A history of aviation in the Elkin area was recently compiled by local resident and pilot, David Bents.
Bents began flying 15 years ago while living in Ohio. News of an airport expansion in 2012 attracted him to the Elkin area, upon retirement. Bents was one of the first renters in the new T hangar building, and quickly became acquainted with some of the long-time aviation enthusiasts in the area.
“In asking some of the old-timers about the airport’s history and origins, they had a very interesting set of anecdotes,” said Bents, explaining that his interest was piqued by their tales. Bents delved into the past, through historical records at the Register of Deeds, Elkin Public Library and The Tribune, as well as first-hand accounts from 10 individuals who have had a part in the development of aviation in the region.
The 25-page document outlines the development of four airports in the area — Riverside Airport, Swan Creek Airport, Rendezvous Field and Elkin Municipal Airport — giving historical context for why residents felt it important to invest in aviation. “There was a time when aviation attracted a lot of enthusiasm,” said Bents, explaining part of the reason for the multiple airports in such a small geographical area.
From the first recorded barnstormer in 1919 to a public-private airport partnership in 1946, the motivation for aviation in Elkin appeared to be financial gain. “The Second World War drew to a close in the spring of 1945. Throughout the country there emerged a growing awareness of aviation’s commercial potential,” wrote Bents.
The first attempt at a municipal airport went awry, ending in a lawsuit some would call a scandal. “After the Greenwood/Blue Ridge Aviation debacle, the Town of Elkin had washed its hands of airports. The sour taste remained for many years even though the need for a real municipal airport was obvious,” wrote Bents.
“The story of how the present day Elkin airport came to be, I found very interesting because it was born out of conflict, compromise, and a little bit of scandal,” said Bents.
The document brings readers right up to the present day, noting, “the airport is the Town’s front door, projecting the welcoming entrepreneurial spirit of this community to its’ most influential visitors.”
Several copies of the full manuscript are available to read in the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) office at the Elkin Airport located at 1598 CC Camp Road.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on Twitter @PilotReporter.