Mt. Healthy Airport Stories
Louis “Moose” Glos
Well, as far as the old Mt. Healthy goes, my primary recollection would be a fellow by the name of Elmer Lierer. All during his early life, apparently and up until the time he got married, Elmer lived directly across the street from there. He had close knowledge of the airport while it was in operation.
It was my understanding that at all times; a fellow by the name of Muhlberger had a lease contract with whoever the properties owners were and was involved in any of the legal or the real estate transactions that did take place on the airport.
I got to know Elmer in the early forties. I was working at Blue Ash at that time as a line boy and as a mechanic trainee, and Elmer was working here at the same time. Mt. Healthy Airport was closed at that time and stayed closed through basically the end of World War II.
My contact with Elmer comes and goes down through the course of years. He finally did work for me for a while when I became the operator of Blue Ash in the fifties, but I did know Elmer for an awful long time through his death in late 1996.
Unfortunately he is not here to possibly unfold some of the pictures of events that he might remember about the airport immediately after World War II. I don’t remember exactly the time, but I would say 1947-48, when the G.I. Flight Training program was going full bore. I do know that a guy by the name of Jerry Greenfield had run or leased the Mt. Healthy Airport and operated it primarily as a flight school probably for a period of two or two and a half years.
After that, the airport just kind of floundered back and forth. Elmer did have a hand in it, in what went on. He did a little mechanical work there, and there were probably a half a dozen airplanes there at all times.
The only other person that I know positively flew out of there by name is a guy named Merrill McDonald, who at that time worked for the Ford Motor Company. As a truck specialists in their Warranty Service department.
The other possibility that I’m not thoroughly familiar with was whether he was flying out of Mt. Healthy before he established his own strip, but Mr. Clippard, of Clippard Industries, did have airplanes. He finally bought a brand new 182 in 1956. I know that he was flying off his own personal strip at that time, which would have been located somewhere along the right of way for Interstate 275. They sold their property to the state when Interstate 275 was constructed.
Mr. Clippard did suffer a nearly fatal accident in his 182 in late 1956. The company still operates its own airplanes. They now base out of Hamilton. I can’t really recall whether or not Clippard had airplanes at Mt. Healthy before he established his own personal strip.
The Mt. Healthy Airport was a pre-World War II thing; that’s all I’m aware of. I started in the airplanes business, coming out of Central Vocational as a co-op in very late 1942. I did graduate in 1943. If there were any pre-World War II airplane facilities around town, I’m not familiar with them. Anybody who sought to do anything with the real estate aspect of the airport in the form of renting, operating or anything else, or when the final ending of it when it was sold for real estate development, had to contact Pop Muhlberger. I have some remembrances of Muhlberger, of meeting Muhlberger, and of being over there; he did own and fly several of the older Vintage Waco’s. This was the type of equipment that was of peculiar interest to people who were interested in barn storming. I think Joe Rudolph and Jerry Greenfield might have been together at the airport. There was also another guy in there at that time. I remember that his name was Harold Bains, who was a shop operator, and they did seek to build up a maintenance business about the same time they were trying to operate the flight school.
The hey day of the G.I. Bill flight training, in my opinion, started in 1946. It was really built up with literally hundreds of guys who had G.I. Bill privileges who wanted to learn to fly, so building a fifty-student, seventy-five student, or one hundred student G.I. Bill was no problem at all. We use the word “close” regarding the airport as 1955. I don’t know when it closed for all time. As far as an active operation, that probably was the case. There were several facilities around Cincinnati going begging at that time frame. The Mt. Healthy Airport would have to be very early. Lunken was existent. The first airport in Blue Ash supposedly came in 1919. This facility where we are still exists. The still existent Blue Ash airport came in 1926.
It’s my understanding that there was a place in Western Hills. I was there while it was operative, but I don’t remember the exact road it was located on. It existed pre-World War II. They tell me that it was the 1935-36-37 era. If the old Mt. Healthy Airport dates back to that era, its been around for a while, but obviously it wasn’t one of the earliest ports in town.
I had a maintenance inspector’s rating that allowed me to help re-license airplanes from the F.A.A. It was given to me in 1948. I know that I went to Mt. Healthy Airport and handled the final fazes or re-licensing several airplanes for Elmer at that time frame. They had just one runway, basically east and west, although I don’t believe it was a true east-west runway. It might have been instead of 270 degrees, or it might have been 250 degrees or something like that. There was one runway that ran not quite perpendicular, but close to perpendicular to Colerain Avenue.
It might have had some cinder base, but no hard surface. I guess it was twenty-five hundred feet because it wasn’t considered a very big airport. The runway began right at Colerain Avenue. I also recall they had some sort of fishing lake at the other end. I don’t know anybody that did, but if you overshot it bad enough, you could go in the lake.
The buildings that were on the airport property were old, old, old. There was a Sohio station between one airport building and Colerain Avenue, and there was a small restaurant in the one airport building. I can recall hoisting a few with Elmer in a great big place. It was a country music thing. You couldn’t hear yourself think in there on Friday and Saturday nights. During the week it was not a problem to sit and hold a normal conversation.
I think it went about the same time Clippard’s strip went. The Bevis Tavern. Elmer Lierer was probably one of the nicest guys in the world and one of the most knowledgeable from a hands-on situation, as far as maintaining airplanes. Unfortunately, he was illiterate. He never succeeded in passing the written test in order to receive a mechanic’s certificate. He later worked for Clippard Industries as a maintenance person. He had very, very knowledgeable hands-on experience. He lived his life around airplanes and airports.
He built several airplanes for his own flying as a personal hobby, and if somebody offered him too much money for his plane, he’d kiss it goodbye and start over. From a hands on standpoint he had it, he had it in his head. He had it in his mind. He had it in his hands, but he couldn’t put it on a piece of paper. He did have a pilot’s license.
At that time, a mechanic’s certificate came at the end of the test. Let’s say the airframe consisted of six parts, fifty questions to the part. You had to get a seventy- percent passing grade on three hundred questions for an airframe. On an engine you had five parts on fifty questions. You had to have seventy percent on two hundred and fifty questions. Then you had to pass an oral test. Maybe the guy wanted you to weld or to splice a cable. You did whatever you had to do; Elmer was perfectly capable of getting a private license. There were eighty or ninety questions. It’s easier to memorize enough to get seventy percent of one hundred questions to get a private license than it is to get seventy percent of five hundred fifty questions.
All your acrobatic airplanes were open cockpits, but anything you would use for sight seeing or charter would not have been an open cockpit airplane. The chances are that the largest plane that ever landed at the airport would have been a UC78, which was a military surplus trainer type twin; it had two Jacobs’s engines on it, and five seats total. It was called the Bamboo Bomber and was fabric covered. If it wasn’t too heavily loaded, it could easily get in and out of there.
Currently I am an Airport Fixed Base Operator here at Blue Ash, and have been since 1952, forty-five years. Right after the war the J-3 came back on the market for $2295 made by the Piper in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania. The Aeronca came on the market for $2395 and it was built in Middletown. Aeronca was at Lunken until the flood in 1937. It moved from there into the flood plain at Middletown. It wasn’t quite as bad at Middletown as it was at Lunken. The Waco was out of Troy, Ohio. They are no longer operating. As I say, if the curtain draws tonight, I will have to look back and grin, because I have thoroughly enjoyed it.