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Monday, December 14, 2015

Opening Day.


Above is a picture of the Butler Graham Airport when it was first opened on September 27 and 28, 1929 as the Pittsburgh - Butler Airport.  

When I was younger, I used to hate learning dates in history class.  Now that I am a geezer, the significance of dates and times makes lots more sense to me.  I understand the perspective of time differences.  

This airport opening was occurring at about the same time as the Wall Street Market Crash of 1929. 

The view of the picture above is toward the southeast.  Those 2 large hangar buildings were both still there in the 70s, when I worked there.  Part of my job when I was a line boy was to push those gigantic steel hangar doors open and closed.  All the Graham Aviation offices were in the low attachment to the west side of the northernmost hangar.  

The lower picture is from nearly the same direction as the one above.  You can see the east-west, paved runway in this picture.  When I worked there, the airport had a north-south, grass runway.  There are ramps and buildings where it used to be, just to the left of the center of the paved runway and extending to the left, where you can now see a plowed field.  That land was sold by Mr. Graham.  We loved that runway, because we used it for emergency landing practice with our students.  

You can see a road coming toward the hangars from the upper left corner of both pictures and extending across the old grass runway to the trees at the bottom of the lower picture.  I will have a story about that road later.

When the airport first opened, there was no paved runway, just lots of grass.  The planes would just take off and land into the wind on the grass.  They didn't have long take off or landing rolls.  

The article you will see if you click on the words Butler Graham Airport above talks about Amelia Earhart flying here to get her instrument rating and to have long range tanks added to her plane.  I did not know that part of the history of the field when I flew there.

McCowin used to tell us about barnstorming shows in which he flew back in the day.  He said he took off in an open cockpit plane, with a dummy dressed the same as he was - googles, leather helmet, etc.  Then he would throw it out while doing aerobatics and it would fall to the ground, with the poor spectators thinking he had fallen out of the plane.

There was an aerial photo of the airport, with the paved runway on the wall in one of the offices.  I'm not sure when it was taken, but it was taken from directly overhead and you could see the scarcity of homes in the vicinity of the airport.  I always liked to look at that picture when we got calls from people who had built homes nearby, then complained about airplane noise.



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