August 13, 2013 - An Ohio EAA member is in the process of transforming an 11-acre cornfield into a World War 1 French aerodrome east of Dayton, just north of U.S. 35 on Brickel Road in a town called Jamestown. As next year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I, it's a timely undertaking.
"I just want to build a fun place for WWI crazies like me to come and hang out," said owner-operator Russ Turner, who began work on the budding airfield this past April. "Everyone in aviation dreams of living on an airstrip, so I figured what the heck, and decided to go for it."
Staying with his "somewhere in 1917 France" theme, Turner, EAA 850457, named the airfield a very common French name: Aerodrome Les Noyers (walnut trees). It's authentically equipped with a technical shed, watch office complete with a wood stove, 1915 Victrola and period maps, and replica Bessonneau tent (hangar). Turner's replica Sopwith Camel is parked outside on prominent display.
As the pieces fall into place, he plans to build a modest French farm cottage that will not only add to the aerodrome's ambience of being "over there," but also be his residence.
As one of Turner's friends told him, "You're not building an airfield, you're building a theme park. You've got everything except the French maids!" Turner isn't hiring maids anytime soon, but he is in the process of finding a Ford Model-T light aircraft tender and refueler to really set the theme in stone when visitors fly in.
Though not a theme park, Turner does encourage everyone to visit and have fun, whether they fly or drive in. He hopes to eventually hold a number of events at his airstrip, including a biannual celebration in conjunction with The Dawn Patrol Rendezvous held every other year by the Great War Aeroplanes Association at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
As Turner discovered, it's no easy task opening an airfield, but he said he enjoyed the process and learned a lot. "It was all very interesting," Turner explained. "I learned about the grass, the drainage, and all of the legal aspects, too."
Turner credited both the FAA and the Ohio State Department of Transportation on their work in certifying the airstrip. "They were very accommodating and tolerant of me not knowing everything," he said.
What Turner did know was where and what to research to make sure Aerodrome Les Noyers is authentic and truly makes you feel like you are back at a French airfield during the Great War.
He got some of his inspiration from Grimes Field at the Golden Age Air Museum in Bethel, Pennsylvania, as well as from an actual WWI aerodrome, the Stow Maries Aerodrome, in the rural countryside of Kent, England.
Though not even complete yet, the Aerodrome Les Noyers has already taken many steps in transforming this Ohio cornfield into a slice in time and should definitely be a point of interest for anyone, especially "WWI crazies" like Turner and with expected centennial commemorations in the coming year.
For more information, and to follow the progress as more things are added, be sure to like and follow the airfield's Facebook page.