Mt. Healthy Airport
Compiled by Frank Scholle
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Mt. Healthy Airport 1927-1955
The Mt. Healthy Airport was the brainchild of a forward thinking group of businessmen in the 1920's from Mt. Healthy, Ohio. They saw the future of the movement of people and goods in a much more efficient manner than was currently being employed. They also saw that the future was in air mail and strove to get the air mail routes for their airport.
Lunken Airport always flooded in the spring, and the Mt. Healthy Airport’s hilltop location and direct route to town down Colerain Avenue put them in a strong position. But this political plum was not to be because they did not possess enough clout. Who was this group and what was its makeup?
Al Hochscheid, who owned three tailor shops in Mt. Healthy, was president of the group and owned fifty-one percent. Clyde Yerkes was an official of the Mt. Healthy Savings and Commercial Bank. Ed Matre was an investor. Ed Honnert was a contractor, and his equipment was used to eventually level the airport ground. Al Huber was a real estate investor. Neil Sudbrack was a manufacturer and businessman, and Bert Hughes was a contractor.
The thinking back in the 1920's was that if Mt. Healthy was to grow, it might very well grow to the west, into Colerain Township. The group was looking for a level area where not much earth had to be moved, since back then, moving earth was a major expense. As a result, the group looked at the Mt. Healthy area and then into Colerain Township.
In Colerain Township they discovered an area at the southwest corner of Colerain Avenue and Springdale Road. There, the field was relatively level with just a small drainage ditch that needed filling. This ditch was located near what was to be the front of the hanger area near Springdale Road. The Bosserman family owned this property, and they lived in the large white house at 3672 Springdale Road, across from the future airport site. Today this is the home of Vilas Realtors.
Even though the airport had many connections with Mt. Healthy, the prime reason it was known as the Mt. Healthy Airport was government policy. Back in the 1920's the Civil Aviation Authority, the C.A.A., dictated that when it chartered an airport, it was generally named after the nearest town. It did not have to be near or even associated with that town. Therefore, this airport became the Mt. Healthy Airport.
As the airport developed in the late 1920's, it became a hub for aviation activity including pilot training and a ground school, and the hoped-for air mail route. But what about the airport proper? According to most aviation enthusiasts who were actively involved in the airport, there was only one runway. It began at Colerain Avenue and ran southwest for two thousand feet. It was also quite narrow, being only fifty feet wide. The overhead wires on the southeast corner that ran parallel to Colerain Avenue had to be lowered so the planes would have more runways on which to land.
There were two hangers and a T-hanger all along Springdale Road. The office complex was attached to the main hanger, and later a restaurant was added. There was no control tower, only a windsock on top of the main hanger, and no fire or safety equipment other than a fire extinguisher.
The runway originally was grass. The planes landing and taking off would wear the grass down to the soil itself. This was not really a problem until it would rain. Then the soil would turn to mud and the wheels of the planes would throw the mud up and it would collect under the wings. This could add weight to the plane and hinder the takeoff.
When the ground would dry, the airport maintenance used an old Whippet or Terra-Plane automobile that had a drag, to drag the runway and try to level it as best they could. Sometime in the mid forties, the then operator of the airport, Jerry Greenfield, bought truck loads of cinders from CG&E to build a cinder base for the runway. The runway itself never was paved and never had a hard surface.
The airport operated under the original group until the fall of 1929. At that time a fatal crash occurred just fifty or so feet from the airport proper, as the plane was landing.
This accident happened on the extreme west end of William H. Muehlenhard’s farm which fronts on Pippin Road and runs more than one-half mile west to the crash site. Since then the area has developed into what is now the Northbrook subdivision. The location of the crash is within a 100-ft. radius at the point where Loralinda Dr. crosses over Niagara.
It is believed that had the plane been fifty feet higher, the crash would not have occurred. Pictures of the crash show that the plane was well on its way to leveling out when contact with the ground occurred.
A student taking instructions from an instructor named Stormy Wheeler, in an American Eagle Airplane, froze at the controls. Stormy, who was a very good pilot and instructor, reached down to try to knock the student out with a fire extinguisher and gain control of the open cockpit plane, but it was too late. Both the instructor and pilot were killed on impact.
This accident had a profound impact on Al Hochscheid, who decided to pay all the bills, liquidate any assets, and buy off the lease. For all intents and purposes this was the end, for the time being, of the then Mt. Healthy Airport. The airport was not listed in the 1927-28 Cincinnati phone directory, but was listed in the 1929-30 directory as the Mt. Healthy Airport at JA-7250.
During its twenty-eight years of operation, on and off, the Mt. Healthy Airport operated under various names and had many operators. Among the names that I have been able to uncover are Al Hochscheid, George South, Carl “Pop” Muhlberger, and Jerry Greenfield. They may have not been the only operators, but they are the names that are of record.
The Airport had its ups and downs, its good years and its bad years. As mentioned, there may have been periods when it was not operating at all.
In its day the Mt. Healthy Airport could have been considered a rogue type operation. The airport housed many illegal, unlicensed, and unregistered aircrafts.
When the rumor would circulate that government inspectors might be on the way, the airplanes were flown to farms with level fields and hidden until it was all clear, and then the planes returned to the airport. Elmer Lierer, who for all intents and purposes, lived his life as part of the airport, said in an article in the North West Press in 1986 that the airport was in operation until 1955. If there is one person who should know, it’s Elmer. No matter its beginnings or its ending. It provided to many, those many reflections of life that only a local airport like Mt. Healthy could.
From Corner to Corner
In the mid 1920's the intersection of Colerain Avenue and Springdale Road was just a quiet, sleepy crossroad in Colerain Township. It had no traffic lights or stop signs. This was all to change in the late 1920's when the Mt. Healthy Airport was constructed on the Bosserman property located in the southwest corner of the intersection. The Bossermans lived on the north side of Springdale Road in the large white house at 3672, today the home of Vilas Realtors. More on the airport later.
Elmer Lierer grew up in a home on the southeast corner at 3218 Springdale Road. Elmer became a fixture at the airport, spending almost every waking hour doing something to help in the operation of the airport. Elmer’s father sold the property on which the home was located to White Castle, the present occupant. Also at one time chickens and eggs were sold on this corner.
The northeast corner was occupied by a service station, tavern, and dance hall, owned and operated by Joe and Esther Hudpohl. Later in the mid forties, a great big fellow by the name of Tiny Ludwig took over the operation and ran it until the early fifties. Tiny, in addition to running the tavern and dance hall, was a honey dipper. A bit further north, on the same side of Colerain Avenue was the old Bevis Tavern.
In the northwest corner of the intersection at one time was an old toll house. There also was a large sycamore tree. Its circumference was so great that it took three men with their arms outstretched, maintaining contact, to reach around the tree. Also, the old toll house building was used to repair, recover, or refabricate whole wing sections, repaint, and use any other way regarding airplanes.
In fact, Joe Rudolph’s Cessna was refabricated and repainted in 1943 in that very building. It is also said that Joe Hudpohl’s tavern was first located in a building on this corner, before moving across Colerain Avenue to the northeast corner.
As mentioned, the airport itself was located in the southwest corner of the intersection. The lone runway ran parallel to Springdale Road for a distance before the road turns northwest. In fact, the runway ran more southwest/northeast than it ran east/west. The runway itself, according to most eye witnesses, was about two thousand feet in length but only fifty feet wide. There were two hangers made of corrugated steel, one larger than the other. The larger hanger was connected to an administration building and later a restaurant, the Flying Dutchman from the mid forties to the early fifties. In addition to these buildings, there was a T-hanger that according to some reports housed the plane of Carl R. “Pop” Muhlberger, the operator of the airport in the thirties. It is also stated that “Pop” got a ninety-nine year lease at one hundred dollars a year from Mr. Bosserman to operate the airport. “Pop” lived in a small building on the south end of the airport with his dog “Stinker”.
It is said that Stinker knew the sound of the engine of Pop’s airplane and would run to meet the plane when Pop landed. The airport had no control tower, no radio, and no safety equipment. You flew by the seat of your pants. One piece of equipment it did have was a windsock. Other than that, you were on your own. Oh, yes. They did have a fire extinguisher.