Sunday, March 14, 2004

Think history, future in debate over Lunken

By Martha Lunken
Guest columnist

In 1935, Carl Friedlander moved the Aeronautical Corp. of American (Aeronca) from Cincinnati's Lunken Airport to Middletown. Squabbles over recurrent flooding were an issue. But Friedlander gave up in outrage and frustration when the city assigned 165 acres of airport property (the area adjacent to his company's production hangar) for recreation commission use. The primitive little Aeronca "Flying Bathtubs" were test-flown at the site, and Friedlander argued it was wrong to risk public safety with public playing fields below. He believed airport property was for airport use and inevitable expansion needs. Meanwhile, the city of Middletown had extended open arms and attractive incentives to move.

About 15 years later, Procter & Gamble acquired the Aeronca hangar as home to their fleet of DC-3 aircraft. In the 54 years since, this historic building has been enlarged and modernized by the company several times to accommodate airplanes and a flight department that is the envy of the corporate fleet.

P&G now operates aircraft with global range capabilities. Even though they are larger and more powerful, these airplanes are far quieter than earlier-generation jets. But they require larger hangar facilities and a longer, stronger runway. Space and funding are available for the runway improvements, and P&G has long had plans for a new hangar at Lunken. The Federal Aviation Administration and the city have conducted noise and environmental studies with favorable results.

City Council is still unsure if Lunken should be improved and the runway lengthened. They are weighing the complaints of a small but vocal group of residents, who one may assume moved in after the airport was dedicated in 1928, against the majority of neighbors who find no problem with modest and regulated airport growth.

The alternative is for P&G to accept the invitation of Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which offers open arms, ample property, tax incentives, improved highway access and heaven knows what else.

Be sure the abandonment of Lunken for Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky won't stop with this one company, and the impact on Lunken's now excellent facilities and the city's economy will be far-reaching. On the other hand, maybe Aeronca could be lured back. Testing flying bathtubs over the golf course could be interesting.


Martha Lunken of Mount Lookout is a flight instructor and owned Midwest Flight Center at Lunken Airport. It closed in 1980.

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