This month MidPointe Library is recognizing the long relationship between the city of Middletown, Ohio, and the vibrant aviation industry that was Aeronca and is now known as Magellan Aerospace. The adjacent Middletown Regional Airport/Hook Field has been an integral part of that historic relationship...
Middletown, Ohio, Historian Roger Miller knows a lot about the city from the ground up...way, way up.
In fact, as a teenager, Miller himself made history there.
At seventeen years old with a single-engine land license, Miller was described as “the youngest licensed pilot in Middletown” in an April 1957 article in the “Middletonian,” the Middletown High School student newspaper. Miller believes the moniker was originally bestowed on him by George “JR” Wedekind Jr., a leader in local aviation and the son of George “Pappy” Wedekind Sr., who in the 1920s opened what was then known as Middletown Municipal Airport. Today its official name is Middletown Regional Airport/Hook Field.
The article recounted young Miller’s “exciting adventure that took place in the skies above Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.” Flying a Cessna 140 that belonged to a flying club, Miller flew to Lexington and Louisville with Columbus, Indiana, as his destination. Unfortunately, he ended up in Bedford, Indiana, due to an incorrect compass heading and strong winds that blew the plane off course.
But the intrepid young pilot was undaunted. Miller decided to fly to Interstate 70 because, he explains, “by going east I would come to places that I knew. It was not hard to find Middletown. Armco put out a nice red cloud of smoke that could be seen for miles.”
Asked to comment on his student’s aerial adventure, Herman H. Lawrence, then Assistant Principal and Dean of Boys, offered this succinct quote : “He had a lost weekend.”
Recalling the experience today, Miller says he “had a lot of training, which probably helped” the situation. After all, he worked at the airport during high school and started flying at his first legal opportunity -- the age of sixteen.
Young Miller’s fondness of flying was apparent. “I enjoy flying more than anything else,” he was quoted in the article. “I work at the airport and when I’m off, I fly or work on the airplane. Sometimes I fly during lunch hours or go to Hamilton for lunch.” At the time the article was published, the young pilot was planning to take his father on a fishing trip in northern Michigan.
Accompanying the school article was a photo of Miller inside a plane. However, that was not the plane Miller had flown on his eventful “weekend.” The plane in the newspaper photo was owned by Middletonian Art Draut and family, he clarifies, adding at the time that he belonged to a flying club that owned a similar plane. Karen Draut wrote the article and took the photo.
Miller has fond memories of working at the airport as a high school student.
“There were a lot of good people in aviation who helped me as I learned... and afterwards,” he says. He remembers working with fellow high schoolers Dave Fagan and Bob Charles. “We were called ‘hangar boys’ or ‘line boys’ and worked a limited number of hours. In the summer we could work more than during school, when we were limited to after school and weekends…
“Bob McNutt was somewhat in charge of us and made out our schedules. Most of the time the two of us worked together,” Miller continues. McNutt, he adds, was part-owner of an airplane and later flew a Beechcraft King Air plane for the Dupps Company of Germantown.