February 1, 2012
Stuart Powell’s first job was as a part-time line boy at Goodall Field, just south of Danville, Kentucky, where he took flying lessons in the afternoons and would occasionally taxi a Piper J–3 Cub around the field on the evenings when the manager left him to close. He got a little faster each night and would sometimes get airborne, chopping the throttle before the tires of the perky yellow Cub got too far above the grass.
Powell soloed in March 1945, when he was 16, in the good old days when tube-and-fabric taildraggers ruled and fresh young pilots would bootleg beer into the dry county in J–3 Cubs. The twinkle in Powell’s eye indicated that he, of course, has no first-hand knowledge of that.
Now 83, Powell can be found bustling around his Ford dealership six days a week. Although selling cars has been Powell’s livelihood for the last 62 years (he has been doing business with Ford Motor Credit longer than any other dealer in the world), he still has a hard time staying away from the airport that he has watched grow from an open field into a modern general aviation facility over the past 70 years.
“I thought you had to be dead to have airports named for you...I fooled them.”
Powell has owned some type of airplane for most of the past half-century, ranging from an Aeronca Champ and an Ercoupe to a number of Cessna 172s and Piper Archers. His true passion has been at the helm of the Danville airport board, where he has served as chairman since 1968. “I’ve enjoyed trying to build an airport for the community. I’ve never been able to totally quench my thirst for helping develop it,” he said.
Powell has fought annexation and overseen the extension and paving of runways, the construction of hangars and ramps, and the installation of an AWOS and localizer, among other projects. Most recently, he helped design and procure money for the construction of a new two-story airport administration building. The building’s modern construction and clean design echo Powell’s own professional appearance and his desire to create a first-class airport for his community.
In 1993, Goodall Field was renamed Stuart Powell Field in commemoration of his then-25 years as chairman of the airport board and his unending support of the facility.
“I thought you had to be dead to have airports, tall buildings, or bridges named for you,” said Powell. “If that’s the case, they thought I was going out the door, and I fooled them.”
The Upwind Summer Scholarship Program, which gives high school students a chance to earn their private pilot certificate in the summer between their junior and senior year, is accepting applications for its 2015 scholarship.
If only one person had been helped, it all would have been worthwhile. But much more than that has been accomplished over the 25-year life of the National Gay Pilots Association, said its executive director.
A restaurant with a view of Los Angeles International Airport built as a tribute to aviation heroes is poised to land a new lease.
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