Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:
Southwestern West Virginia
© 2002, © 2012 by Paul Freeman. Revised 4/20/12.
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Bollinger Field / Hilltop Airport (revised 4/20/12) - Kanawha Seaplane Base (added 4/14/12) - McDonald Airport (revised 1/3/11)
Swope Farm (revised 8/30/09) - Welch Municipal Airport (added 4/12/12) - Wertz Field (revised 9/7/11)
Kanawha Seaplane Base, Charleston, WV
38.35 North / 81.63 West (West of Washington, DC)
A 1938 photo (courtesy of www.mywvhome.com) of 20 year old Boyd Wolfe & another pilot (both wearing parachutes) in front of 2 Aeronca Champ floatplanes at Kanawha.
According to Mark Hess, the “Kanawha Seaplane Base... opened sometime after 1937, owned by Glenn Clark.”
The earliest depiction which has been located of Kanawha Seaplane Base
was a 1938 photo (courtesy of Mark Hess) of 20 year old Boyd Wolfe & another pilot (both wearing parachutes) in front of 2 Aeronca Champ floatplanes at Kanawha.
According to Mark Hess, the “Kanawha Seaplane Base... was called Charleston #2 Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol during WWII.
Clark ran this operation. It was also a Civilian Pilot Training Program base.”
A 1940 photo (courtesy of www.mywvhome.com) of the Kanawha Seaplane Base at its original location on the northeast bank of the river, with 3 Aeronca Champ floatplanes at the bottom-right.
A 1942 photo (courtesy of www.mywvhome.com) of the Kanawha Seaplane Base, after Clark had moved the base across the river to the southwest bank.
One floatplane is visible at bottom-right, and note the "Kanawha Flying School" on the building above it.
A 1944 map (courtesy of Mark Hess) depicted Kanawha “Sea Plane Base” at the lower left.
The only aeronautical chart depiction which has been located of the Kanawha Seaplane Base
was on the November 1945 Huntington Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
According to Mark Hess, the “Kanawha Seaplane Base... closed sometime in the late 1940s.
The Kanawha Seaplane Base was no longer depicted on the 1954 Huntington Sectional Chart.
As of 2012, no trace remains of the Kanawha Seaplan Base.
The site of the Kanawha Seaplane Base is located south the intersection of Summers Street & Kanawha Boulevard.
Welch Municipal Airport (I25), Welch, WV
37.42 North / 81.53 West (Southwest of Charleston, WV)
Welch Municipal Airport, as depicted on the 1955 USGS topo map.
According to its FAA Airport/Facility Directory Data, Welch Municipal Airport was established in August 1947.
The earliest depiction of Welch Municipal Airport which has been located was on the on the 1955 USGS topo map.
The 1968 USGS topo map depicted Welch Municipal Airport as having 2 very closely-angled runways,
and a few small buildings on the northeast & southeast sides.
The earliest photo which has been located of Welch Municipal Airport was a 4/26/94 USGS aerial view looking west,
several small buildings on the northeast & southeast sides, and what appeared to be one light aircraft.
The last photo which has been located showing an aircraft at Welch Municipal Airport was a 1/1/03 aerial view looking west,
showing one single-engine aircraft on the northeast ramp.
Runway 27 actually had a bend in the middle, following the alignment of 2 individual runways depicted on the 1968 topo map.
According to Bob Aberman, “Welch Airport was closed in 2006.”
An 8/25/07 aerial view showed closed-runway “X” symbols painted on Welch's runway,
and the hangars on the southeast side had been removed at some point between 2003-2007.
A 7/10/11 aerial view looking west showed the runway to remain intact, though marked with a closed-runway “X” symbol.
The hangar on the northeast side remained standing.
The 2011 USGS topo map continued to depict Welch Municipal Airport, with a bend in its runway.
As of 2012, the FAA Airport/Facility Directory Data described Welch Municipal Airport as having a single 2,695' asphalt Runway 9/27,
“in poor condition, pavement condition failed, surface rough & cracking”,
and the first 300' of Runway 27 were noted to have a “3 degree bend”,
with “No line of sight between runway ends.”
It was said to be owned by the City of Welch, with the manager listed as Robert Lee.
The airport was said to have 2 single-engine based aircraft,
and to conduct an average of only 65 takeoffs or landings per year.
Although Welch continued to be listed in the A/FD, its airport status was listed as “Airport closed indefinitely.”
Bob Aberman reported in 2012, “Welch Airport.. a few people fly [radio-controlled model aircraft] there.”
Welch Municipal Airport is located at the southern terminus of County Road 52/16.
Bollinger Field / Hilltop Airport, Ruth, WV
38.32 North / 81.72 West (Southwest of Charleston, WV)
Bollinger Field, as depicted on the November 1945 Huntington Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
This little general aviation airport was located in the hills of WV.
According to Jerry Waters, Bollinger Field “opened in the 1930s I believe.”
However, Bollinger Field was not listed among active airfields in the Airport Directory Company's Airport Directories from 1933, 1938, or 1941
or the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock),
and it was not depicted on the May 1945 Huntington Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy).
The earliest depiction of Bollinger Field which has been located
was on the on the November 1945 Huntington Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
It depicted Bollinger as having a commercial/municipal airport.
According to Mark Hess, Bollinger Field was “owned by Cramer Bollinger.
Bollinger took hundreds of aerial movies during this time.”
The Haire Publishing Company's 1945 Airport Directory (courtesy of Chris Kennedy)
described Bollinger Airport as a “Class 1” airport, owned & operated by Charleston Aviation Corporation.
The manager was listed as C.G. Bollinger.
The field was said to consist of 92 acres, irregularly-shaped,
within which was a single 2,200' sod east/west runway, and 2 hangars.
A 1946 photo of a Stinson V77 Reliant of All American Airways
picking up mail at Bollinger Field (from the Benny Mallory collection, courtesy of www.mywvhome.com).
A wire was stretched between 2 poles & a hook on the aircraft snatched up the mail bag!
A 1946 advertisement (courtesy of Mark Hess) for the “Just opened, new, modern GI School” at Bollinger Airport.
A 1946 newspaper article (courtesy of Mark Hess) proclaimed that 2 Sikorsky R-5 helicopters would be on display at Bollinger Airport,
as they had “been purchased by the Atlantic Greyhound Lines for experimental purposes pending the start of a feeder service throughout the nation.”
From a 7/21/46 article (courtesy of Mark Hess), a photo of “Ex-servicemen attend GI Flying School at Bollinger Airport” in front of an Aeronca.
An undated aerial view of Bollinger Field (from the Benny Mallory collection, courtesy of www.mywvhome.com),
showing at least 5 aircraft on the field, with the hangar on the right-rear.
The May 1957 Huntington Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy)
described Bollinger Field as having a 2,100' unpaved runway.
At some point between 1957-58, Bollinger Field was evidently renamed Hilltop Airport & had its runway lengthened,
as the May 1958 Huntington Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy)
labeled the field as Hilltop & depicted it as having a 3,600' unpaved runway.
The 1958 USGS topo map depicted “Hill Top Airport (Private)” as having a single unpaved northwest/southeast runway,
with a few small buildings on the north side.
According to Jerry Waters, “I'm not sure when Bollinger closed. I've heard in the 1960s.”
Bollinger/Hilltop Field was evidently closed (for reasons unknown) by 1961,
as it was no longer depicted on the June 1961 Kahawha River World Aeronautical Chart (according to Chris Kennedy),
or the 1965 USGS topo map.
The 1996 USGS aerial photo showed that several large buildings had been constructed over the site of Bollinger Field,
with no trace remaining of the former airport.
The site of Bollinger Airport is located northeast of the intersection of Route 119 & Southridge Boulevard.
McDonald Airport, Earling, WV
37.75 North / 81.9 West (Southwest of Charleston, WV)
McDonald Airport, as depicted on the October 1948 Winston-Salem Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
This unusual little airport was located on a narrow slice of land on the south bank of the Guyandotte River,
with the grass runway following the curve of the riverbank.
McDonald Airport was evidently established at some point between 1945-48,
as it was not yet depicted at all on the March 1945 Winston-Salem Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy)
nor listed among active airfields in the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).
The earliest depiction of the field which has been located
was on the on the October 1948 Winston-Salem Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
It depicted McDonald Airport as having a 2,500' unpaved runway.
Don Elmore recalled, “I have been into the McDonald Airport several times.
Charlie Belcher flew for Buck Harless, a WV coal & timber magnate.
Cotton McGlothlin was the chief pilot at the time & they operated a King Air in & out of McDonald many times.”
According to Bill Napier, “McDonald Field Airport was near my home town, Logan, WV.
I have never been on the field, but have driven past it & flew over it.
I was never able to really make it out from the air. It was definitely from another era.
When I found it on sectionals in the late 1980s it was marked as 'Hazardous.'
I can assure you it was. But that was another era.”
The 1989 USGS topo map depicted “McDonald Field” as having a single 2,600' unpaved runway (somewhat curved, following the riverbank).
Two small buildings (hangars?) were depicted southeast of the runway.
The 4/24/96 USGS aerial photo showed that the runway remained clear at McDonald Airport,
along with the cluster of small buildings on the southeast side of the field.
However, there were no planes visible on the field.
Eddie Shields recalled, “My wife & I visited it about 1999 just before they plowed it up & closed it for good.
You had to walk over a swinging bridge to get to it.”
A 2003 aerial photo showed that most of the hangars & buildings had been removed at some point between 1996-2003.
The last aeronautical chart depiction which has been located of McDonald Airport
was on the December 2003 Cincinnati Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
It depicted McDonald as a private field with a 2,700' unpaved runway,
which was noted as being “Hazardous”.
McDonald Airport was evidently closed at some point between 2003-2006,
as it was no longer listed among active airfields in the FAA Airport/Facility Directory data as of January 2006.
A pre-2006 photo looking east at the tiny grass clearing which is McDonald Field (courtesy of Bill Napier).
A pre-2006 photo of a hangar which remained at McDonald Field (courtesy of Bill Napier).
Bill Napier passed along an observation in 2006: “I took another trip to the Taplin Airport one day.
The bridge was closed to traffic, although there is a small pedestrian door.
My brother & I walked out to the middle of the bridge, since I had never crossed a swinging bridge I was kind of hesitant.
The bridge floor is in good condition & the cables holding it look strong, but half way was all I would travel!
Some of the neighbors around the bridge told us, rumor was,
that they were going to tear down the hangars at the field,
so my brother took me down to the Rich Creek bridge & around the mountain to the airfield.
I took several more pictures of the hangars.
I did find where the official name for the airstrip was McDonald Field Airport
and that it was last inspected in 1996.
The sad thing is, what stories such a place could hold,
and as far as I could determine, there are no written record of it.”
A 5/9/07 aerial photo showed that a new road had been cut through the southern portion of the airfield site at some point between 2003-2007.
A 6/8/09 aerial view looking west along the remains of the MacDonald runway.
The site of McDonald Airport is located at the eastern terminus of Taplin Airport Road,
Wertz Field, Institute, WV
38.82 North / 81.77 West (West of Roanoke, VA)
A postmark commemorating the July 4-6, 1930 dedication of Wertz Field.
In 1929 the City of Charleston purchased property for its original airport in the town of Institute (6 miles west of Charleston),
as described on the present-day Charleston Yeager Airport's web site (courtesy of Bob Merritt).
The new field was to be named Wertz Field.
By 1930 the City of Charles still lacked the funds to develop & operate a new airport,
so it leased the tract to a group of businessmen who formed West Virginia Airways, Inc.,
which eventually was able to provide aviation facilities at the site for the next 12 years.
Wertz Field was dedicated on July 4-6, 1930.
Later, with help of federal funds, a large administration building was completed.
The earliest photo which has been located of Wertz Field
was a 5/16/32 photo of several biplanes & monoplanes at Wertz Field (courtesy of www.mywvhome.com).
A 1932 photo of a several Army Curtiss A-3 biplanes in front of the Wertz Field hangar (courtesy of www.mywvhome.com).
By 1933 West Virginia was up to that time was one of but 2 states which did not have air mail services.
In October, American Airlines was awarded an air mail contract route,
and opened passenger service between Washington & Chicago, via Charleston,
serving intermediate cities of Elkins, Huntington, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis.
The earliest directory reference to Wertz Field which has been located
was in The Airport Directory Company's 1933 Airports Directory (according to Chris Kennedy).
It described Wertz Field as a 160-acre rectangular property,
having 2 sod runways - 2,500' east/west & 1,600' north/south.
A hangar was said to have "Charleston" & "Wertz Field" painted on the roof.
Wertz Field was described in the same fashion in the
1934 Department of Commerce Airport Directory (according to Chris Kennedy).
A 1934 photo (courtesy of www.mywvhome.com) of pioneering aviator Wiley Post visiting Wertz Field in his famous Lockheed Vega 5-B Winnie Mae.
Post had been the 1st person to fly around the world solo.
In 1935, Pennsylvania Central Airlines (Capital Airlines)
established a branch route passenger service between Charleston & Pittsburgh.
An undated (circa 1930s?) photo of a barnstorming show at Wertz Field (courtesy of Larry Anderson).
The Airport Directory Company's 1937 Airports Directory (courtesy of Bob Rambo)
described Wertz Field as a municipal airport consisting of a 160-acre rectangular sod field.
It was said to have 3 runways, with the longest being the 2,900' northeast/southwest runway.
Two of the runways were also said to have a 1,200' paved portion.
A hangar was said to have "Charleston" & "Wertz Field" painted on the roof.
By 1937, with larger passenger planes having been put into service by air carriers,
the short runways & obstructed approaches of Wertz Field began showing the field's inadequacy.
American Airlines notified City of Charleston that it would be forced to discontinue service
because Wertz Field was too limited for landing larger planes.
City's aviation enthusiasts prevailed on American Airlines to continue service, using smaller DC-2 planes.
Leaders in Charleston Chamber of Commerce realized that site for a new airport must be found.
A committee was appointed consisted of D.M. Giltinan, D.N. Mohler, D.C. Kennedy, Charles E. Hodges, Fred Alley, and J.B. Pierce.
This committee was asked to make survey of airport needs & to study all possible airport sites within 25-mile radius.
In 1938, after a year examining on foot, by car and topographical maps every possible site,
committee reported that the valley floor offered no suitable site large enough to meet area's growing needs.
Even Wertz Field did not permit expansion.
The committee decided that "We must build on the hilltops."
An undated (circa late 1930s – early 1940s?) photo of a DC-2 & two Army aircraft at Wertz Field (courtesy of Larry Anderson).
The earliest aeronautical chart depiction of Wertz Field which has been located
was on the 1939 Huntington Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
In 1940 a site for a replacement airport was suggested along a series of hills not far from Charleston's city limits.
However, work on the replacement airport was put on the 'back burner' by projects which were certified as essential to national defense.
An undated topo map depicting Wertz Field, from a 1941 Civil Aeronautics Board accident report (courtesy of Bob Merritt).
In April 16, 1941, a Boeing 247D of Pennsylvania Central Airlines crashed immediately after departure from Wertz Field.
The crash was described in a September 1941 Civil Aeronautics Board report (courtesy of Bob Merritt).
One engine had lost power, and the captain's attempt to continue the climb
was complicated by the hills & powerlines which surrounded Wertz Field.
The crash destroyed the aircraft & injured some of the crew & passengers.
The report included an undated topo map which depicted the airport.
It depicted the field as having three runways, with the longest being a 2,900' northeast/southwest strip.
An administration building was depicted as being located at the northeast corner of the field,
immediately off the end of one of the runways.
Bob Merritt observed, "The amazing thing is that the airlines were able to operate from this little airport with 2,500' runways,
down in the river bottom with surrounding hills & powerlines for 12 years with apparently no fatalities."
The last depiction of Wertz Field as an active airfield which has been located
was on a 1941 Regional Aeronautical Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
The last directory reference to Wertz Field as an active airfield which has been located
was in The Airport Directory Company's 1941 Airports Directory (according to Chris Kennedy).
Charleston lost its original airport without gaining a replacement on May 12, 1942,
when Wertz Field was closed after 12 years of operation,
as the field's property became the site of a large synthetic rubber plant for the war effort.
It took just 10 months for the employees of Ford, Bacon and Davis to build the massive plant.
Carbide & Carbon Chemicals Corporation along with U.S. Rubber undertook the project.
A July 1943 photo of an Air Corps C-47 which evidently crash landed at the former Wertz Field,
with the plant which replaced the airfield visible in the background (courtesy of Larry Anderson).
Charleston's Kanawha Airport was finally opened just north of the city in 1947,
after the City of Charleston had been without an airport for 5 years.
The 1976 USGS topo map showed that the site of Wertz Field was covered by industrial facilities,
and no trace of the former airport appeared to remain.
In the 1990 USGS aerial photo, industrial facilities covered the site of former Wertz Field,
and no trace of the former airport appeared to remain.
As of 2004, the site of Wertz Field is still occupied by the Bayer CropScience Institute Site,
an agricultural chemical facility which is the descendant of the rubber plant built over the former airport site.
Thanks to Bob Merritt for pointing out this airfield.
Swope Farm (WV11), Fan Rock, WV
37.57 North / 81.62 West (West of Roanoke, VA)
The Swope Farm Airfield, as depicted on the 1996 USGS aerial photo.
This private airfield is remarkable for a short runway which is both sharply curved, and steeply sloped.
Its sole Runway 7/25 is extremely short (only 1,250'),
but also slopes sharply downhill: dropping from 1,800' elevation to 1,665' - a grade of 11%!
Avid flyer W.O. Swope purchased the land for the airfield in 1963,
and immediately began planning & construction for an extremely unusual runway,
given the very unaccommodating topography.
The hangar was originally located at the bottom of the runway.
However, it was moved to the top of the runway after an unfortunate incident
in which Swope's brakes overheated going downhill,
and he had to dump the plane in the brush to avoid hitting the hangar.
Strangely, no airfield at this location was depicted on the 1966 or 1976 USGS topo maps.
The earliest depiction which has been located of the Swope Airfield was on the 1996 USGS aerial photo.
Swope reportedly based & flew a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron (!) and a helicopter from the airfield.
He logged a total of 3,000 takeoffs & landings into the Swope Farm airfield.
Swope only had one eye.
Takeoffs were made downhill, and landings were made uphill.
The helicopter could only be landed at the very top of the runway,
as the lower portion of the runway was too steep.
According to nearby resident Mark Hrutkay, “Mr. Swope was the Mayor of Welch WV for many years
and had an early (underpowered) Bell JetRanger.
He had a landing pad on top of his building and flew it off of there.
They used to throw some really wild fly-in parties at the airport
and it would look like an aircraft carrier with all the planes crammed onto the field
(there isn't much field that isn't runway).
Mr. Swope made his last flight in & out of there 2 days before he died at age 86 [in 2001].
He was the type of pilot they don't have many of anymore.”
Swope's son reportedly planned to keep the airfield in operation.
According to Mark Hrutkay, “His son still has the Jet Ranger.”
On recent aeronautical charts, the airfield was labeled "Swope (Hazardous)".
A pre-2005 aerial view looking east (and uphill!) at the Swope Farm Airfield.
Mark Hrutkay reported in 2006, “I love flying down the runway in my helicopters -
its a precision thing to do & its downhill.
Since Mr. Swope has died, trees have about closed in to where it is too narrow to operate from.”
An 8/25/07 aerial view looking east at the Swope Farm Airfield.
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