$80 million Port Columbus upgrade includes salute to notable Ohio aviators
On March 23rd, airport and public officials dedicated the Port Columbus Airport’s spacious new $80 million terminal renovation. The three-year project included unseen upgrades to mechanical and technology systems, but along with improvements in efficiency, plenty of attention was given making the traveler experience more pleasant and interesting.
The ceremony crowd of over 300 was treated to an up-close look at new lighting, terrazzo flooring, and 10 foot-by-44 foot video screens, as well as artwork and permanent mosaics created to promote Port Columbus as the gateway to Ohio and the state’s portal to the world.
But the rich aviation heritage of Ohio was not ignored by airport officials and designers. Also debuted were six custom-created pylons that highlight twelve “Notable Ohio Aviators.” Given Ohio’s status as The Birthplace of Aviation, the Columbus Airport Authority had a challenge in selecting only twelve. They are:
Neil Armstrong – Originally from Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong was a Naval Aviator and NASA astronaut who became the first man to walk on the moon. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame (located in Dayton, Ohio) in 1978.
Lonnie Carmon – a native of Columbus, in 1907 Carmon flew an airship he had built without any plans in his backyard. In 1911, at age 19, he was the first to fly over the Continental Divide.
Dominic “Don” Gentile – Born in Piqua, Ohio, Gentile was a top Army Air Corps ace of WWII. With 30 victories to his credit, he broke the WWI record of another Ohio native, Eddie Rickenbacker. Gentile was inducted in the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) in 1995.
Ed Gillespie – With 36 years as a naval aviator and 80 combat missions in Korea, Capt. Gillespie also became a preeminent test pilot. He retired from North American Aviation in Columbus as Chief Test Pilot after 30 years of service.
John Glenn – From Cambridge, Ohio, Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, and the oldest to fly in space in 1998 at age 77. He also served as a U.S. Senator for 24 years, and was inducted into the NAHF in 1976.
James A. Lovell – Born in Cleveland, Lovell was the first to fly in space four times, one of only three astronauts to fly to the moon twice, and served as the spacecraft commander for the famous Apollo 13 mission. He was inducted into the NAHF in 1998.
Jerrie Mock- Born in Newark, Ohio, Mock became the first female pilot to fly solo around the world. Flying her Cessna 180 from and back to Port Columbus , her 1964 flight over more than 23,000 miles took her 29 days.
Eddie Rickenbacker – Columbus native “Captain Eddie” scored 26 aerial victories in WWI, earning him “America’s Ace of Aces” status. He later served as chief executive for Eastern Airlines, and was inducted into the NAHF in 1965.