DARKE COUNTY — Local flight enthusiasts received a rare, close-up look at the Darke County Airport as the airport hosted its first-ever “Aviation Day” Saturday.
The event was open to the public, allowing visitors to walk the tarmac, view a variety of aircraft, and talk to pilots and plane owners.
The airport houses both corporate and private planes, from propeller-driven planes to jet aircraft.
Darke County Commissioner Diana Delaplane said she was pleased by the turnout at the event.
“Love to see the people come out today,” she said. “We had a little bit of overcast. The people that are renting our hangars brought their planes out. We have a nice variety here, over 20-some planes. We had some ultralights fly in.”
“This is about letting people know what’s here at our airport, knowing what’s available, and hopefully they can learn from that,” Delaplane said. “The airport is a great economic tool also, besides just fun and pleasure.”
“We’ve had several businesses fly out of this airport. Today we had some people come in to go to the Eldora races. We have Midmark, we have Weaver Brothers, Rural King has used the airport, Continental Carbonic — so there’s been various uses of economic development through the process of having the airport,” she explained.
In addition to pilots and airport tenants, others participating in the event included Greenville High School’s Career Tech Supply Chain Management students, Civil Air Patrol, Private Pilot and Aerospace Instructor Richard Borgerding, Aviation Maintenance Technicians from Miami Valley Career Technology Center, Aerospace Occupation from Upper Valley Career Center, and the Bowling Green State University Aviation programs.
Delaplane said the event was organized primarily by Darke County Business Administrator John Cook and Assistant Administrator Denise Dillman.
“After speaking with the [airport] tenants, they decided they’d like to see one of these events this fall, so we had a month and a half to put this together,” said Dillman, who said she was also pleased by those who participated in, and attended, the event.
When asked if she would like to see this be a regular event, Dillman said, “Oh yes, we’re already talking about next spring. The tenants have already approached me about doing another one, and they would like to see another event, have some corporations come up, maybe make it a corporate event and do a jobs fair alongside of it.”
“I would like to see this happen twice a year — once in the spring, once in the fall,” she added. “Pilots love to get out their planes and fly, so they’re pretty excited, already asking when we’re going to do the next one.”
The Darke County Airport, as well as the planned reconstruction of nearby Chase Road, has been the subject of some scrutiny of late, as some have questioned the motives of the Darke County Commissioners (including Delaplane, Mike Stegall and Mike Rhoades) as it regards the perception that a recently passed $10 permissive tax (scheduled to begin in 2018) is being spent to cater to corporations which use the airport facilities and not for the greater good.
Delaplane said, however, that using the airport as a means of economic development is not a new concept and that the plans will benefit a broad range of Darke County residents.
“In 1967 the airport was started with the County Commissioners and the [Spiller family] which actually owned the land, and that was one of the main reasons — to bring companies to this area so they can use the airport to create jobs, to keep jobs, to maintain the vitality of the economy right here in Darke County.”