A Plane in Every Garage

Oliver Parks predicted in 1944 that flying would become as much a part of our lives as having an automobile. So, how do you like that airplane and your neighborhood flying field? We’ll get around to that in a minute. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

When I was looking for information on the Dollar Store, I happened to spy a June 19, 1946, story that said, in part, two Cape Girardeau men – Eddie Erlbacher and Oscar Windisch – have purchased 55 of the remaining airplanes at Harris Field [now the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport]. The purchase included the fuselage, wings and landing gear; the engines had been removed and retained by the government.

Going to salvage landing gears

Twenty-two of the planes were the AT-10 twin-engine ship used as an advanced trainer. Eight were A-25 Helldiver dive bombers. The buyers took the ships at an average cost of $35 each. The men plan to use the landing gear in making agricultural and commercial type trailers for moving livestock and farm equipment.

“There are only 111 salable ships left at the field out of the 1,200 originally there. Of this number there are 48 of the PT-23 models, 30 Timms biplanes, 14 twin engine UC-78, or twin engine models, 15 AT-17 twin engine ships and four of the dive bombers.”

One thing led to another, and I found the following story, written two years earlier. (By the way, the City of Cape Girardeau website has a brief history of Harris Field, which became the Cape Girardeau Municipal Airport.)

Future of aviation after World War II

On July 6, 1944, The Missourian did a Q & A with Oliver L. Parks, head of Parks Air, which operates Harris Field [Cape Municipal Airport] and four other flying schools, who described what aviation will mean once the war is over. It’s worth reading the full story about his flying predictions. Here is a boiled-down version of the more interesting parts of the interview.

Neighborhood landing fields

Q: Would acquisition of Harris Field answer Cape’s flying needs completely?

A: No… For private flying, Cape Girardeau would want two or three small landing fields right on the edge of the residence district. Motoring is so much a part of social and business life today that our garages are a few steps from our front door; yes, in many instances, the garage is part of the home. Flying will become just as much a part of daily existence in the future. Therefore, the private flier will want his airplane hangered just across the road, if possible. In other words, we will be demanding neighborhood landing fields, small airports with turf runways, with landing surfaces 1000 to 1500 feet long and about 300 to 400 yards wide….

I’ll fly out of my back yard?

Q: Do you mean to tell me that I’ll be flying my own airplane in the future, practically out of my own back yard?

A: To be sure, you will be flying your own plane, but as to your own back yard, I don’t happen to know how large it is. If your back yard will accommodate runways of the brief length outlined, you could be flying your airplane – and your wife and grown children – today… As soon as air combat requirements ease up, production of … airplanes will be resumed – cozy, two-place little airplanes that will carry yourself and your wife, plus 100 pounds of luggage, on weekend visits to your friends in neighboring towns, at 100 miles per hour, on gasoline cost that can be figured at the rate of 25 miles per gallon; or, if you have a favorable wind, at that much less.

Locate a field at Country Club?

Q: Where would you suggest these fields be located?

A: At the country club, for the first one, perhaps. Then, wherever sufficient ground can be obtained at a reasonable price southwest of town, right on the edge of town.

Commercial Flights

There would be scheduled commercial flights to and from Cape and St. Louis and Chester (17-minute flying time), Cairo (9 minutes).

Other airport stories




6 Replies to “A Plane in Every Garage”

  1. One of my nephews actually does live in a neighborhood where everyone has a hanger in their back yard and the runway right behind that.
    Professionally, he flies for ICE along the border.

  2. Well Mr. Oliver was not quite right, but post WWII a lot of people thought that airplanes would be taking us everywhere over a distance of 100 miles. When the reality of buying fuel, planes and place to land then enters into the equation, the car simply won us over. Plus Ike built the interstate highway system to make travel easiler for longer distances. So unless you travel all the way across the country then the car is resonable way to do it…except for Ken and I we DRIVE to the everywhere!

  3. Ken,
    In another lifetime I sold Real Estate in Arizona (60’s and 70’s)there were several aviation properties available, But one was written up in Popular Mechanics : Stellar Airpark in Chandler, Arizona is a prime example. First of all it’s got location, location, location! Besides being located in sunny Arizona where the weather affords nearly 360 days a year of great flying weather, it’s situated right next to the highways 101, 202 and I-10 for easy access to the entire Phoenix Valley. The airpark is just minutes from downtown Phoenix, less than a mile from Arizona’s largest mall, and Stellar Airpark is rapidly emerging as one of the most premier and upscale airparks in the Southwest, featuring two residential subdivisions on the west side of the runway.

    The first residential subdivision known as Stellar City Airpark was established in 1968 through the early 1970’s, with more than a few of the homes completed well into the 1980’s and 1990’s. The neighborhood is comprised of 80 residences built on 1/2 to 3/4 acre lots. Forty of these Stellar City Airpark residences have hangars attached to the houses with taxiway access to the runway, while the other forty are located just a stones throw from the runway across the main access street into the community. These properties today would sell for approximate values between 200K and 1.5 million, with the majority of them being under, to significantly under, one million dollars when available. Of note is that several of these properties of late have undergone renovation thereby improving and increasing property values in this part of the neighborhood.

    I was just visiting another in Conway, Ark, as my Cousin parks his Bonanza at just such a Residential/Hanger neighborhood. But, they are a rare breed.

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