As a child the sound of an airplane made me stop and look skyward wondering how the plane can stay aloft without flapping its wings. As an adult I find myself looking at the passing planes but with more insight into the physics involved in keeping these sleek machines aloft. Growing up in Basking Ridge, New Jersey I would ride my bicycle to Somerset Hills Airport and watch the wonders of flight take place before my youthful eyes. Mesmerized by the planes taking off and landing I would pretend I was the pilot at the controls and make airplane sounds while watching. The planes departures and arrivals reminded me of the Canadian Geese I would watch while walking through the Great Swamp located next to the airport. Most days I would daydream and wonder what direction the planes where traveling and what new discoveries they would find flying to their destination. Unfortunately, the airport was demolished and condominiums grew from the paved runway which once housed small aircraft of all shapes and colors. My childish mind assumed the planes moved on to other airports similar to birds finding a new nest when their old habitat is destroyed by a predator.
Years later as an adult I have seen airports similar to the one in Basking Ridge, NJ close throughout the country. Typically people buy property near an airport and then complain about the airport noise. I am sure the homeowner knew that living next to an airport they would hear small planes take off and land. A legal battle begins when these new airport neighbors file complaints and law suits. Through different methods which include condemnation the airports are then destroyed or sold. Some are even closed under the guise of national security. Normally the airports where condemned and sold to a developer who made a profit from the newly acquired open land.
Corrupt government officials have been known to destroy airports for their own personal or political gain. An example is when Mayor Daley of Chicago ordered the midnight destruction of the runway at Chicago Meigs field. The good news is the Government of Chicago is now liable for over a million of dollars including Federal Government fines and attorney fees for their criminal acts.
My new column “Airport Watch” will help educate you as to the benefits of having a small airport in your area. I will also try to dispel common misconceptions concerning safety and noise. I hope you enjoy learning the rich history, discovering recreational opportunities, and understanding the positive impact on your community a small airport has to offer.