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The first aviation field in Daviess County was constructed around 1923. Aviator Frank Sheehan built the airfield with the hopes of providing space on the barnstorming circuit and becoming a major airplane manufacturer. The first planes were built in the hangar in 1926. In early 1927, Sheehan and several partners formed the Kentucky Aircraft Corporation. Sheehan was killed a month later on February 14, 1927, while test flying the Kentucky Cardinal No. 5. Manufacturing permanently ceased, and in 1933 the corporation sold the property to the city of Owensboro to become a municipal airport. The airport served as a training facility, including training pilots during WWII. The area was abandoned after the relocation of the airport to the west side of Owensboro in 1951. The last remaining building from the era was torn down in February 2016.

  • Airport buildings, 1938
  • Aerial view of the airport, 1941
  • Pilots waiting to fuel their airplanes, 1941
  • Last hangar being demolished, 2016

In 1923, aviator Frank Sheehan bought leased land from Hunter Bell south of Highway, next to the L&N railroad tracks. Sheehan, a former barnstormer and burgeoning businessman, hoped to build an airfield that would attract the popular flying circuses to Owensboro. He also had plans to make Owensboro a major aviation manufacturing center. The airfield and plant were constructed by 1926, when the first Kentucky cardinal airplanes were manufactured. In January 1927, the Kentucky Aircraft Corporation was formed. Plans for airplane manufacturing in the area were abruptly halted on February 14, 1927, when Sheehan was killed in a crash while testing one of his newer model planes. For more information on Sheehan and the crash, see entry on “1927 Crash Site of Frank Sheehan.” The corporation continued, but eventually sold the property to Owensboro city officials in 1933.

The city, with the help of the WPA, converted the plant and airfield into a municipal airport. The airfield had two runways of approximately 2,000 feet which formed an L-shape. The hangar housed 4 locally owned planes and could hold up to 14 planes at once. Some of the old offices were converted into a shop and classrooms for the Civilian Pilots training. These classes were financed by the government and the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. In 1937, the Owensboro Aviation Club was formed as flying grew in popularity. During WWII, the airfield was cleaned up and enlarged to train fighter pilots for the war effort.

The airport remained a popular training center after the war for returning serviceman due to the G.I. Bill of Rights. In 1947, voters approved a bond issue for the city to acquire land southwest of Owensboro and build a new airport. Work began on the new airport in 1949, and it officially opened in March 1951. The old site was abandoned and quickly fell into disrepair. In the 1990s, the property was bought by the city along with the adjacent ones to build an industrial park. When the plans for this never happened, it was sold to Owensboro Health for their new hospital. In February 2016, all but one of the remaining structures were torn down.

"$400,000 Airport Bond Issue for Owensboro is Approved by Voters." The Owensboro Inquirer (Owensboro) November 5th 1947. Evening ed, 1-1.

"Municipal Airport is Training Ground for Future Pilots." Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro) November 10th 1946. Morning ed, B sec, 1-1.

"Owensboro airport is improved and modernized by city." Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro) September 25th 1938. Morning ed, 2 sec, 1-1.

"Owensboro Municipal Airport is Busy Place Each Sunday." Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro) August 24th 1941. Morning ed, 2 sec, 1-1.

"Owensboro Aviation Club Organized with Sixteen Members." Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro) August 1st 1937. Morning ed, 1 sec, 1-1.

"Owensboro Municipal Airport is Scene of Intensive Activity as Result of War." Owensboro Daily Messenger (Owensboro) May 31st 1942. Morning ed, 2 sec, 1-2.

Vied, Steve . "Remnant's of city's first airport razed." Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro) February 24th 2016. , A sec, 1-2.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Owensboro Messenger, Sunday, September 25, 1938

Owensboro Messenger, Sunday, August 24, 1941

Owensboro Messenger, Sunday, August 24, 1941

Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer, Wednesday, February 24, 2016