|HYLAN'S FIELD JOINS AVIATION MEMORIES|
Hylan Airport as seen from a plane piloted by Ray Hylan
Collection of Don McLane, 6-6-11
Hylan Airport Building
Collection of Don McLane, 6-6-11
It was 1939. The Rochester Municipal Airport had only recently covered its cinder
runways with pavement.
The biggest plane flying in was a DC-4, and things were busy at Rochester Municipal and at a half-dozen airports around town: Brizee's Commercial, Partridge Field, Shoremont, Homemakers, Hemlock... names now long forgotten.
It was that year too, that Ray Hylan opened his airport at Jefferson and West Henrietta roads. This week, after 32 years and several other similar announcements, Hylan's field is finally being closed.
The stakes already have been planted whre the new Clay Road will bite through the two narrow runways. And work on "Miracle City," a large shopping mall complex, is about to begin.
Hylan originally bought six farms in the area, and the 100 acres or so he set aside for his airport was marshland. Even during the airport's early days, each take-off and landing would send the local frog population scampering.
The resulting nickname, "Hylan's frog pond," lingered
long after the frogs had gone.
In those days students learned in old Wacos and Fairchilds and J-3 Cubs, designed by the Taylor brothers from Newark.
One wall of Hylan Aircraft which occupies part of the hangars built around 1940. is still lined with J-3 landing gear, all brand new.
"Cubs, you'll find them in some private strips or some farmer's barn," Hylan observes, "but they don't come to civilization anymore."
Hylan's field was sod at first, then cinders. Not until about 10 years ago was it finally paved.
A few stories continue to be passed down to each new generation of pilots who've spent hours struggling to learn take-offs and landings:
O how Red Panella, Hylan's one-time partner, sent spectators sprawling in the mud as he flew between the office and the hangar.
Of how Hylan landed upside down across the road in Rochester Gas & Electric Corp's back yard one winter when a student pulled the mixture control by mistake and the engine quit.
There were blimps, the old Flying A and the Goodyear which last visited the airport
two summers ago. There were air shows, like the Cole Brothers and passenger hopping for $3 a ride.
And during World War II, there was Civilian Pilot Training there (and at the main airport where he's operated since 1922, Utica, Binghamton and LaFayette, La. where Hylan also ran flight schools.)
Thousands have learned to fly at Hylan Airport and the skies are filled today with airline and military pilots who started out as lineboys or otherwise got their feet in aviation there.
"Yeh, there's been a big change in aviation since then," Hylan concedes. "It's a different class of people flying today. They're older.
"It used to be a young man's game...exhibition flying and they earned a living from it. There was an airshow every day. That's gone. Today they're businessmen and the airplane means transportation."
Hylan bagan announcing the closing of the field several years ago. But few figured the intractable, cigar-chomping pilot would give up what had been his headquarters for the past three decades.
His strategy, he says, was to get the county moving on building a general aviation field. But it didn't work and now the county's only paved
airport left (outside of the Rochester-Monroe County
Airport) is in Brockport. The others are sod and the closest airports comparable to Hylan's are in Dansville, Fulton
Now there are a hundred things to be packed or left behind as Hylan School of Aeronautics, (at Hylan Airport), moves in with Hylan Flying School (at the main airport).
Dozens of shirttails clipped from students the day they soloed; a dozen model airplanes dangling on strings from thr ceiling; plaques hung up so long ago only Hylan can remember why; the J-3 gear; a smattering of pictures - of Tex Johnston, who won the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race and is now Boeing's chief test pilot ("He still drops in," Hylan Says), of Hylan arm-in-arm with the flamboyant Roscoe Turner, one of aviation's best-known race pilots and the only three-time winner of the Thompson; of Hylan's old Boeing F4B-4 which is boldly inscribed, "Ray, Remember the good old days, Red (Panella.)"
The F4B-4, a bi-winged Navy fighter, is the only one of its kind left. In 1960, Hylan donated it to the Smithsonian and it is now on display in Pensacola, Fla.
Thank you for your interesting information about Ray Hylan on internet. The reason of my email is that I own a Piper Cub which was used by the Ray Hylan School of aeronautics between 1946 and 1948. I bought this airplane in Virginia in 2006 and it is now in France close to where I live.
Thanks you by advance
Yannick Le Quellec
Editor's Note: If you can help Yannick, please contact me and I will forward your message to him.