History of The Ohio State Airport

 

1917-1939
Aviation comes to Ohio State

Biplane takes off in 1917
Biplane takes off over the Ohio State Airfield, where the Ohio Stadium was later built, in about 1917.

The Ohio State University has played an integral part in advancing the aeronautics field, while evolving into one of the nation’s premier aviation programs. Less than 14 years after the first flight, World War I created the need for qualified military pilots. In spring 1917, the War Department established Schools of Military Aeronautics at six universities, including The Ohio State University.

First squadron
School of Aeronautics first graduating class in 1917

The School of Aeronautics opened May 21, 1917, when the first "squadron" or group of 16 cadets reported. As the story goes, the cadets built the aircraft in the aeronautics building, located at on the southeast corner of West 19th Avenue and Neil Avenue. The planes would then be rolled down the hill to the field just east of the Olentangy River, where flight tests and training would ensue.

1918_aerolab_on_campus.jpg
The School of Military Aeronautics was built on campus in 1917 at 215 W. 19th Ave. to teach cadets aircraft construction and maintenance. Later, the building housed WOSU Radio and the Communications Lab, and was torn down in 1992

Unfortunately, this arrangement was short-lived, with the opening of Ohio Stadium in 1922. Shortly thereafter, the university built a second airport on East Broad Street “near the country club,” while also using other local airports such as Sullivant Field on Neil Avenue. In 1939, Ohio State was one of a number of universities that took part in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, sponsored by the Civil Aeronautics Administration, for the purpose of fostering private flying

 

 

1942-1949
Birth of an airport

 

University Airport, circa 1945-46
University Airport, circa 1945-46

In support of its pilot training program, the university, in May 1942, purchased property for the development of an airport. The new facility was located on the outskirts of town, seven miles north of campus in northwest Columbus. The first plane to utilize the new airport landed at the field on November 5, 1942. What followed was the construction of the airport's first two buildings in the spring of 1943, and two 2,200 feet, hard-surfaced runways, taxiways, and aprons in early 1944.

Ruth Gouthey

 

99s

Four Columbus women pilots formed a chapter of the Ninety-Nines organization in 1946. '99' was founded by Amelia Earheart, named after the 99 women pilots who attended the first meeting in 1926. In the photo on the far left is Helen Linn, assistant coordinator of pilot training at the OSU Airport in 1946. For more info about this organization, visit http://www.allohio99s.com/.

Ruth Gouthey (photo on the right and the second from the right in the photo above) was Ohio State's first female flight instructor, pictured here with a student in 1947. Gouthey also helped form the first Columbus chapter of the 99s.  Ohio State began offering flight instruction in 1945.

 

1950s -1959
Growth in flight training

 

The Ohio Project
A 100 gallon insecticide tank was placed in the pilot’s compartment, so a raised cockpit was built above it. The cockpit provided better visibility and protection for the pilot during an accident. The covering of the plane was flame resistant Orlon.

In 1952, lab fees and ground school for a private pilot’s license totaled $530. By 1956, school enrollment was at capacity with 29 students and the fleet consisted of four Cessna 140s and four Navions.

flight student
Flight school enrollment at capacity

Beginning in the late 1940s and continuing into the 1950s, the airport partnered with the farming community to research equipment for crop dusting. Charles W. Kellenbarger, aircraft maintenance supervisor at Ohio State Airport, worked on the Ohio Project. This was “an airplane developed by the Ohio Flying Farmers Association, The Ohio State University, Civil Aeronautics Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and others, for use in spraying and dusting farm crops." A modified version of the Piper J-3, the airplane was built to take off from and land on short farm fields. (Science and Mechanics, 8/1956) However, the plane crashed in 1957 and the project was halted.

Jack Eggspuehler
Jack Eggspuehler led aviation at Ohio State from 1958-1978.

Jack Eggspuehler was named director of the School of Aviation at Ohio State in 1958 when he was 28 years old. He was head of aviation until he retired in 1978. Part of his responsibilities included serving as airport director.  

 

1960-1969
Ohio State Enters the Jet Age

 

TWA 707
July 4, 1967: A Boeing 707 mistakenly landed at KOSU.

In 1967, the crew of a TWA 707 mistook the airport for Port Columbus International Airport. After shuttling all passengers and baggage to Port Columbus, and removing all galley equipment and seats, the plane was light enough to depart for the larger facility across town. Watch the 707 take-off below.

These Beech Musketeers are pictured at the Beech Aircraft Customer Delivery Center in Wichita, Kansas, in June 1969.  The picture is courtesy of Myron Ashcraft, Ohio State University class of 1971.

beech musketeers

The airport started its decades-long partnership with the NIFA by hosting their national competition in 1960. SAFECON (Safety in Flight Evaluation Conference) has been held at The Ohio State University Airport ten times.

The National Intercollegiate Flying Associations (NIFA) relocated its headquarters to The Ohio State University Airport in 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1970 – 1979
Growth in Research & Development

DC-3
Air Transportation Service

 In the 1970s, the airport operated an air transportation service with two DC-3s. The service provided transportation for university sports teams, faculty and administration and served as a flying classroom.

Research team in 1976
Ohio State Engineering teams with NASA to research plane wing design.

In 1976, Dr. Gerald Gregorek, Ohio State Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, and Dr. Stacy Weislogel, Ohio State Aviation, worked with NASA and Beech Aircraft Corporation to test a new aircraft wing design at the OSU Airport. The Beechcraft Muskateer had the new wing built up over the conventional airfoil to find out if the design would improve economy, performance and efficiency of general aviation airplanes. (Columbus Dispatch, 2/29/1976)

Wright Airlines

Wright Airlines
Wright Airlines

The Civil Aeronautics Administration granted a temporary permit for Wright Airlines of Cleveland to operate a weekday commuter service between Cleveland and Columbus in August of 1975. However, by October of that year, Ohio State University’s administration moved to evict Wright Airlines because there was no lease.  Residents near the airport also objected to the increased air traffic. Eventually Wright moved their operations to Port Columbus. The university then clarified that it had no intention of “expanding ….use to the operation of regularly scheduled commercial airlines…”

 

1980-1989
“Airport For Sale” and Community Support

 

1980s King Air
1980s King Air
King Kong cartoon
"What do you give a 50 ton gorilla to develop? Anything he wants."

Officials of Ohio State University discussed selling Don Scott Airport and the surrounding land in 1986.  Ohio State President Edward H. Jennings called for a land use study to determine the feasibility of “disposing of the approximately 1,400 acres, valued at upwards of $100 million, and moving the agricultural and aviation programs elsewhere.”

The above cartoon depicts Ohio State President Edward Jennings as King Kong, taking over the airport with the intention of selling it to developers. Peggy McElroy was a member of the Northwest Civic Association. (Suburban News)

Developers cartoon
"Developers, you are instructed to maintain your holding pattern over….” (Dublin News, December 18, 1996)
This discussion continued on and off for decades, with vigorous arguments offered from both sides.  Developers were interested in discussing commercial and retail use of the property, as well as residential buildings.  President Gee continued  the discussion on selling the airport in the 2000’s.
Richard Gilson

 

1978-1982:  Richard D. Gilson chaired the Department of Aviation, director of the Ohio State Airport and director of the aviation psychology lab.

 

Stacy Weislogel
Stacy Weislogel

 

1982-1990: Stacy Weislogel was  Department of Aviation chair, and was airport director from 1982-1983.  

 

 

 

 

1990-1999
“A city within a city”

Kenneth Newstrom
Kenneth Newstrom, airport director, 1992-1997

Kenneth Newstrom, airport director, 1992-1997

“The airport is city within a city. We have our own police and fire department, There is a city-type atmosphere with tenants and users."

 

 

Statistics from the time:

Air Force Two
1990– First Lady Barbara Bush arrives at KOSU on Air Force Two, and President George Bush land here after his term ends.
  • 140,000 take-offs and landings per year
  • 5th largest in state
  • One of the top 30 GA in country
  • 80 flight students per quarter

 

 

2000-2009
Outreach and Community Activism

 

Outreach tour
School age children learn about careers in aviation while touring the airport.
Airport outreach programs were created in 2009 and currently serve over 2,000 students and adults each year.  In addition, the airport provides shadowing opportunities for eligible local K-8 students interested in entering a collegiate aviation program. Outreach staff provide tours of the facility by school groups, scouts, and other individuals. The airport is the host site of the semi-annual Youth Aviation Adventure and Young Eagles airplane rides

 

Doug Hammon
Doug Hammon, airport director, 1999-2019

Airport Open House and Don Scott Trot: A 5K on the Runway

The Airport Open House was held in 2003, 2005, and 2007, and attracted thousands of visitors with hot air balloons, military fly-overs, static displays, free plane rides for kids, a 5K run, and more. This event was brought back in 2015 and 2016 with similar success.

WOOSE

Noise complaints cartoon
“The same people keep submitting noise complaints about Ohio State University’s airport…and they all live near the flight paths.” Northwest Columbus News, April 25, 2007
A group of airport expansion opponents formed a group called WOOSE (We Oppose Ohio State Expansion), complete with a website. (Worthington ThisWeek, October 3, 2003) Airport supporters responded by pointing out that the airport has a $65 million economic impact and provides medical transportation services.  The runway expansion would reduce the noise problem, improve safety and create more business opportunity to the region. (Worthington News, April 23, 2003)

 

 

 

2010-present
The Ohio Aeronautics and Aviation Campus

 

Aerial photo

The airport has evolved in the 75 years since its inception from a pure training facility to Ohio’s premier business aviation center, and is the primary facility serving The Ohio State University and the surrounding central Ohio general aviation community. Today, the airport serves as a general aviation reliever for Port Columbus International Airport. Its status as a Part 139 certificated airport assures the aviation community that the facility will meet the highest standards in terms of operations and maintenance.

The university airport is home to 200 aircraft, including, both single- and multi-, piston and turbine engine aircraft and rotorcraft, and sees an estimated 75,000 operations per year, including corporate activity, student training, and pleasure flying. The airport ranks fourth in Ohio in the number of take-offs and landings and within the top 100 general aviation airports nationally.

The airport has welcomed many dignitaries to Columbus, including former Presidents of the United States, First Ladies, celebrities and even manatees being transferred to/from the Columbus Zoo.

 

2015
Austin E. Knowlton Foundation gives Ohio State $10M to enhance aviation, education and research facilities

Continuing its namesake’s commitment to education and to his alma mater, the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation donated $10 million to upgrade aviation education and research facilities, and the terminal at The Ohio State University Airport.

Knowlton check
Knowlton Foundation board members present a $10 million check to Flight Education staff at AirVenture 2015.

“This generous gift reinforces the university’s commitment to aviation education and research at Ohio State and to utilize Don Scott Field as it was originally intended — training pilots, advancing aviation innovation and serving the needs of a growing region,” said Dean David B. Williams of the College of Engineering.

“Modernizing the facilities will allow us to keep pace with the educational needs of 500-plus Ohio State students, research demands of the state and nation, and service expectations of local businesses and pilots.”

2017

In 2017, the airport celebrated its 75th anniversary, as well as the groundbreaking for a new flight education and terminal building.

Airport named after WWII hero

Don Scott
Don Scott
Don Scott Field was named in honor of the former All-American athlete who died in a bomber crash in England on October 1, 1943, during World War II.  A month later, on November 1, 1943, University Trustees named the new airport. Don Scott was a two-time All-American quarterback at the Ohio State University. He  participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, sponsored by the Civil Aeronautics Administration, while at Ohio State. When he entered the United States Army Air Forces, he was as a commissioned pilot.

 

 

Barnstormer Brutus

The Ohio State Airport and the Center for Aviation Studies are excited to announce that Barnstormer Brutus was donated to the airport in honor of the airport's 75th anniversary, as well as the 100 years of aviation at Ohio State.

Barnstormer Brutus and Brutus Buckeye
Barnstormer Brutus and Brutus Buckeye

Barnstormer Brutus was created as part of Brutus On Parade, an amazing and exciting program developed by The Ohio State University to assist in raising funds for the renovation of The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library. Each Brutus started off as a 6'2", 150lb fiberglass statue.

More than 30 life-size statues of our beloved mascot can be found on or near campus. Ohio Staters, Inc., invites you to visit http://u.osu.edu/ohiostaters/where-is-brutus/ and use the map to find these Brutus statues. Take pictures with the statues and post online using the hashtag #findbrutus. The map is available in both a PDF and mobile-friendly format. Enjoy!

 

KOSU memories

Gus Custer

Gus Custer
Gus Custer

  • 1964-1981  Airport Maintenance Supervisor
  • 1981-1990  Airport Maintenance Manager
  • 1990-1996  Airport Assistant Director of Operations
  • The Ohio State University Society of Technicians Chair
  • International Snow Symposium Research and Development Committee Member

Richard “Gus” Custer worked at The Ohio State University Airport from 1964 until 1996. As head of airport maintenance, he was responsible for the upkeep of airport facilities and equipment.

  • One of the most notable things Gus was involved with at the airport was the construction of runway 9L/27R. Custer was responsible for constructing the original grass runway before 9L was paved. Along with this runway, he installed runway lights, taxiway lights, taxiway C, and helped build a fuel farm. The Ohio State Airport had the first runway GPS system and Automated Weather System; Custer helped construct these systems.
  • One of the larger airport projects was the brand new Air Traffic Control Tower.
  • Along with the airport maintenance staff, Gus helped build Hangar 7.
  • When Custer wasn’t working on building taxiways and towers, he was maintaining airport buildings, roads, taxiways, and runways. All pavement markings were required to be repainted annually in order to meet FAA Part 150 compliance. Custer also witnessed the infamous TWA 707 landing that occurred at OSU Airport in 1967. 

As our airport undergoes construction for the new terminal, it is important to remember its legacy and the hard work of all the employees who helped make the airport what it is today.

 

Michael Fischer

Citation
Citation
During one of the memorial tournaments a CitationAir plane and crew were at the airport and just dropped some people and then they saw me and my two brothers. We were there watching all the jets bringing people into town for the tournament. The two pilots asked if we would want to go see the inside of the plane. So we did. 
 
  
Meredith Frederick
Aircraft Dispatcher
Aviation Engineering - 2010

One of my favorite memories from working at the airport happened on a snowy, slow day in the middle of winter. My coworker Cecilia and I had been talking for some time about how much fun it would be to have a go at driving one of the snowplows or snow brooms. This particular day saw driving snow, very low visibility, and consequently, no landing traffic. Mark and Dale, airport facilities veterans, were out in the elements treating the runways with the plows and brooms. Cecilia and I watched them go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and had more delusions of snowplow grandeur. Suddenly, the phone rang. We were being summoned to meet the snow equipment! We scrambled out and chose our respective rides. Cecilia paired up with Mark on the plow, and I paired up with Dale on the broom. Intimidated by all the buttons, levers, and Dale's side-eye, I listened closely to his introduction of how to work the broom. And off we went! Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Feeling pretty confident after a few passes, I had a go at running the blower and broom portion of the machine at the same time under Dale's watchful supervision.
Snowplow
Snowplow

   
After a full pass of the taxiway, I was feeling good, until Dale told me to look behind me. All of the snow had blown right back over the taxiway, since my clever self didn't think to take the howling wind into account when directing the blower. Progress undone! That earned me significant more side-eye from Dale, and the advice to stick to airplanes and leave snow removal to the professionals.

We completed a few more pity passes to give me the chance to save face before Dale dropped me off at the terminal and I was reunited with Cecilia. Cecilia and I were all smiles and laughs after our snowplow lessons. My pride took a hit that day, but it was big fun and to this day I still smile when I see the brooms and plows working the runways.
  
Doug Hammon
Ohio State University Airport Director (1999-present)
Aeronautical Sciences (SBS), June 1989

Beech Starship
Beech Starship
In late 1987 or early 1988, my instructor and I were waiting to taxi from the student ramp to go out to the practice area. We were held in place by ATC as the Beach Starship was on its way in for a demonstration to a local business. Before landing though, the aircraft rolled on its side and flew the length of the runway for all to see. Worth the few extra bucks I had to spend as the hobbs meter kept racking up minutes while we sat and enjoyed the show. The Starship never really caught on, but its successor, the Piaggio, was both designed and housed here at Don Scott. 
 
Margaret J Jewett
Ohio State University Airport
Retired assistant to the director of flight education
1965 to December 1997

Margaret Jewett
Margaret Jewett
I was blessed in being a part of OSU Aviation for about thirty years. I saw and remember many fine young people receive their pilot licenses and are now keeping you safe when flying our friendly skies. I have so many fond memories of all of you.
 

 

 

 

Tommy Smathers 
Sales & Operations Manager / AEG Fuels - Miami , FL
Aviation Management / College of Arts and Science 

KOSU Sunset
photo by Tommy Smathers
I had the pleasure and privilege of working customer service at KOSU from Spring 2006 until January 2011. While attending Ohio State, these were by far the best and most memorable years I can remember! Sue Riggs (Customer Service Manager) gave me the best opportunity to learn and experience aviation first hand and I wouldn't have traded it for anything. I think about my time spent there often and wish only the best for the future of Don Scott Field! Not only does the airport serve as an excellent reliever and general aviation destination, it is among the very few educational establishments that give students, aspiring aviators and enthusiasts of all ages the best first-hand experience anyone could ask. Thank you KOSU!

Warren Collmer
Corporate pilot (37 years, retired)
Social sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, August 1973

As a high school student at Worthington High School (now Thomas Worthington), I did a work/study program my senior year and worked in the maintenance department at OSU Airport as a mechanic's helper. I also worked on the line fueling aircraft on the weekends.

Piper Cherokees
PA-28 Piper Cherokees
In the spring of 1969, Ohio State Aviation was in the process of replacing the fleet of Piper Cherokee training airplanes to new Beech Musketeers. In late May, Beechcraft invited the Department of Aviation for a two-day factory tour and I was asked to go as well. We flew to Wichita in one of OSUs DC-3s. I remember that Bill Hubbard was the captain and the staff flight instructors (all Ohio State students) took turns in the right seat. Jack Eggspeuhler, Marv Easter, and other admin officers and staff were on board too. We met with Olive Ann Beech, and the tour included a side trip to Liberal, Kansas where the OSU Musketeers were being assembled. We returned home two days later. Great memories that influenced my life in aviation.

I also remember when Jack Eggspuehler acquired a P51 Mustang and buzzed the airport (in the pre-tower days).
 

Dick Taylor
Ohio State Department of Aviation, 1966-1988 (retired)
Director of Flight Operations and Training

In 1966, Dick Taylor joined the faculty of the Department of Aviation at The Ohio State University. He was the department's Director of Flight Operations and Training from 1981 until his retirement as Associate Professor in 1988. He wrote the following about OSU Airport’s air transportation service in Forty-Seven Years In Aviation: A Memoir; Chapter 16: Books, Helicopters, and Gliders:

One of the Diesel-3s (just one of many nicknames, including Douglas Racer, Gooney Bird, Dizzy Three, and the Grand Old Lady) was an ex-American Airlines airplane built in the late 1930s with 40,000-plus hours of flight time when it was donated to Ohio State. Rechristened N11OSU and repainted in school colors, it was the university's "flying classroom," fitted with 28 airline seats, a movie projector in the rear and a screen at the forward end of the cabin.

DC-3
DC-3
We flew students and faculty on field trips that were enhanced by visual presentations during their flights to and from various points of interest. The OSU athletic department was a major source of business for the Air Transportation Service; 11OSU transported nearly all the varsity teams except football (too many players and too much equipment) to games at all the Big Ten schools and occasional non-conference venues. As you can see, the airplane was a little worse for wear from a cosmetic standpoint, having spent a lot of time out in the wind and weather because of hangar-space restrictions. But 11OSU served Ohio State well until it was sold in 1974. Our other DC-3 (no photo available) was formerly owned by the Kroger Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was donated to OSU when the grocery giant decided to transport their VIPs in turbine-powered airplanes.

This aircraft was everything a corporate transport should be: luxurious seating for 14 passengers, mahogany cabinets and sideboards topped with living-room quality light fixtures, leather headliners and picture windows on each side, to name just a few of its accoutrements. It had oversized prop spinners, enclosed wheel wells and several power and aerodynamic enhancements that added more than a few knots to its cruise speed. For all practical purposes 77OSU became the university president's airplane -- a "royal barge" to be sure -- but our then-sitting president, Dr. Novice Fawcett, deserved it. Two weeks after I returned from Korea it was the airplane in which I earned my ATP certificate and DC-3 type rating. 77OSU appears in my log books on many occasions until it was sold in 1972.