published Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Cleveland's old airport moves closer to closure

Pilots Barry White, left, and Marty Galyon maneuver White's Cessna 172 into a parking place at a hangar at Hardwick Field, Cleveland, Tenn.'s old airport. Hardwick Field operations have been phasing out since the opening of the Cleveland Regional Jetport in January.
Pilots Barry White, left, and Marty Galyon maneuver White's Cessna 172 into a parking place at a hangar at Hardwick Field, Cleveland, Tenn.'s old airport. Hardwick Field operations have been phasing out since the opening of the Cleveland Regional Jetport in January.
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Hardwick Field, Cleveland's first airport, is in its final days of operations, giving way to a new era of flight at the Cleveland Regional Jetport.

On Friday, the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority decided to eliminate night operations because of the cost of repairing and maintaining runway lighting.

In light of Hardwick Field's imminent closure, the expense of installing new runway light fixtures was cost prohibitive, said Lynn DeVault, chairwoman of the airport authority.

Airport officials agreed, saying they did not even have money for maintaining Hardwick's grounds.

The reduction in hours is another reason for Hardwick's remaining tenant hobby fliers to transition to the new jetport, DeVault said. Since the opening of the new jetport in January, visiting flights have not been allowed at the old airport and only tenants may use the field.

"Hardwick will be closed by the end of the year," she said. "We've got to get those guys to move."

The last real impediment preventing Hardwick's remaining tenants from relocating their aircraft to the Cleveland Regional Jetport should be removed by the end of September, said Mark Fidler, director of operations there.

By that time, he said, the construction of two hangars capable of housing 10 aircraft apiece should be completed.

Hardwick Field soon will undergo an environmental study and appraisal that must be completed before the property can be disposed by public auction, Fidler said.

Hardwick Field, established in 1955, has its admirers.

"It's kind of bittersweet," said pilot Barry White, who still keeps his Cessna 172 at a hangar at the old airfield, which is overgrown with weeds and looks more like a ghost town. However, he said, he still plans to relocate to the new jetport.

White and fellow pilot Marty Galyon praised the new airfield for daylight visibility and for its modern accommodations.

Unlike Hardwick Field, which is located near homes and businesses off North Lee Highway, they said, the Cleveland Regional Jetport on Dry Valley Road is easier to see because of its relative isolation and its large, concrete runways.

Still, Hardwick Field is close their hearts, they said as they reminisced about the field's heyday when it was a hub of activity for flight enthusiasts.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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