Mount Comfort Airport

In the early 1960’s, the Indianapolis Airport Authority decided to build a secondary airport. Later, in the late 1960’s, it was decided that a location in northwestern Hancock County would be chosen. The land, containing 3,600 acres, had been the site of the Kingen Gun Club. The land was bordered by Hancock County Road 600N, County Road 400W, County Road 600W, and the Penn Central Railroad. It would later become Mount Comfort Airport, but not in the time frame originally planned.

The idea for Mount Comfort Airport was to relieve light plane traffic at Weir Cook Airport. Studies for the potential secondary airport began in 1962. The Indianapolis Airport Authority had issued a playbook, called the “Secondary Airport Study, Site Selection and Planning Criteria,” in November 1967. In March 1968, the Indianapolis Airport Authority was in the planning stages of issuing $1.25 million in bonds to buy 887 acres of Hancock County farmland. (Greenfield Daily Reporter, 5 March 1968) 40 local residents showed up to protest the location of the airport terminal near Mount Comfort. This was not the first protest of the location. The previous month, 100 residents traveled to Greenfield to appear before the Hancock County Planning Commission. Nothing occurred at that meeting because no discussions of the airport would be held at that council meeting.

Three days later, also in the Greenfield newspaper, a letter that had been mailed to residents of Mount Comfort concerning the land decision was published. (Greenfield Daily Reporter, 8 March 1968) The land chosen was that of the Kingen Gun Club, spanning the above mentioned 3,600 acres. (At the time, Weir Cook Airport was only 2,200 acres in size.) It is estimated that the proposed airport be able to handle, and house, between 500 and 1000 privately owned aircraft. Mr. G. Edwin Petro, manager of Weir Cook Airport, believed that 80 percent of the aircraft using the field would be business owned.

The Airport Authority planned a 6,000 foot southwest to northeast runway, with the possibility to expand it to 7,000 feet. A secondary (cross-wind) runway of 5,100 feet was also in the plan. Hangar facilities for 500-1000 aircraft, three fixed base operator lease plots, an executive terminal building and car parking area were to be built with the new facility.

In addition to the fact that there was a large amount of land, relatively flat, located at Mount Comfort, there was another factor in play for this location. Interstate 70, which had just been completed through western Hancock County, only had two exits in the entire county: one at SR 9, and one at Mount Comfort. Complaints were hot and heavy in the newspapers in February 1969 about the condition of Mount Comfort Road, left barely passable in the area around the I-70 interchange. But then, so were complaints about fixing said road. Locals were both protesting the road conditions left by the construction equipment and the fact that the state, with federal money, wanted to fix the road with one that had a 100 foot right-of-way. Then federal money dried up for the project.

The Indianapolis Star of 7 November 1969 reported that things concerning the new secondary airport had taken a bad turn. “Construction of a much-needed $3.5 million secondary airport at Mount Comfort in Hancock County has been delayed indefinately because of lack of Federal funds, the president of the Indianapolis Airport Authority said yesterday.” The setback was expected to delay the airport construction for at least a year. The plan was to have the airport active by late 1970.

The next reference to the proposed Mount Comfort Airport would be shown in the Indianapolis Star with the headline “Mount Comfort Airport Work May Begin Soon.” This was on page 26 of the 3 May 1973 issue. This would be four years after construction was to start. The Indianapolis Airport Authority made sure to point out that the airport was NOT a second Weir Cook (soon to be Indianapolis International), but one for business and industrial aircraft. Plans, according to the subject article, was for the Mount Comfort Airport to be completed around 1990.

The airport would finally open for air traffic on 16 November 1977. (Indianapolis Star, 15 November 1977) The first phase construction would start on 27 October 1976. It was a scaled down version of the original plan at first. Two runways, the main of 6,000 feet and a crosswind runway of 3,900 feet, would be of sod. There would also be a 3,900 foot concrete runway, 150 feet wide, beside the main 6,000 foot sod runway. Both would be available for use the following spring. While the acreage of the facility would be 1,200, up from the almost 900 originally planned. The first phase was financed, in part, using a $5.7 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The second phase of construction, as yet unscheduled, would see the main runway paved. The final third phase would include building another runway.

When the airport opened, not only did it have a short runway (too short for use by most private jet aircraft), the hangar facilities were provided by two hand-me-down 110 by 200 foot buildings from Grissom Air Force Base. In 1979, the 3,900 foot runway was fully paved to 5,500 feet. November 1981 finally saw the addition of full instrument landing capability.

Indianapolis News, 19 March 1982.

Further newspaper articles about the airport report that the 6,000 foot runway was only paved for 5,500 feet. The secondary runway of 3,900 feet was paved as such. The airport, in 2010, would cover 1,800 acres. Studies showed that, at that time, with the increase of traffic at what would soon become Indianapolis Regional Airport, the facility should plan on adding a third runway to accommodate that traffic. (Indianapolis Star, 19 June 2010)

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