“Galt Airport scheduled for auction block,” trumpeted the Chicago Tribune.
Jean and I had patronized this cozy country airport through dating, marriage, and kids. Sure, my grade school, “stinkin’ Lincoln,” is long gone. And my childhood home yielded to a parking lot. But dying airports are rarely replaced with new ones. One more sky haven, one more community of aviators, lost… Dejected, I phoned Galt.
“I can’t imagine it won’t continue as an airport,” said manager Justin Cleland, subscribing me to the Galt Traffic newsletter for updates. I’ve heard such optimism before, however, rarely with happy endings. After all, this airport was $16 million in the hole. In my funk, I jotted memories for an “In Memoriam” column.
I was just a college kid when I met this cute girl from Woodstock, Illinois. Unlike other girls I dated, Jean thought flying was cool rather than scary, and viewed my piloting as a positive credential. (“Want to fly on Saturday?” I asked one girl before Jean came along. “Sorry,” she replied, “I always do my laundry on Saturdays.” I proposed other days but apparently she maintained a pristine wardrobe.)
In January, 1975, just two months after our first date, I flew Jean from Champaign to visit her parents at Woodstock. My Sectional chart indicated that Galt’s main runway was paved, and at 2,800 feet plenty long enough for a Piper Cherokee.
I didn’t know until arriving that in those days the main runway was hardly wider than a two-lane road; a hangar impinged on one side, and tall trees obstructed the end. It was to be the first of many aerial journeys from central Illinois, Indiana, and ultimately Arizona to tiny Galt Airport…
Top photo: Galt Airport pilots gather for a celebratory gift photo, presented to new owners Claude and Diane Sonday. (Ingrid Karolewski photo)
Lower photo: Galt Airport, Illinois, as it appears today. (Justin Cleland photo) See more photos here.
(This column first appeared in the November, 2013 AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
©2013 Gregory N.Brown