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History of The Ohio State Airport

Biplane takes off in 1917 Biplane takes off over the Ohio State Airfield, where the Ohio Stadium was later built, in about 1917. 1917-1939

WW I Brings Aviation to Ohio State

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 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 1992Department established Schools of Military Aeronautics at six universities, including The Ohio State University.

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.

First squadronSchool of Aeronautics first graduating class in 1917

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


WWII: Aviation at Ohio State Returns

University Airport, circa 1945-46University Airport, circa 1945-46In 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.

The Ninety-NinesFour Columbus women pilots, including OSU Airport instructor Helen Linn, far left, formed the Columbus chapter of the Ninety-Nines in 1946.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, go to


1950s and 60s

Partner in Research: The Ohio Project

The Ohio ProjectA 1000 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. 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.


Ohio State Aviation Hosts National Flight Competition

Cessna 120This Cessna 120 was flown in the NIFA SAFECON competition in 1960. The plane, which was also used by the OSU Flying Club in the late 1950s, had fabric wings and no flaps. 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.


19671967 FAA Control Tower1967 FAA Control Tower

TWA 707 Lands 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.

1970 – 1979

Research & Development


Research team in 1976Ohio 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)

Air Transportation Service

Air Transportation ServiceAir Transportation ServiceDuring the 1970s, the airport operated an air transportation service with two DC-3s. This service was used as a flying classroom as well as for transportiing university sports teams, faculty and administration for university business travel.

Wright Airlines

Wright AirlinesWright 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…”


“Airport For Sale” and Community Support

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



The 2000’s

Outreach and Community Activism

Outreach tourSchool age children learn about careers in aviation while touring the airport.Airport outreach programs 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

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.


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)


The Ohio Aeronautics Campus

Aerial photoOhio State Flight Education's Piper Arrow with the Columbus skyline.The airport has evolved in the sixty 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.


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 checkKnowlton 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.”


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