When is an airport more than just an airport?
When it: prepares the next generation of pilots and aviation industry professionals; serves as a welcoming front door to an amazing university and vibrant city; inspires children in our community to dream of flying; and advances critical research in aviation safety, infrastructure and efficiency.
Operated by the College of Engineering, The Ohio State University Airport at Don Scott Field has multitasked in this fashion for years, and now its appearance befits its far-reaching impact.
Thanks to a generous gift from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, the university’s airport in northwest Columbus has undergone a beautiful transformation. A new executive terminal and aviation learning center recently opened its doors and is immediately making a positive impact on our students, tenants, visiting pilots and community partners. Already home to a world-class academic and research program, Ohio State now leads the nation in experiential aviation education.
Evolving with industry and community needs is essential for the airport, as much of its infrastructure had remained unchanged for more than 50 years. Since opening in 1942, Ohio State’s airport has served as a learning lab for future aviation professionals, a hub of research and a highly regarded facility for civilian and small business aircraft. Measured by takeoffs and landings, it is the fourth busiest airport in Ohio.
“We intend for this airport to be the focus of next-generation education research for aviation and aerospace, and to be the best university-owned aviation facility in the nation,” said College of Engineering Dean David B. Williams. “There’s now no question that this is the best damn university airport in the land.”
The two-story, 29,500-square-foot building is home to flight school classrooms and simulators, a student flight hub, private aviation services and terminal (also known as fixed base operations), administration offices and meeting rooms. Large windows overlook the airfield, providing an observation deck that is especially popular among children in the community. Between casual visits to the observation deck and aviation outreach events, the airport opens its doors to more than 2,500 youth each year.
Three classrooms on the second floor can each accommodate 50 students or can be combined to create one space for conferences and other large events.
“With this new facility, we’ve been able to not only have modern amenities for the airport, but also provide aviation students a greater insight into the industry and world,” said Airport Director Doug Hammon.
Over the next decade, up to 45,000 new pilots will be needed to support the commercial aviation industry, according to the airline industry and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Director of Flight Education Brandon Mann said the additional space, improved learning areas, updated technology and new dispatch system came at the perfect time.
“Our enrollment numbers increased dramatically to 130 students—the highest we’ve seen in nearly 20 years.” He added that the new facility offers ample opportunities for interaction between students and professional pilots, especially corporate pilots.
The Knowlton Foundation’s $10 million gift in 2015 propelled the $15 million project forward. Construction started in fall 2017. Contributions from other individual and corporate donors and revenue from new hangars completes the funding.
Austin E. Knowlton received his architectural engineering degree from Ohio State in 1931. Also known as “Dutch,” he was the owner and chairman of the Knowlton Construction Company, which started in Bellefontaine, Ohio, in 1937 and whose predecessors dated back to 1906. His company was responsible for over 600 major construction projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including school buildings, hospitals and libraries. Dutch was an aircraft owner and a frequent client of The Ohio State University Airport in the 1980s and 1990s. In his honor and in recognition of his philanthropic support, Ohio State’s School of Architecture was renamed in his honor in 1994.
“Dutch Knowlton was a pioneer in using aircraft to support and grow his many business interests,” said Eric Lindberg, trustee of the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation. “Although he was best known for his construction company and ownership in the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds, he had a lifetime passion for aviation.
“Mr. Knowlton understood the vital importance of aviation as a part of the infrastructure of the American economy and loved Ohio State.”
Aviation education at Ohio State dates back to 1917, when the university opened its School of Aeronautics to provide training for military aviation operations. Today, the university’s aviation programs are managed out of its Center for Aviation Studies, established in 2011 and awarded the nation’s most outstanding collegiate aviation program in 2015 by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association.
Additional photos can be viewed on Flickr.