The Liberty Gazette
June 17, 2008
June 17, 2008
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: I worked late Friday and was a bit sluggish Saturday morning, but Linda found seven fly-ins going on around Texas, and that got me going. The weather was good, the airplane was beckoning, so we narrowed the choices to three but our late start meant time for only one destination.
The Cheetah lifted off Liberty's 3,800 foot runway with ease and we ventured north and west around Bush's Class B Airspace. As we flew, we picked out lakes, towers, windmills, highways and towns along our way to Ranger, Texas, 60 miles west of Fort Worth, because there’s a story there. Twenty-one year old Jared Calvert is a go-getter. He’s leading the restoration of an 80-year old airport.
Linda made an excellent first landing on a grass strip and taxied back to the parking area, mowed out of the field between the two grass runways. Folks wandered the grass parking area filled with regular airplanes, a few relics, new light sport airplanes and several ultra lights. We were just in time to get some barbeque in the old hangar and watch with the crowd as two top aerobatic pilots gave a show.
Linda: We picked Ranger because Jared Calvert is working hard to promote a small airport and general aviation. Jared is on a mission to restore Ranger Airport to its original state from 1928. He vows to turn things around for Ranger by preserving its heritage and using its assets wisely.
“Modern amenities will make it viable to remain open in the future: re-paving old asphalt and getting fuel back which has not been in service since the mid-80’s.” These modern services and new hangars are planned for one side of the facility, while the other side will be “project restoration.” Jared’s eager to get started on the 1928 hangar. “The front half, added in 1941, doesn’t have the original brick floor, so it will be removed. The 18 large windows and doors, and corrugated metal with “Ranger Airport” painted on roof will be cleaned up and restored. An 8’ windsock, flag pole and historical marker will be relocated so when you look on that part of airport, that’s how it was.” Like a trip back in time.
State and federal airport grants denied because of limited growth potential, Jared is quickly convincing people that big isn’t always better, there are other ways to accomplish the goal, and the possibilities for Ranger are still grand. “The Economic Development Corporation granted money to extend the runway to 3400’, and we’re looking into historical preservation funding, but beyond that we will rely on private funding.” The good thing, he says, is that “money will be spent more economically and responsibly than the state can do.” So while fund-raising is challenging, projects cost less for the same quality. And while city leaders are willing to help, the city doesn’t have much money either. The former 60,000 population when airport was built has dwindled to 2,500. “Most of the folks who live here are older,” he says. “The only booming business here is the funeral home. We have lots of work to do, but with fewer people and less money. It’s an uphill climb, but worth it for the community and its heritage.” Jared knows the history very well. “1911 the first airplane landed in this field. It wasn’t even an airport then. The airport was active through the ‘30s and ‘40s and took shape as a general aviation airport through the ‘40s and ‘50s, but then began to decline.” “Then,” he says, “in the past twenty-five years the airport was coveted by a select few pilots who aren’t like most of us. They wanted no camaraderie, they didn’t spend any time promoting the airport or its benefits to the community, they wanted to keep it to themselves, like a private club. So in recent history it developed a poor reputation.” But with Jared on the case, all that is changing.
Mike: People are taking notice and this unique, historic airport is finally getting the attention it deserves. It soon came time for the traditional fly-in departure routine: the fly-by passes. We took our turn and did the fly-by and then ventured to nearby Eastland for fuel. We anticipate great things for Ranger while Jared Calvert is leading the charge.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.