Newly minted Pontiac Municipal Airport hangar, circa 1930

 

Oakland County International Airport Takes its Place In Aviation History: 75 Years of Progress -- 1928-2003

 
When construction for the Pontiac Municipal Airport was approved in 1928, the previous year's exploits of the "Lone Eagle" Charles A. Lindbergh, were on the lips of the youngest to the oldest on both sides of the Atlantic.  His epic New York-to-Paris flight in the Ryan monoplane "Spirit of St. Louis", was a pivotal point in aviation history.  For the first time, regular trans-Atlantic or Pacific, flight could be considered as a quite viable enterprise.  And so it was.
 
On August 24, Oakland / Pontiac (officially, Oakland County International Airport) situated in the suburbs of Detroit and ranked 27th busiest commercial airport and 5th busiest general aviation, will celebrate its 75th anniversary with an array of aircraft and activities sure to stir the soul of the most die-hard aviation enthusiast.
 
The celebration is even more appropriate when one considers that Oakland / Pontiac was the first certificated "Airport for Landplanes" (Tampa/St. Petersburg has the distinction as establishing the first regularly scheduled air service using Benoit Flying Boats in 1914) in the country by the United States Department of Commerce in 1930.  Indeed, an air facility holding certificate #000001 automatically qualifies it for an honored place in the annals of aviation. 
 
Notably, within this same timeframe, the center of the world's auto industry flirted with aircraft design and manufacturing through the Detroit Aircraft Corporation.  And who, in collaboration with Lockheed, built a prototype low-wing monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear designated the Detroit-Lockheed YP-24. Its crash in 1931 helped force the company into bankruptcy the same year.

In addition to appearances by NASA astronauts, aviation record holders (altitude record; Long-EZ) F-16s, F-18s and representatives of The Tuskegee Airmen, the organization formed to celebrate and immortalize the exploits of Black Fighter Pilots during World War II, there are two aircraft scheduled for the event to which I have a personal connection.  The B-17G "Yankee Lady" restored over a 9 year period by members of the Ypsilanti, Michigan-based Yankee Air Force, and a B-25D "Yankee Warrior" restored by Capt. Glenn Lamont (ret.).

 
I had the privilege of spending a day with the Yankee Lady's restoration team in 1988.  Laughably, I never succeeded in removing the oil and grime from clothing worn during the lifting of a GE Turbo-Supercharger, one of four located for the aircraft.  Somewhere, I have video of the work carried out that day.
 
I met Yankee Warrior one early morning at Detroit City Airport in 1982 courtesy of Glen Lamont and his team.  They were kind enough to allow me to participate in start-up procedures.  I'll never forget the sound of those Wright-Cyclones resonating off the hangar walls as the "Warrior" taxied for takeoff.
 
Take a Ride in a "Fortress"
 
Although visitors to the open house will have an opportunity to experience the thrill of a ride in the legendary B-17G "Flying Fortress" (a mere $400) they'll have to wait for a similar experience with the Mitchell; it's undergoing IRAN (Inspect and Repair As Necessary).  That task will be accomplished later this year.
 
The Oakland / Pontiac Airport 75th Anniversary team has worked hard to bring this open house together, and I encourage you to fly or drive in for this remarkable event.  You'll find additional information at the following link: http://www.co.oakland.mi.us/aviation/news/
 
The staff of eMOTION! REPORTS.com congratulates all involved in reaching this aviation milestone.
 
Myron D. Stokes,
Publisher

 

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