Flying was fun at the old Mt. Holly airport
Eddie Blackwood was a regular at the Mt. Holly airport. He also builds radio control model airplanes like this one. Photo by Alan Hodge
By Alan Hodge
Editors note- The story in the May 7, 2020 edition of the BannerNews about the former Belmont airport brought a response from aviator Eddie Blackwood about a similar dirt landing strip that operated back in the day near Mt. Holly.
Lifelong Mt. Holly resident Eddie Blackwood,78, got bitten by a bug when he was a teenager- the flying bug- and it still nibbles on him to this day.
The bug’s first bite came at the former Mt. Holly airport that was a couple of miles from town on Hwy. 27 across from where Hillcrest Gardens Cemetery is currently located.
“The airport was on the other side of the railroad tracks where the Dixon Heights housing development is now,” Blackwood said. “It was a grass and dirt strip about 2,000 feet long and about seven to ten planes were based there. When you landed you had to be careful of the power lines and railroad tracks.”
Blackwood’s best guess is the strip operated from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. As a teen, he and two pals became regulars.
“My friends Jim Fuller and Doug Stowe rode our bicycles to the airport,” he said. “We would hang out there. We were airport bums.”
Blackwood recalled there being a “terminal” of sorts there.
“It was basically a little shack,” he said. “Inside on a wall there was a large aviation map with a string and nail in the center that you could use to plot a course. There was also a gas pump. It was one of those old type with a glass cylinder.”
Folks could take flying lessons at the Mt. Holly airport and rent planes too. The planes were cloth covered “taildraggers”.
“A Piper J3 Cub rented for six dollars an hour and a Super Cub for ten dollars,” Blackwood recalled.
Blackwood availed himself of the lessons which added two dollars an hour to the fee. The man that taught him was famed aviator Bill Hawley.
“I soloed on January 11, 1968,” Blackwood said. “Bill let me solo after five and a half hours of instruction. I was sixteen years old.”
Hawley was also an avid radio control model airplane enthusiast and passed that love and knowledge to Blackwood who still has several large models in his garage at home.
The love of flying that the Mt. Holly airport instilled in Blackwood prompted him to join the Air Force at age 19 where he became a jet engine mechanic. He went on to a career with Duke Energy where he retired from the marketing department.
These days, Blackwood has his own plane- an Aeronca Champ cloth covered taildragger similar to the Cubs he once flew in Mt. Holly. His flying also echoes those days when it was low and slow, just making lazy circles and enjoying the scenery below.
“I just like to go up and fly to small, local airports,” he said.