formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 19, 2009 Ranger and other small airports

The Liberty Gazette
May 19, 2009

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Mike:
All across America there are small airports with unique features, most noticeable are those receiving support of local aviators and local leadership. They exhibit an understanding of the value their airport brings to their community, evidenced by how they build their airports to attract people, with sidewalks painted like taxi-ways, parks and picnic tables, aircraft viewing areas, welcome signs and knowledgeable, friendly people.

Highlighting a few Texas airports, Dayton’s own Patrick Griffitts is progressing steadily on his Fort Parker Flying Field airport project in Groesbeck (www.fortparkerflying.com).

Cleveland’s Airport Advisory Board is working with TXDOT Aviation on projects to increase the benefits that airport will bring to the community. The Cleveland city manager supports an effective, knowledgeable Advisory Board and their work directly with TXDOT.

Ranger Airport, southwest of Dallas, is home to grassroots aviation at its best. The city-owned field is maintained by volunteers, and several restoration projects are based there. This Saturday, May 23, is the date for the annual Air Show/Fly-In, and the public is invited. Jared Calvert, organizer, calls the antique airfield’s atmosphere unique, and offers some interesting historical background.

Jared: In November 1911, a Wright Model B visited Ranger. The pilot, adventurer R.G. Fowler, was flying coast-to-coast with his modified Wright in an attempt to win a prize offered by William Randolph Hearst. Receiving the award required completing the trip in 30 days, it took Fowler 112.

When the McCleskey oil well blew in October 1917, the small town of Ranger swelled to 30,000 people. The oil boom transformed the quiet community into a rowdy, fortune-seeking free-for-all. The discovery came when the industrial world was depending more on oil, and supply not keeping up with demand. Fueling the fighting machines of World War I placed an added urgency on the need.

After the armistice Ranger was known as having “The boom that won the war.” Ranger became the largest city between Fort Worth and El Paso–population: 50,000 within five miles of downtown and was home to many businesses.

But Ranger needed an airport. On November 11, 1928, the field where R.G. Fowler had landed became today’s Ranger Airport. 44 airplanes and over ten thousand people attended the dedication.

While on a tour of the United States in July 1931, Amelia Earhart graced the grass in her Beechnut Gum sponsored autogiro. A Civilian Pilot Training Program was established in 1938 to prepare pilots and mechanics for WWII.

After the war the airport was modernized, taking the shape of a typical general aviation airport by adding an asphalt runway and building additions to the original hangar. But with a declining population and pilot base the airfield was not improved or maintained thereafter. By the 1990's a group of volunteers came together to clear the remaining grass runway of Mesquite trees and breathe new life into the old airfield.

Linda: Today, Ranger’s population is 2500. Despite lacking funds, volunteers see to it Ranger Airport remains open; a living history, but one facing an uncertain future. The asphalt runway is in need of repaving and the 1928 hangar needs restoration.

The annual Fly-In supports restoration projects and preservation of Texas’ third oldest airport. BBQ, aerobatic demonstrations, and great family fun await you in Ranger. For more information contact Jared at jaredwd@yahoo.com or 254-433-1267, and check out the airport’s own My Space at www.myspace.com/rangerairfield.

Meanwhile, come out to the Liberty Airport Wednesday, May 20 at 10:00 am, and support the ground-breaking ceremony for two long-awaited projects; the grant-funded runway lighting and drainage projects.

Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.

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