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Municipal Airport Goes to War

This article appeared in the
City of Dayton Annual Report for 1943.


The Municipal Airport Goes To War



George M. McSherry

Airport Manager


            The year 1943 should be one long remembered in the future annals of the Dayton Municipal Airport.  During the past year we have seen the successful completion of a great number of improvements that have been consistent with our constant aim toward making it a major airport  that is not only useful to the City of Dayton, the home of aviation, but one of which we can all feel justly proud. 

            Most of these projects have been realized through the grateful assistance of the Army in accordance with the joint airport operation agreement signed by the City and that organization during the latter part of 1942.

            First in importance was the construction of a military Modification Center on the north side of the field.  This not only included the purchase of additional property and the removal of certain wooded obstructions which had heretofore restricted the use of two runway approaches, but also the erection of eight large hangars and shops, as well as a three and one-half mile railroad spur into the field. 

            Although our original set of runways was admittedly fine for commercial usage, all of them were lengthened and widened to make them more adaptable for military use.  In addition a complete new parallel concrete heavy duty runway was constructed in accordance with our prevailing wind conditions.  Further included was a large parking ramp with respective taxiways and drainage system. 

            Other welcomed factors have been the installation of a large new modern type air-traffic direction indicator, and also the painting of sixty-foot numerals on the ends of each runway according to their respective magnetic bearings, for the purpose of identification.  These markings also include the feature of having glass beads imbedded into the surface in such a manner as to permit ease in night operations.   

            At present the entire lighting system is being modernized in the form of flush type contact lights along the sides of each runway.  These when completed will permit the control tower operator to individually light those runways best suited to the wind condition existing at the time.  It will further eliminate the necessity for all present type boundary light cones, as well as the older type runway marker lights which, because of their structure, are more subject to damage. 

            Also a much greater safety factor is being realized by the existence of a small dispensary and a new fire house with its modern fire and crash equipment and full-time operating personnel. 

            One step, long desired, and one which will prove of vast importance to the City as time goes along, has been our ability to secure the Civil Aeronautics Administration in operating our airport control tower with their additional personnel and equipment.  This step will not only serve to eliminate the necessity of our securing additional qualified operating personnel as the air-traffic situation increases, but has already permitted a great saving in operating funds by the City. 

            The building of new and more adequate quarters in the Modification Center to house the three governmental services provided on the field has been noteworthy.  These are the U.S. Weather Bureau, the CAA Control Tower, and the CAA Communications Station.  All of these were over-taxed for operating space in their former locations and have since been able to give better service to the flying personnel by permitting increased staffs in their larger quarters.  The removal from their formerly occupied space has allowed much needed housing for temporary offices, radio room, and cargo space for the airline operators, who could well use additional space for their ever-expanding air-transportation services.  This situation, however, has long been recognized and steps toward its alleviation had been taken prior to the war for the erection of an adequate Administration or Terminal Building to house their facilities, the better handling of passengers, cargo, and restaurant service.  All agreements in this connection have been settled for some time and with several necessary adjustments we should be able to complete the arrangements upon termination of the war, and the release of certain materials.   

            One other important need, that has been somewhat neglected thus far, but is not being overlooked, is a better and more efficient type of hangar for private and itinerant flyers.  However, this too, being along commercial lines, must await less restricted times than we now face. 

            Several recent applications filed with the Civil Aeronautics Board by various airline operating companies, have included Dayton in their post war routes, and if given favorable action, we should see world-wide air service with its many advantages to those throughout this vicinity.  

            Another interesting fact should be noted in that TWA (Transcontinental & Western Air), one of our present two airline operators, has increased its service through Dayton to such extent that we now rank second in total daily flights on their entire coast to coast system of thirty or more cities.  Pittsburgh has one more through flight per day, with Dayton running ahead of Kansas City, New York and Chicago in that order. 

            A highly important link for the present and the future of the airport has been the recent opening of a new access highway between Dayton and Vandalia.  This new super highway consists of two twenty-four foot divided concrete roadways with red-surfaced acceleration and deceleration lanes.  It is entirely fenced to prevent entrance of vehicles except at a few local roads.  This should serve to cut down considerably the running time between the airport and city when normal speeds are resumed after the war. 

            Due to increased airport activity the government has more than tripled the available housing facilities in the Vandalia area for the convenience of the workers. 

            The excellent cooperation that has existed between the military and City toward the joint use of mutual facilities which are adaptable to both military and commercial types of operation, such as runways, radio range, control tower, weather bureau and lighting, has not only made it possible to have more efficient and better maintained operations, but has caused a great saving in public funds by eliminating duplication of facilities in nearby adjacent areas of air activity.  In this manner the field receives a more uniform all-round use, because in war time when restrictions on commercial activities are curtailed, the slack in operations is taken up by the increased military use.  However, in peace time, when the military activities are naturally lessened, the commercial use is increased.  Since the nation’s airports are obviously so important toward the successful completion of the war effort, all figures as to their actual aircraft activities for the year must be withheld until the war is concluded. 

            It can readily be seen from all the above factors taken collectively that although the field during the past year has been improved to make it more adaptable for military use, that such improvements, particularly runways, taxiways, ramps, markings, and lighting, are of such a nature that Dayton’s post war aviation along commercial lines has been given considerable impetus by our entering into this non-exclusive use agreement with the Army. 

            Thus the City of Dayton, while patriotically giving over the use of their original $1,000,000 worth of air facilities to the Army when they needed it most, has an equal opportunity to share a portion of the military improvements after the way, especially those permanently constructed on city-owned property. 

            So the Dayton Airport, in spite of the war, has not been idle, and with its conclusion will be in a far better position to carry on, and the air transportation companies whom we expect to serve us, will have all the facilities of an ultra modern airport at their command.