OUR CITY: Aviation in Cleveland continuing to move forward as ‘The City With Spirit’ flies high
by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland
Jan 02, 2014 | 659 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland
Aviation created quite a stir in Cleveland in 1938. It was National Air Mail Week.

To celebrate, Cleveland residents could buy an air mail stamp and watch an airplane land here and carry those letters to Chattanooga.

Those letters were marked with a locally designed cachet, observing the 100th anniversary of the Cherokee removal.

About 2,000 special stamps were sold for the one-day airplane stop, the local postmaster told the media. The flight took about 15 minutes, according to a letter from the Chattanooga postmaster. The plane flew into Cleveland and landed in an area which is now where the Village Green Town Center, formerly Village Mall, is located on Keith Street.

Once again aviation is creating a stir in our city. Hardwick Field, which has served our community for many years, officially closed Tuesday after decades of usage.

Later in the month of January, the Cleveland Jetport marks its first full year of operation. It is a testament to how far we have come and to the wonderful possibilities ahead.

We can remember so much about our early aviation days thanks to the writings of the late historian Dr. William Snell and to a treasure trove of newspaper articles collected by the late Conrad Day.

For example, an article published in the Cleveland Banner in November 1930 from Day’s collection begins with this: "In the weekly airport service bulletin of the U.S. Department of Commerce, aeronautics branch, Cleveland, Tenn., is given as one of several cities contemplating the establishment of a municipal airport."

Already, airplanes were on the minds of many Clevelanders.

A Curtiss airplane visited the Bradley County Fair in 1911 to perform stunts.

"The air age had reached the city," Snell wrote in his Cleveland Daily Banner newspaper column in 1981.

Somebody proposed painting the name "Cleveland" on the roof of a downtown building in 1920 so flyers would know what town they were approaching.

Some private airstrips were already operating by the 1920s, the newspaper clippings say. Some locations for a city airfield were being considered. The most prominent one was Emmett Flying Field, just southwest of town. In the wake of The Great Depression, the Tennessee Emergency Relief Agency announced in 1933 that some funds were available to build city airports.

But an official city airport would have to wait until the 1950s. In 1955, the City Commission authorized talks between Cleveland city attorney Charles S. Mayfield and Bishop M.A. Tomlinson of the Church of God of Prophecy to purchase property that would become Hardwick Field. It was named in 1960 to honor the hard work of Commissioner C. L. Hardwick.

Cleveland has come a long way since that 1911 visit by a stunt airplane pilot.

Now as we move into 2014, our new and modern Cleveland Regional Jetport is celebrating its first year of operation. Its official opening in January 2013, was the realization of a project that spanned more than 20 years. In its first 12 months, the jetport has already become a busy place for our corporate and private flying communities. It has also become a picturesque venue where groups can meet.

The jetport is an exciting place to measure our progress and take off into a fantastic future.

Jetport operations have been busy, with the number of takeoffs and landings increasing air traffic daily. In the past few months, the jetport has seen a number of business flights coming into Cleveland from all over the United States.

Revenue from fuel sales — both jet fuel and recreational plane fuel — have exceeded expectations.

Next on the enhancement schedule for the Cleveland Regional Jetport is extending the runway by 500 feet. Work on this project will begin in the summer. This will serve the major corporations we have in Cleveland that are flying larger corporate jets. The additional runway length will give these larger jets more room for taking off and landing.

Other future projects include installing approach lighting and updating a taxiway to meet new aviation regulations.

In 1938, our aviation story first began and by 2013 it reached a long-awaited realization as the new Jetport began meeting the needs of our fast growing city and region.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Snell. His collection of articles and information will be important in the future to help us preserve our aviation history. In the coming months, I plan to accumulate all the collections of articles, photos and information from my files through the years, along with those of the late Dr. Snell and the late Day. When finalized, I plan to present the collection to the Regional Jetport and Airport Authority so they can preserve it for future generations. Our aviation story needs to be told and carried forward.

The future looks bright as we forge ahead as “The City With Spirit.” We truly are a city with a desire to bring aviation to a new level to serve generations to come.