"CRADLE OF AVIATION"
H ’port closes March 31,1947
Glenn Curtiss Airport to be plowed up and used as farm land
Time has erased memory of great flying pioneer.
Contributed by Gretchen Van Gelder Casey, 8-9-10
Clifford Van Gelder, manager of Mercury Field at Hammondsport, N.Y., has officially
notified the Civil Aeronautics Authority of the official closing of the Airport as of April 1st, 1947
Commenting on the closing of the Airport, Mr. Van Gelder had this to say.“This small field has been mentioned in many flying and airport magazines throughout the country as the oldest airport in the United States. This question has been brought up many times and has been a bone of contention between many old time flyers and operators in the Eastern part of the country. Not that it means anything, but we do know that while Glenn Curtiss used a field approximately 2,500 feet south west of the present airport for his take off with the June Bug, he did land and use part of the present Mercury Field in 1908, many years before any other airport was established in the United States, and the field was officially opened in the 20 ’s by Aerial Service,now Mercury Aircraft.Since that time the airport has been known as the “Cradle of Aviation ” to pilots, operators, and aviation enthusiasts through the flying world.
Think of it! The “Cradle of Aviation ” for forty years being plowed under..This is not in my way of thinking, nor of the many people who now fly from Mercury Field a proper tribute to one of flying ’s great pioneers, Glenn Curtiss.
Mr. Curtiss was buried in the beautiful little cemetery just south of the airport and we pilots like to think as we circle his last resting place that he is watching us and is pleased with the progress aviation has been making since his departure. We know what Mr. Curtiss and his fellow workers went through to further aviation and the remarkable progress that they made in their experimental work, and we like to believe that we are carrying on for them and furthering aviation in this area just as they did.
Mercury field is small and the valley in which it is located is narrow. It has been cursed by many pilots as hazardous and holding the most turbulent air this side of Hades. In spite of these facts, the field claims a record second to none. There has never been a major accident on the field and no person has ever been seriously injured on the field. Of the hundreds of pilots that have learned to fly from the “Cradle of Aviation ” in the valley of winds, not one has ever been hurt or have suffered an accident of any serious nature.
In the past three years over sixty men and women, old and young have learned to fly and have soloed from this field. Many of them have earned their private licenses and several of the boys that flew the A.A.F. to victory took their first airplane ride here and continued with it and learned to fly from Mercury field.
Only last summe r,one of the world ’s most famous flyers and his family landed at Mercury field.(Referring to Charles Lindbergh) He told of reading about the “Cradle Of Aviation ” never realizing that this was it..When I showed him pictures taken at the field of some of the old experimental gang, Glenn Curtiss, Henry Ford, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Kleckler, the Kirkham boys and many others, he expressed great amazement that a more suitable site had not been developed in this vicinity to perpetuate the “Cradle of Aviation.”
Because of the unsuitable conditions in the Hammondsport valley, further development of the present airport is impractical. It is a shame that Bath and Hammondsport can ’t have a simple two-way landing strip, not a huge airport, no one wants a large expensively maintained airport, only the politicians. Too many towns have already made this mistake. All we need is two sod runways and a little adjoining space for elbow room, something that can be self-supporting, something that the private flyer of today and the potential owner of tomorrow can use to land on as well as the lighter commercial planes.
This field should be near enough to town so that they may complete their business calls and shopping and get out again without red tape, landing fees and general confusion to waste time. At the present time there seems to be no spot available that meets with the many requirements that are necessary without involving, aside from the financial angle - - many headaches such as high tension lines, low wet ground, cross wind conditions and many other factors due to the terrain as well as the negative attitude toward flying that some people hold.
As for a Curtiss memorial airport in this vicinity,there’s not a chance.– too much politics in Albany. In my travels to various airports around this part of the country, I find that towns without an airport are in much the same category as a town without a railroad would have been 30 years ago. We are exactly in the center of the main east-west airway, the beam going directly over Bath. Who wants to live in a town that is on a railroad but no trains can stop because the facilities are not suitable or lacking entirely? Naturally, I am looking through the eyes of air-tourists and pilots when I make these statements but in the very near future, everyone in the community will benefit from an airport in this Vicinity, if we are fortunate enough to have one.”