History of The Ohio State University Airport
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.
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. 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.
In support of its pilot training program, the University, in June 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 airports first two buildings in the spring of 1943, and two 2,200 feet, hard-surfaced runways, taxiways, and aprons in early 1944.
The University 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. By comparison, the Airport ranks fourth in Ohio in the number of take-offs and landings and within the top 100 general aviation airports nationally.
A number of significant events have helped define the history, and continue to shape the future, of the University Airport:
The University Trustees on November 1, 1943 named the new airport Don Scott Field in honor of the former All-American athlete who died in a bomber crash in England on October 1, 1943.
The Ohio State University annually participates in flight competitions, while the Airport hosted the National Intercollegiate Flying Associations (NIFA) National Convention and Air meet in 1960, and its Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON) in 1985, 2002, 2006, and 2011.
In 1967, the crew of a TWA 707 mistook the University 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.
The National Intercollegiate Flying Associations (NIFA) relocated its headquarters to The Ohio State University Airport in 2012.
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.