*On Monday July 23rd (*My Birthday) the Motor Yacht Stampede rescued the pilot of a small plane that went down in Block Island Sound in the ocean just south of Rhode Island. Congratulations and Good Job on the part of M/Y Stampede Captain and Crew.
I got the story from Dockwalk.com (link above) – but there are more details elsewhere online. Block Island is about 9 miles south of the nearest connecting mainland, Charelestown Rhode Island. For Ham Radio Operators this is about 67 or 68 miles southeast of the ARRL Headquarters not far from Hartford, CT. in Newington, CT. Marthas Vineyard (famous politically) is around 50 some miles east of there.
This link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2178842/Mark-Simmons-Pilot-plane-crashed-Block-Island-Sound-flies-day-marriage-proposal-banner.html has a lot more pictures related to the story, but is the one that confused the hell out of me. I would be thinking that the GUY that proposed Marriage was flying his own plane and went down trying to propose marriage. But it wasn’t him, supposedly he was pacing back and forth on the beach. The Pilot was another guy … so you have MARK SIMMONS – PILOT and MIKE FLYNN the guy that commissioned the banner to be flown on his behalf (by another guy, THE PILOT), that said “Michelle, Will You Marry Me? Mike”.
Got that? Mike didn’t crash, Mark did. Don’t know if Mike has a son? Mark does … and was reportedly talking to his son on the radio when he had engine troubles. His engine on his Piper Pawnee small plane apparently QUIT and apparently could not be restarted. Further according to the reports MARK is ok and flew again the very next day to deliver that aerodynamic marriage proposal banner. The proposal got accepted and everyone lived Happily Ever After. The End.
Ok, Ok as an added bonus … MARK took off from Westerly Airport … we can find that on Google Earth, and when he was rescued near Ninigret Pond adjacent to Charlestown, R.I. But what is this? At coordinates: 41°21’59.37″N by 71°39’54.55″W … the remnants of what looks like it was surely an AIRPORT of some sort. Wow! It has a history … So in continuing interest of things like “Life after People” (I’m Not looking that up right now, but it was a Television Series) here we go … somehow I can’t leave this one alone.
Atlantic Airport, as it was then known, was founded around 1931. In 1942, the site of the Atlantic Airport was reused by the Navy to construct Charlestown NAAS. It was constructed with three runways. It then became a satellite of the nearby Quonset Naval Air Station. Former US President George Herbert Walker Bush aviation trained here before going to Japan in World War II and named his airplane Barbara for his girlfriend Barbara Walker who became his wife Barbara Bush. The airport was used for the Navy Air Navigation Project, which developed & tested navigation aids & traffic control systems. It was host to a CASU (Carrier Aircraft Service Unit) and later to a NACTU (Night Aircraft Training Unit. The runways were used for drag racing between 1958 and 1959. In 1974, the base was disestablished. It probably closed in conjunction with Quonset Naval Air Station, which closed around the same time that it did.
Reuse as a Park
Looking down former Runway 4/22 which is part of an ongoing native grasslands restoration project (Picture on Wikipedia)
In 1976, there was talk of using the site for the first nuclear power plant in Rhode Island. This idea was shot down by local residents and it remained unused until it was incorporated into the nearby Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. Until the 1980s, the hangars remained at the airport. In the late 1990s, the runways and taxiways were torn up and native grasses and plants were planted. Recent aerial photos show a track for bicycle racing and time trials at the northern portions of runways In 2002, a memorial was built at the site commemorating the use of the field. According to a recent New York Times article,
A parcel of 172 acres (0.70 km2) of the deactivated Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Station on the South County coast, complete with a freshwater pond, it was opened as a park by the town of Charlestown in 1983 and forms a gateway to the older wildlife refuge and the barrier beach beyond. The park is to be developed with bathhouses but for now it remains rugged and inviting. To keep motorists from going in hopeless circles on vast runways, routes of sorts were denoted by sweeping furrows plowed into the tarmac, an almost perfect enactment of the biblical notion of beating swords into plowshares. At a certain point on the runway, most people park their cars and go walking in the company of wildlife, wind off Block Island Sound and the whisper of tall grasses.
Westerly Airport – R.I. (original story in this post)
Charlestown, R.I. Airport (remnants of…) – I happened to be surfing Google Earth while following the story (above) and while coming close to Ninigret Pond - on the coast near Charlestown, R.I., I noticed what looked like a ”Life after People” story in the making … Overgrown airport runways … something that used to be … something from a bygone era. How could I resist????
* The historical imagery feature of Google Earth might be kind of fun to play with. In 1995 it seems like the runways (asphalt) may have still been there. There are more “X”‘s on the runways than there are on the next timeline photography in 2001. On the East / West (ESE?) the parking lot doesn’t appear to be there in 1995.But I’ll leave the viewing of that historical imagery as an exercise in Google Earth for the reader. If you want to?
More historical photography and information is located here: http://www.airfields-freeman.com/RI/Airfields_RI.htm - It appears that the time to visit this site was around 1980 or earlier. Nothing historical seems to remain – other than the pattern that used to be the runways.
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