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Oldham County Airport

Oldham County seeks answers
on airport from existing,
proposed sites in other counties

Carroll County effort stalled by lack of funds

Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(December 2007) – Four Kentucky counties have recently opened, or will soon open, general aviation airports, while another eight are considering similar projects. In this wave of airports springing up all over the area, Oldham County doesn’t want to be left out.
Airports have been established at Bowman Field in Louisville, and in Indiana at the Georgetown-Scott County Airport and Clark County Airport, Lee Bottom Flying Field in Hanover, plus an extended runway added to the Madison (Ind.) Municipal Airport. An effort has been under way for some time to establish a regional airport near Carrollton to serve Carroll, Gallatin and Owen counties, as well as the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.

This map show the three locations
that are being considered for
the Oldham County Airport.

“It takes time and money,” said Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold "Shorty" Tomlinson. Efforts have stalled momentarily for a tri-county airport to be built near the Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County due to a lack of funding.
After considering 10 possible sites, the list was narrowed to one. Appraisals were sought and, in a lot of people’s minds, the project was not as accurate as it should have been, said Tomlinson. Another hindrance was that “the property owners wanted more money than we had committed.”
Although the project received federal funding a few years ago for a feasibility study, “everything is tight now,” Tomlinson said. “The state has talked about putting more money into it, but we’re still short. Rural counties don’t have the money to invest in a project like this.”
Right now, Tomlinson is “more focused on highway and bridge needs versus an airport. I’m not saying an airport would not be a good thing down the road,” but his county needs highway and bridge repairs for commuting structures that are used every day.
Tomlinson said there an airport could benefit the tri-county area in three ways: Carroll County has a solid industry base, which could use an airport to fly in management, goods and services; if the Kentucky Speedway were to land a major race, an airport would be convenient to fly in drivers and tourists; and he suggested that the Belterra Casino Resort and Spa, located just across the Ohio River near Vevay, Ind., might also benefit from a nearby airport.
The Georgetown-Scott County Airport, which opened in 1993, has been used as a model for many new airports in Kentucky. Jonathan Westbrook, chairman of the Oldham County Airport Board, said that Paul Steely, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Aviation, directed the board to examine this airport.
The Oldham County Airport Board took a field trip there and talked to its board. “We also tried to learn as much as we could about Bowman Field and the Clark County Airport,” Westbrook said.
He said that in Georgetown, Toyota other corporations uses the airport to move people and goods in and out of the Scott County. In Oldham County, airport supporters say the newly opened Rawlings Co. In La Grange could also benefit from an airport.
The Lee Bottom Flying Field, south of Hanover, Ind., on the Ohio River bottom, is owned and operated by pilots Ginger and Rich Davidson. Mostly charter sized planes and privately owned planes use the 100-acre grass runway airport.
This airport has about 5,000 operations a year and has been growing every year for the past decade, said Rich Davidson, 39. If it were not there, the closest airport for pilots to use would be the Madison Municipal Airport.
“There is none like ours within 100 miles,” said Davidson, “because we are a public-use grass runway. We meet all the same specifications that all county airports use.”
Davidson said the runway is what attracts many people to Lee Bottom Flying Field – so much so, that he organizes a fly-in event every year in September for vintage aircrafts. The Wood, Fabric and Tailwheels Fly-In began 10 years ago with 28 planes; 425 showed up this year. Most aircraft were made from 1927 to 1956.
Of the 1,800 people who attended, half were from more than 200 miles away, he said. People flew or drove in from San Diego, Ft. Myers, Fla., Vermont, Australia, South Africa and England, to name a few. This one event brought $304,800 into Jefferson County, Ind., for the weekend, excluding what economic impact the airport has on the county the rest of the year, Davidson said.
“The thing about flying is that in the early days, people embraced more of what flying was about – freedom,” said Davidson. As a recreation, he says flying appeals to all ages.
Davidson said a general aviation airport in Oldham County would be "absolutely beneficial." Most of his friends live there, and he favors the Airport Board's proposed site that borders Oldham and Shelby counties.
“It is amazing to me that every town in the world wants an interstate, but you mention an airport, and it’s like Satan entered the room.”
He says an airport could be built for $500,000. “You could add a connection to the entire world for $500,000,” he said. “A large percentage of the Louisville and Clark County Airport users are there because there is no airport in Oldham County. An airport would have no problem having business.”

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