Sheehan Field (Airport)

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As of 1943, this article reads:

As early as 1926, Mr. Frank P. Sheehan started an airplane factory; ,or what he intended to develop into such a factory, on a small tract of land a short distance east of Owensboro adjoining what is known as the old Hunter Bell property. Unfortunately this project, in its mere beginning, came to a sad and sudden end. Only three or four planes had been made when in the spring of 1927. Mr. Sheehan, flying perhaps the fourth plane constructed, met a tragic death. His plane, to the horror of a number of observers, plunged into Frederica Street a short distance south of the Carnegie Public Library. He was the first, and perhaps the only Owensboro victim of an airplane accident.

Mr. Sheehan's death terminated the incipient factory enterprise, and there was no related activity at the site for several years. But in 1933 the property (29 acres), having passed into the hands of the Kentucky Aircraft Corporation, of which Mr. E. L. Newton was the principal officer, was leased by that corporation to the City of Owensboro for use and development as a municipal airport.

After several others had held the position, Mr. L. S. Cox, Jr., was employed by the city as manager of the airport. This was about 1940, during the administration of Mayor Harry C. Smith. About two years later, Mr. Walter G. Hoagland, Jr., became associated with Mr. Cox and they have continued to operate as a partnership under the name of Owensboro Aviation. Then in the fall of 1943, the Kentucky Aircraft Corporation sold all its assets, including the tract above mentioned, to this partnership. in October 1942, the city, acting through Mayor Fred Weir and Commissioner Glenn Lovern, bought from Junius Bell and E. C. Bell 127.62 acres of land adjoining the small airport, for the purpose of enlarging it. The purchase price was $21,341.80. In the meantime Mr. Cox and his partner and employees had been putting the port in good condition and enlarging its facilities. An article in the local paper of May 31, 1942, states that the Aviation Company owned seventeen planes, besides which five others owned by different persons were kept at the airport. Under an arrangement with the Civil Aeronautics Authority, ten students were then enrolled in a civilian Pilot Training course. Mr. Cox was and is the chief pilot and general manager of the airport. The company had twelve paid employees, including five flight instructors with government ratings. On July 20, 1949, 39 secondary war training service pilots were graduated at the local school, after a two-months course in secondary training.

For a year or more before that the alert Chamber of Commerce had been making independent efforts to secure the establishment of a larger and federal airport here. A committee had been working on the plan and negotiations had been carried on with officials, in part by trips to Washington by the Secretary of the Chamber and by several prominent citizens. On June 14, 1943, excited interest was created by the announcement that $600,000 had been allocated for the construction of a new airport for Owensboro and Daviess County and the allocation approved by the Aircraft Approval Board. This sum was to be for construction alone and was awarded on condition that the city and county acquire and furnish a suitable tract of land, of about 600 acres, for the purpose. For several months following that announcement that subject was the chief one of local interest in our press and with the public. An airport board was created, of which Milford Purdy was chairman, and was sworn in by Mayor Weir October 7th. In November, the City Board of Commissioners pledged $50,000.00 towards the purchase of a site. The airport board sought to raise the remainder of the necessary fund by popular subscription. It was thought at first that the site would cost $200,000, but later it was said that the acreage might be reduced, and the price correspondingly to $125,000.00. Over $60,000.00 was in fact subscribed for the project by many individuals.

The whole enterprise became the subject of much controversy. A site near Rome was contemplated, and later one at Dermot. In both cases opposition developed, and in the latter a suit was instituted by owners of land at the proposed site to prevent its appropration for the purpose.

Later, as per announcement of April 20, 1944, whether as a result of the delay or the controversy or both, or for whatever reason, the federal authorities withdrew their offer, and the whole ambitious project has come to an end, at least for the present.

Source: 1943 - Sixty Years of Owensboro