Dedication of Kanawha Airport

Charleston Gazette
November 4, 1947

Celebrities Laud Port at Dedication

Rain Hampers Program, Cuts Out Air Show

$7 Million Field Declared One of Top Engineering Feats of World

By Bayard F. Ennis

Charleston yesterday regained its rightful place on the air maps of the nation after a lapse of five years, but the spirit of the highly significant occasion was considerably dampened by adverse weather conditions which delayed the arrival of Maj. Gen. Harry Vaughan, President Truman's personal representative, and necessitated cancellation of the air show.

"The Independence," the President's private plane carrying Maj. Gen. Vaughan, landed about 2:45 p..m., coming from Philadelphia.

Overcast skies with an occasional drizzling rain prevailed during the day which had been set apart for the dedication of the $7,000,000 mountain-top Kanawha airport - one of the most outstanding engineering feats of its kind in the world - which has been under construction for three years, and which still needs the finishing touches.

A crowd estimated at 10,000 persons, however, was on hand to hear governmental and aviation celebrities laud the people of the city and county on their perserverance and refusal to allow the many obstacles created by rugged terrain to keep them from realizing a project deemed essential to the welfare and growth of the community.

History is Amazing

"The history of this airport is nothing short of amazing - so amazing in fact that it should be repeated now at this dedication," Col. John Alison, assistant secretary of commerce for air, declared.

Col. Alison presented the port to the Kanawha county court, project sponsor, in behalf of the CAA and at the same time spoke as a representative of Secretary of Commerce W. Averill Harriman.

He pointed out that during the war while the Army, Navy and CAA were constructing airports for the war effort, attempts were made to have the agencies approve a field in this area and that all requests were turned down because of the large amount of grading that would have to be done.

The county then went ahead and undertook "the largest grading project on a commercial airport ever attempted," and Col. Alison thinks it is quite significant that the county should have undertaken what the Army would not tackle.

"The record shows that the county of Kanawha has spent more money per capita on airports than any other county in any state in the country," Col. Alison said. "In addition, $125,000 was voted by the county for an access road to the airport. Other funds were made available for the purchase of land.

"These accomplishments are a fine commentary on the judgment of the 195,619 people of the county and their elected officials.

Project Not Completed

Col. Alison remarked that the "story" is not finished and that county officials have indicated their interest in obtaining funds under the federal aid airport program being administered by the CAA. Figures call for an additional $450,000 in county funds to be matched by the federal government for another runway, parking area, additional drainage and a modern administration building.

"You can have my word for it that when your project comes up for action by the CAA that you will have the agency's fullest cooperation. They have a great respect for Kanawha county up in Washington," Col. Alison stated.

"I congratulate you on the outstanding job that has been done here."

Carl C. Calvert, president of the county court, made the response to Col. Alison's presentation speech in behalf of the court and spoke of some of the difficulties encountered by the court in bringing the project of its present state of completion. He also mentioned the need for additional funds and of the county's plans for obtaining such.

Calvert expressed the appreciation of the court for the valuable assistance given by members of its citizens advisory committee, the CAA and other persons and groups interested in getting Charleston back on the air maps.

Airline Heads Speak

He was followed on the program by the presidents of the five airlines which will be serving the city beginning Dec. 1.

Capt. E. V. Rickenbacker of Eastern Airlines told the throng assembled in the mud before the speakers stand, that the opening of Kanawha airport was one of the outstanding achievements of West Virginia, adding that the port will contribute to national insurance of the welfare of this land of ours.

By building air fields, according to the flying ace of World War I, we help to guarantee the heritage of the citizenship which we enjoy as air fields contribute to the strength of the nation," and only by remaining strong, can we serve others as we would like to serve."

The Eastern chief also called attention to the fact that funds available up to the present time have not made it possible to install needed radio range and other radio equipment, and that until such is done, it will not be possible for planes to land in all kinds of weather. Instrument landing equipment is vital if the port is to be really first-class and meet the expectations of its builders.

T. H. Davis, president of Piedmont Aviation, Inc., commented that Charleston is probably the only city in the country of less than 100,000 population with five scheduled airlines.

Brief talks also were made by Robert Love, president of All-American Aviation, Inc., Ralph Damon, president of American Airlines, who was described as the first top airline official to suggest that the city build a port on its hill tops, and by J. H. Carmichael, newly elected president of Capital Air Lines.

Meadows Speaks

All of the presidents praised the city and county for undertaking a project of the type of Kanawha airport, and expressed the hope that the services rendered by their lines would be commensurate with the quality of effort put forth to port into existence. [sic]

After the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" by the bands of Charleston and Stonewall Jackson high school bands, the invocation was pronounced by Dr. Leonard Riggleman president of Morris Harvey college. Charles E. Hodges of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, was presiding officer, and after a brief talk regarding the history of the port, Hodges introduced Gov. Meadows.

"The very heart of West Virginia is now open to the people of the world," Gov. Meadows said. "We have become a neighbor and a potential market place to every part of the world."

He described the opening of the port as the writing of "one of the brightest pages in the history of Kanawha county and of our great state." and voiced the hope that "we may prosper and live more happily as a result of this great achievement."

Hodges introduced James G. Carper and Mont L. Cavender, county commissioners, along with Calvert, and also introduced a long list of distinguished guests at the close of the speaking program. The listed included high ranking Army, Navy and civilian officials who were on hand to lend splendor to the event.

Present on the speakers platform also were Gus J. Requardt, senior partner of the firm of Baltimore engineers of Whitman, Requardt & Associates, designers of the port, and Max Harrison of Pittsburgh, Pa., executive vice president of Harrison Construction Co., which did the grading work.

War Hero Here

Among the first to arrive was Brig. Gen. Thomas S. Power of Washington, director of training requirements, headquarters, AAF. Gen. Power led the first B-29 attack over Tokyo and also the first over the Ploesti oil fields in Roumania. [sic]

He is a friend of Henr. D. Litaker of Charleston and Litaker aroused the interest of Gen. Power in the field by writing him about it while the latter was on Guam. Gen. Power, then a second lieutenant in the 76th Bombardment Squadron was one of three Army pilots to take part in the dedication of Wertz Field 18 years ago. He came yesterday by Army plane from Washington.

Rear Adm. W. L. Ainsworth, commanding officer of the fifth naval district; Paul Aiken, second assistant postmaster general; U. S. Sen. Harley Kilgore; Reps. E. H. Hedrick and Hubert Ellis of West Virginia, and Rep. Charles H. Russell of Nevada, were among the distinguished guests.

All complimentary flights which had been scheduled by the airlines for prominent state, city and county officials and leading Charleston businessmen were cancelled because of the low ceiling, and the only flight made from the port other than those scheduled for the transportation of people from out of town was a test flight by American Airlines.

Before deciding whether to cancel the complimentary flights Capt. A. H. DeWitt went up with a DC-47 taking along a group of representatives of the radio and press.

Crowd Inspects Plane

His passengers were John Philips of WGKV, Joe Hergit of WCAW, Ray Wheeler of the Daily Mail, Ray Wilson of the United Press, Joe Hoffman, Nilo Olin, Robert Jamison, Dallas Higbee, Neil Boggs and Bayard Ennis, all of the Gazette. David Frailey, an American Airlines representative, went along for the ride as did Stewardess Adella Follett.

The plane took off on the No. 1 runway and followed the valley west as far as Dunbar. From there it circled back up the valley traveling east as far as the capitol. It turned down the Kanawha river from that point and on reaching Elk river turned right, going back to the airport.

At the conclusion of the special ceremonies, the crowd was admitted to the taxi strips to visit planes of Capital, Eastern and American airlines. Chief interest seemed to center about Capital's "Flying White House," the DC-4 in which the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to the historic Casablanca conference.

Spectators also visited the temporary administration building, the hangar, planes of the U. S. Air Force, a mobile radar set operated by the U. S. Navy, and military equipment of the 82nd Airborne Division, U. S. Army.

The crowd was transported to the port and back without charge in specially charted buses and automobiles. Buses left from a loading station on McClung St. between Duffy and Oney Sts. All other traffic was blocked from travel on the Ruffner hollow road and up the access road of the port between 9:30 a. m. and 5 p. m.