Ohio History Journal

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False Beacon: Regional Planning and the

Location of Dayton's Municipal Airport





At first glance, one might logically conclude that the location of Dayton's

municipal airport represented a case of deliberate regional planning.

Approximately eleven miles north of the city's central business district, its

placement near the city of Vandalia, Ohio, suggests that those who chose that

location had an image or vision of the city of Dayton which extended beyond

the city's limits. Closer examination, however, reveals that neither a vision

of a Greater Dayton nor regional planning had much to do with the location

of Dayton's airport. Rather, it had more to do with, first, who owned the

property, and second, the technology of aviation in 1928.

The people involved in building Dayton's municipal airport included some

of the most powerful and influential businessmen in the city. Several of

these men, including Edward Deeds, had close ties to the infant airline indus-

try.1 Those men had the necessary local clout to push through their plans for

a municipal airport, even in the face of competition from other plans. When

the initial private venture failed, those same business leaders mounted a drive

to purchase the airport from its creditors and simply presented it to the city.

Further, they understood the new airline industry, especially its technological


Efforts to establish a municipal airport began in earnest in 1926. One

might wonder why the home of the Wright brothers took so long to establish

its own airport. Part of the reason lay in the fact that up to 1926, the avia-

tion industry was an extremely risky business. It remained risky after 1926,

but by that time the national government had taken two actions which less-

ened the risk somewhat and offered considerable incentives. On May 20,

1926, Congress passed the Air Commerce Act. That act, pushed by Secretary

of Commerce Herbert Hoover, gave the Department of Commerce powers to



Janet R. Daly Bednarek is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Dayton.

1. Deeds' son, Charles, was a major stockholder in and treasurer of Pratt & Whitney, an

aviation engine manufacturer. In 1928, Pratt & Whitney became part of the United Aircraft &

Transportation Company which also controlled United Airlines. See Henry Ladd Smith,

Airways: The History of Commercial Aviation in the United States (Washington, D.C., 1991),

124, 233-35.