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Things Are Looking Up

I heard the familiar rumble above me, and then the couch began to shake a bit. Sitting in my living room, I’ve become accustomed to routine military helicopter maneuvers flying over our Ohio County home.

Only lately have I experienced the minor quivering of the couch as the “birds” fly over the house. Sometimes I run to the window to see these magnificent pieces of military hardware as they swoop and wing their way around the airspace. The first time I heard them after dark I actually flipped on and off the porch light to let them know we were down here and maybe they should pull up a bit. Pretty silly, I know. These guys know what they are doing.

Living within earshot of the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport has given us these up close looks at the military aircraft and private planes that come and go out of the hilltop airstrip. And I am forever grateful every time I hear those Army National Guard helicopters rumble past.

When former President Trump was in Wheeling, we stood in our yard and actually saw Air Force One fly over our home as it headed back to Washington. I doubt anyone on the plane noticed me waving but I did it anyway.

My experiences with the local airport go back to my childhood. My dad sometimes took business trips via airplanes out of the airport. It was an adventure to pile all the kids in the station wagon and head out in the country to drop off and pick up our dad at the airport.

When major political figures, including former President John F. Kennedy, flew into our airport, again we would traverse the winding road to be at the airport to greet these visitors. I believe we wore political buttons and campaign signs according to our parents’ political leanings. All we knew is there were balloons and treats waiting for us during those rallies.

Nine years before I was born, the airport was formally dedicated on Nov. 1, 1946. The dedication carried this slogan — “The World Is At Your Door.” The dedication was quite an event that included a banquet and spectacular Navy Air Show. There were dozens of invited guests including then governor Frank Lausche, numerous congressmen and senators, local officials, civic groups, military personnel and representatives from Trans World Airlines (TWA).

TWA flew regular flights out of Wheeling during a time of a growing population and booming business and industry in the Ohio Valley.

At that time, industrial leaders in the steel, coal, glass, oil, gas, chemicals and others often had private company planes that called the airport home.

In 1946, a plane fare from Wheeling to Columbus, Ohio would cost $5.60. Or you could fly to Las Vegas for $92.55. The airport was made possible through a collaboration of various government entities and local commissions and committees. Edward E. Stifel Sr. led the charge for bringing the airport to fruition. Thus the airport still bears his name as Stifel Field.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Airport is a testament to tried and true foresight. While much has remained the same — adding to its charm — there appears to be plans to polish this gem and improve its vitality. That sounds like a good idea. And when that happens, I will bring the balloons.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.

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