The Liberty Gazette
January 6, 2009
January 6, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: Dayton native Patrick Griffitts has an exciting announcement. Last year he completed the acquisition of a rare airplane called an Evangel 4500. There were only eight made, and Patrick found #006 abandoned on the island of Yap. That one dollar purchase was only the beginning. While restoration will take awhile, Patrick has recently completed a 40-acre land purchase in Groesbeck. He says that, “Right now there's just a small log home on a hayfield,” but he plans to build a vintage aircraft grass flying field and has hopes for a museum.
Considering his future should he outlive his flying life, Patrick said, “I thought I could have a hangar at an airport somewhere and rebuild airplanes, but that would require me to leave my house and drive to work.” I’m cringing at the thought. The idea of buying a house on an airstrip was appealing but owning the airstrip had even more appeal. So he started looking around for an established public airstrip for sale. Most of what he found was out of his price range or in the wrong location. “What I really wanted was a grass airstrip to dedicate for use by antique, vintage and classic aircraft. Private, yet open for use with prior permission. A public airstrip just seemed to bring some headaches I did not want.”
To have open cockpit airplanes around as much as possible, climate and location relative to a large metro area would be of primary importance. The shape of the property – long, for an airstrip – and its flatness would also be crucial.
After an exhaustive search, Patrick found a 40-acre site adjacent to Old Fort Parker. Formerly a Texas State Park but now owned and maintained by Limestone County and the towns of Groesbeck and Mexia, the property will allow for a 2,000' strip with the possibility of expansion.
Linda: Patrick knew he’d need the support of park officials, as well as the county and cities so he proposed his idea for based airplanes, occasional fly-ins, and the possibility of a small antique air museum. “The ultimate dream use,” he pitched to officials, “would be to have something like Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in New York State.” Patrick says the local leaders “were all enthusiastic about the idea as I thought they might be,” as it would add economic benefit and appeal to the community. The FAA has given Patrick’s project its blessing.
He’s now forecasting a year or two to build the airstrip and continues to search for partners to restore the rare Evangel 4500.
While you’re waiting for his ambitions to materialize, we suggest a trip to the Pacific Northwest, to Patrick’s employer’s museum, which opened last summer in beautiful Everett, Washington. Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, opened the Flying Heritage Collection at Paine Field. As the name suggests, the collection of 15 vintage war planes of 1935-1945 are flown regularly in demonstrations open to the public. Their web site (flyingheritage.com) states “the exhibits shine a light on the humanity at the home fronts of warring nations,” where “visitors of all ages can get up close and personal to these treasures of the sky, and learn how innovators of the past led the way to modern aviation and aerospace technologies.”
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.