The dawn of a new era at the Ohio State University Airport at Don Scott Field in northwest Columbus will be celebrated Saturday, Aug. 19, with the ceremonial turning of soil.
Groundbreaking for the Austin E. Knowlton Executive Terminal and Aviation Learning Center is scheduled for 10 a.m.
Ohio State President Michael V. Drake and David B. Williams, dean of the College of Engineering, which oversees the facility, will join representatives of the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation and other guests to mark the start of $20 million in planned enhancements at the airport.
“The two-phase project will support construction of a new aviation-education and research facility with state-of-the-art flight simulators, research labs and classrooms,” according to the announcement of the Aug. 19 event. “Combined with a modern flight terminal, the new facilities will integrate education with airport operations, benefiting Ohio State students, as well as (central Ohio) residents and visitors.”
“Pretty much state-of-the-art for all of those things,” said Brandon Mann, director of flight education at the airport.
“I can’t tell you how many comments I get from people about the old facility,” airport general manager Mike Eppley said. ” ‘Well, I would think OSU would have something better than this.’ “
The modernization efforts are vital because the airport’s infrastructure has remained largely unchanged for more than 50 years, according to the announcement.
The budget for the project is $20 million, half of which was donated by the Knowlton Foundation.
The opening of the facility is slated for January 2019.
The announcement noted that a number of facets came together for this particular event at this particular time. For one, Aug. 19 is National Aviation Day. In addition, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Ohio State’s aviation-education program and the 75th year for the university’s airport, not all of which were at the West Case Road location.
In support of its pilot-training program, the university purchased property in May 1942 for the development of an airport, according to the website for the facility. The new facility was on the outskirts of town in northwest Columbus, 7 miles north of campus. The first plane to use the new airport landed at the field on Nov. 5, 1942, according to the site.
What followed was the construction of the airport’s first two buildings in spring 1943, and two 2,200-foot, hard-surfaced runways, taxiways and aprons arrived in 1944.
Eppley said he expects great things when operations are moved out of the terminal that dates to 1942, “and that’s what we’ve operated out of for many, many years.”
“It is a premier (fixed-base operator) facility to serve customers locally and globally,” he said. “We actually will have a dedicated room, more of a flight-planning room, where the students and professional pilots can collaborate. It was one of the goals we wanted to meet.”