”, and then turn the switch to “on” and get away from the thing, because you could get your head cut off.
When I went in the service, I went in the Air Force and qualified for a pilot and bombardier. Ed Doyle and a lot of my young friends use to hang out at the airport. Ed wound up being a pilot for one of the airlines. A lot of them hung around just to be taken up. Stormy always took me up. My father said I could go. This was an open cockpit Bi‑plane, two passengers in the front and the pilot with the controls in the back.
The pilots helped to do the mechanical work. In those days, when you got to be a pilot, you wanted to know everything about a plane: What made it fly, how it flew etc. They'd tighten up the controls. They'd look over the airplane quite a few times because that was their life. They would go up to Hamilton, take it apart, put it back together, take the wings off, and take it out to Ford Field up there. They had a couple of landing strips, and they’d put it together and fly it out of there. I hated to see my father close it up, because I really enjoyed myself there. My father got to the point that if I was going to Florida and I said I was going to fly, he'd say, “I'll pay your way if you take the train.” He'd pay my way rather than let me fly. All because of the crash.
Johnny Adkins learned to fly and be a pilot. He got killed in an airplane crash. He was flying out of the airport on Pippin Road. There was just one runway, by that sharp bend where that shopping center is, and you flew right up over the road. I remember some Air Force planes got in over there and had a heck of a time getting out. The runway wasn't long enough.