Submitted by Bob Malkas
Last year I made a presentation to the Lansing Historical Society that included what I call a virtual guided tour through the pages of history that detailed how the airport was managed in order to generate community interest. A flash drive was used to illustrate events that brought people to see what could only happen because Lansing owned an airport. It clearly leaves a record of how the airport became a community center for not only our residents but for all neighboring towns.
That presentation has evolved into Part 2 of my book now in the process of being published. It is my memoir of how the airport was guided to promote acceptance for its future growth, and to transform it into something that Lansing could be proud of.
The tour takes readers by the hand and gives them the feeling that they are participating in each stop. There are more than 20 stops in the experience. They include an airshow, the day the Ford Hangar became a national historic place, when the Veterans Memorial helicopter came to Lansing, when the traveling warbirds came, a remote aircraft show, four of the nation’s fleet of blimps using the Lansing Municipal Airport, yes, and a visit from two Sikorsky helicopters, when Camp Quality brought more than 50 children to the airport for a unique experience complete with airplane rides, pancake breakfasts, school children tours that averaged 20 each year.
The tour also pays homage to people who contributed to the airport’s history: Wade Palmer, Bob Alexander, Harold Christian, the then-members of the Lansing Historical Society — Mayor Balthis, Bob Crosswhite, and Carl Unger — and even Michael Jordan, who came to do a commercial, just to name a few.
This momentum stopped more than 10 years ago, and it should be remembered. As goes the airport so goes the Ford Hangar. The Village today uses the word historical when it advertises the building, but never uses the same word when mentioning the airport.
In 2012 a Ford Hangar Foundation was organized to explore new ways to rehab and find the funding needed for maintaining the hangar for the future, but they never reported any progress. That effort too died away. Associated Air Activities — a Fixed Based Operator that did aircraft maintenance, pilot training, sold aviation fuel, and other aviation-related activities — leased the building. In 2011 it was projected to provide the airport over $50,000 in annual revenues, but it still was maneuvered out of the building.
Today all that has changed. The Spring 2023 edition of Looking at Lansing boasts how the Ford Hangar was going to be turned into a venue for non-aeronautical events. The introductory event was a wedding. In preparation the hangar was turned over to a couple for them to make it ready for the event that did not resemble anything aeronautical, or to advance aviation. Fortunately, the reception did go well according to the reporting.
Having non-aeronautical events was always possible before 2008, and they did occur — only with the approval of the Illinois Division of Aeronautics, and only if the event would benefit the airport in any way, and only if a safety plan was in place that insured the safety of aviation activities.
A quote from the article about the future for the hangar says the Village officials are working on an application for use of the venue considering its many limitations. Those are: no kitchen, limited automobile parking, no climate control, no serviceable rest rooms. The Village’s Comprehensive Plan would not call this the best possible use of the building.
I can find no proof that the FAA has given the approval to have any non-aeronautical events without their written approval or a comment or another made that the Ford Hangar has been removed from the airport’s official footprint.
Very good article again as usual Bob ! He is right in 2012 when Carl ( Herby ) Dorris and Steven Cremonesi JR. Finished gutting and cleaning the interior of the hanger also completed some maintenance projects around the hanger. Got the doors operational, got roof repaired, got debris and removed vegatation bushes , weeds ect…. It was well on its way and then came to a screeching halt. Wade Palmer was forced out people were moved around and it was all blamed on budget . The airport needs a manager that knows what is going on and a budget Budget that fits. Thanks for your contribtion Bob and keeping an eye ot for the airport’