By Carl Keith Green
January 21, 2011
Night-time pilots will have it a bit easier finding the London-Corbin Airport after the installation of a new rotating beacon Thursday.
The beacon replaced the device that was installed sometime between 1949 and 1953.
Every night for about 60 years, the two lights, one green and the other white, have let pilots know the airport’s location, at 1,200 feet above sea level.
The replaced beacon was built in about 1938, said Airport Manager Larry Corum.
It was thought to have been brought to London from a small airport south of Louisville, maybe at Springfield, he said.
The old light was not only a rotating beacon, but also designed as one of the strings of beacons with an upward shining light used to mark airways across the country.
When it was installed at London the upward light was covered, so it wouldn’t be mistaken for one of those airway markers, said Bea Campbell, who has been a pilot nearly as long as the airport in London has existed.
This newer light wasn’t required to be modified when it was installed.
And it isn’t new, but rebuilt by a company in Mississippi, Corum said.
Campbell recalled a trip from California to the Sturgis Air Base in Kentucky by aircraft one night and being able to see the airway lights from one to the other all the way across the country.
He described it, “You’d fly from one (of the lights) to another. I came back from Korea in 1951 in a DC-3, through the Rockies, and you could see those things, one to the other. It was clear and I could see those lights.”
Once sites transmitting signals were installed, the lights went away.
This new light will perhaps be seen as far away as Lexington, Corum said. It also rotates twice the speed as the older light, he said.
By the end of the 1940s, two and maybe three airports had popped up in London. One was near the entrance to Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park owned by Roscoe Magee, where by the end of the decade, was the Civil Air Patrol headquarters, which has been moved to the current airport site.
Another airport, said to have been owned by Harland Sanders, was near the current site, with its runway running north and south, rather than the current, that is east and west.
Fred Christian, a retired CPA, who earned his pilot’s license in the early 1950s has made a large part of his life by coming to the airport both to fly and to talk about flying with other pilots.
He recalled a trip to the airport in 1950 with his wife Jean, before he got his license.
“I looked over and they were laying gravel base for the runway,” he said.
Funding of London Municipal Airport began in 1949.
The estimate of construction of the airport was about $288,000 and the Kentucky Department of Aeronautics and the Federal Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) required $80,000 in matching funds.
Some $25,000 was required to secure the project and 25 local citizens each kicked in $1,000.
Later 20 local people joined in with $500 each in order to finish the airport’s administration building, and long-range financing was completed by selling $44,000 of revenue bonds and $36,000 in city tax bonds, which were approved by London citizens with a vote of 577 to 87.
The airport began with a 4,000 foot long and 100 foot wide runway.
On Oct. 1, 1953, London became the smallest town in the United States with regularly scheduled airline service.
Piedmont Airlines landing three times a day made London an hour from Louisville and Cincinnati, two hours from Charlotte, N.C., three to Chicago and 24 hours to San Francisco.
Not only was there a runway and airline service, but the CAA installed on the second floor of the building, a weather station and two-way radio system for guiding aircraft, notify them of weather and accept flight plans.
Piedmont left the airport in the 1970s.
Now, known as the London-Corbin Airport, Magee Field, the airport boasts a 5,751 by 150 foot asphalt runway with instrument approach and landing.
Based on the field are 77 aircraft, 61 are single engines, five multi-engines, two jets, seven helicopters, one glider and one ultralight.
Pilot training is also available.
The Hangar Restaurant is also on the field and often, Corum said, aircraft drop in with customers for the restaurant, as well as land-bound customers from the area.
Source: TIMES TRIBUNE OF CORBIN