Christian Pezalla / Staff Reporter
It’s 1925 at a small airport in Ohio, a Stinson taildragger flies by to drop-off and pick-up mail. The words “drop-off” are exactly right because the plane does not bother to land. The inbound mail, trailing behind the plane is dropped on the field and the outgoing mail is pickup with a hook, similar to modern day banner towing. This location is not just a random field but the first home of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Sitting just east of Cincinnati, Ohio, Lunken Field was once the city’s main airport and a regular stop for many early airlines, including Delta Airlines, which inaugurated service in April of 1941 with the arrival of a DC-3.
After opening its doors in 1925, one of Lunken’s first tenants was Embry-Riddle Airlines, which started service with six Waco aircraft. Flying just ten passengers at a time, Embry-Riddle provided regular air service to Chicago, as well as mail service. The airline operated its Cincinnati – Chicago route until 1929. Lunken Field was also the founding location of Aeronca, which made notable contributions to the development of general aviation with the production of its C-2 and C-3 aircraft. Aeronca’s production of light aircraft would continue until the 1950s.
Upstairs from the lobby of the main terminal, is a small office which contains the airport museum. The collection on display is only part of what the museum hopes to eventually display. The museum is run by the Heritage Society, which has three aircraft it would like to exhibit, along with other historical items. The society’s current hangar cannot be opened to public because it now sits within the runway safety zone, which was expanded after the hangar’s construction, according to Charles Pyles, Curator for Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Society & Museum.
A new, more accessible, location for the museum and its aircraft has been selected on the other side of the airport. However, the Heritage Society will need $400,000 to renovate and relocate to the 80 x 100 feet hangar. Efforts are underway to raise funds and the society hopes to find local sponsors with an interest in the airport’s great history. Most of the items in the museum’s collection are related to civil aviation, as many of the neighboring towns have museums dedicated to military history, including the Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio. A special exhibit at the nearby science museum recently provided members of the community with an opportunity to learn about the Heritage Society and the history of Lunken Field.
Just across the river, in the neighboring state of Kentucky, is the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, occasionally referred to as the Greater Cincinnati Airport. Schedule air carriers have transitioned from Lunken to Northern Kentucky over the years, to take advantage of larger runways and facilities. This allowed Lunken to focus on general aviation, which included over 68,000 operations in 2013.
While Lunken no longer functions as the main passenger airport in Cincinnati, it carries on its role as a mainstay of general aviation in Southern Ohio. Of course, Lunken has one achievement that Greater Kentucky Airport will never have – it’s actually in Ohio.