It was 85 years ago this week that a crowd of 15,000 South Carolinians gathered along the grassy runways of Municipal Airport Owens Field and celebrated the dedication of their new airport, which continues to be a community cornerstone today.
Renamed the Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport in 2008, the Richland County-owned facility provides state-of-the-art aerial access to the business heart of the County, serves as operation headquarters for local aircraft companies and makes flying resources available to both novice and advanced aviation enthusiasts. Since 1930, the airport has been used for airmail service, commercial airlines, military operations and has welcomed the likes of aviation heroine Amelia Earhart.
Airport Director Chris Eversmann has been working with the Richland County Airport Commission, Richland County Government staff and airport tenant organizations to coordinate some appropriate events and activities to mark 85 years of local aviation history.
The Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport – named after longtime airport manager Jim Hamilton and former City of Columbia Mayor L.B. Owens – is also home to the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame as well as one of the few remaining Curtiss-Wright Hangars in the country. The hangar was the first permanent structure built at the airport and was erected by the Curtiss-Wright company, a joint business venture of famed aviators Glenn Curtiss and Wilbur and Orville Wright.
To commemorate the successes and advancements of the airport during the last 85 years, a ceremonial “blessing of the fleet” will take place Saturday, April 24 at 9:45 a.m. during which a parade of aircraft will be blessed for safe endeavors. The event is free and open to the public. Additionally, the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation, which calls the airport home, will have its hangar open for visitors who would like to view progress on the B-25 restoration and other vintage aviation memorabilia.
Those wishing to attend Saturday’s blessing of the fleet should park in the main parking lot of the airport at 1400 Jim Hamilton Blvd., Columbia, and access the viewing area through gate P2. In the event of rain, the blessing will be canceled.
Both Richland County Council and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley have presented anniversary proclamations commemorating the airport and a special poster was designed to illustrate some of the airport’s various milestones since its dedication on April 24, 1930. Since April 1, these milestones have been featured daily on the airport’s Facebook page.
“We’re excited to be celebrating this significant anniversary,” said Eversmann. “We’re older than Columbia Metro and a lot of other bigger airports.”