“Renaissance Field,” Greg’s November column

4-GregBrownFT1113_0001Smw1200The airport that saved itself

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.)

2-GregBrownFT1113_OldGalt__033eSmw1200In 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…

Read the whole story in this month’s Flying Carpet column, Renaissance Field.” 

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

8 thoughts on ““Renaissance Field,” Greg’s November column

  1. I grew up in Wonder Lake. Currently reside in Iowa. Just earned my private pilot certificate in April 2015. On the weekend of 8/16/2015 flew into Galt (10C) with my sons to visit their cousins. Sons of my brother who passed away in September 2014 of mesothelioma. I was equally elated at the news of Galt’s resurrection.

    1. Hi Robert, Congrats on earning your Private! Glad you enjoyed the story; that’s a beautiful area where you grew up. So sorry to hear about your brother’s passing. BTW, I had the opportunity to fly into Galt this spring, and wrote a followup column that’s appearing next (11/15) issue. Where are you based in Iowa?

      1. I am based out of Des Moines (KDSM) and am a member of The Des Moines Flying Club. Working on my instrument ticket. Very much a challenge. Just finished your current article. Never have embraced sentimentality but your articles make it impossible to reject it. Keep up the great work. I was shocked at the almost like beehive activity going on at Galt. The folks at Galt were fantastic. Allowed the use of a hangor for two nights at no charge. If there is a general aviation utopia 10C would be the template.

        1. Hey Robert, I steered my editors to your above comments as a possible “Letter to the Editor,” for Flight Training magazine. Good for the fine folks at Galt!

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