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History of Christian Airmen

Top Row; Don Kipfer, Tim Olsen, John Jesson, Harvy Park, Clyde Lockie, Joe Kipfer, Vern Boshart
Bottom Row; Pastor Hauser Chaplin, Robert Caple, Ralph Marstellar, Bob Cherdron

By Robert Wiss

Christian Airmen, how did it all begin?
There is much to say about the very early beginnings of the actual airport which goes back to the land having a history all of itself. From the Seneca Indians it was sold in 1826 to list of various owners till February of 1870 to Akron Cement Works. Then it was sold a few more times and used for the Limestone and Cement industry until around 1945 when Forest (Frosty) Thayer purchased the property. Frosty used this land to graze his cows, and produce hay crops to feed his farm animals. Sometime in the next few years Frosty bought an airplane. “I remember flying up there when it was a pasture. I flew in and landed between the cows” (quote from Dick Eulenberg who flew in the Akron field around 1950 and joined this new group of pilots). During these very early years around 1949 some other local pilots included Paul Yoder, and  Paul Kelly joined “Frosty’s Flying Group”. In 1959 the grass strip was changed over to a new paved 3,500 foot runway and taxiway. Later in 1959 Earl Cokeley an FAA employee and William Lowder got the Akron airport on the map as an official airport with the FAA by March 10th of 1960. In 1963 Frosty Thayer and Bill Lowder put in the first gas pump at the airport. In December of 1966 this airport officially became incorporated as Akron Aviation with Yoder, Kelly and R. Shank.

Looking farther back then the 1950’s, we see an earlier Akron aviation event took place in May of 1938 for “National Air Mail Week” it was reported in the May 26th Akron News that “at the five corners east of Akron with the first real Air Mail as a direct local dispatch” took off to send “by Akron people letters to friends in “Europe, Asia and Syria”.

Even earlier in Akron NY around the year 1930 a local “Barnstormer” who graduated from Akron High School in 1928 “Often used the field at the five corners ….to land in”
(Newstead Historical Society Newsletter March 21, 1993).

We have been blessed from the Christian Airmen beginnings with always good aircraft maintenance available on our grounds especially due to Vern Boshart one of the founders who was a certified aviation mechanic. Vern was with Akron Aviation in 1969 as a part owner and the chief mechanic. Around 1964 a main office building was added along with the first hangar. Later in the 1960’s a 12 bay and 6 bay hanger were constructed on the airport property.

One day two men around the year of 1973 Ralph Martsteller and Robert Caple who both loved aviation and airplanes were talking together about how it would be wonderful to have a flying club made up of persons of like faith. Another friend Vern Boshart wanted to start a local aviation mechanic's school because that was where his heart desire was being an aircraft mechanic, one of the best in WNY! Eventually these three men got on to the club purpose when one said to the other "we" rather than "you" as they all agreed to work together on starting a Christian faith based aviation flying club!

In May of 1976 Christian Airmen Fellowship took ownership of the airport, when it became available for sale. With the ownership of the Akron airport came new responsibilities for the club. The change began when a Christian Fellowship of aviation enthusiasts became a Fixed Based Owner and Operator of an airport! There was always work to do from snow plowing to grass cutting to maintaining the desk and making coffee! Times were lean as this was a new adventure for a flying club to manage an airport. To this present day Christian Airmen is a volunteer operation. Sometimes all we had was an old Ford tractor to plow the runway sitting out in the open with the wind and snow blowing in your face, and then later we moved up to an actual snow plow with no brakes and no heat, but better than the Ford tractor! Over the next 34 years much Airport work was done by our manager John Jesson and his wife Nancy, both who made our place a home away from home for many travelers and airport clients. John was asked in 1974 by Ralph to be a member of the CAF. Soon, John Jesson became our new manager which he did as a mainstay and asset to keeping the airport running for many years. Our first officers of CAF were; President- Robert Cherdon, Vice President- Ralph Marsteller, Treasurer- Vic Miller, and Secretary- Harvy Park.

Some of the early club goals were to promote aviation safety and offer an economical way for the average person to earn his pilots certificate and fly planes at a reasonable cost. As membership grew so did our Christian fellowship grow in relationships with other club members from various denominations, and with shared activities. We enjoyed hosting for the public an annual chicken barbeque which eventually became our annual Memorial Day Pancake Breakfast. Our club members had monthly meetings and bible devotions. Our annual summer corn roast was fun for the club families, along with our Christmas Dinner. In the summertime Boys Brigade a type of boy scouts organization had a great time of camping out at our airport and learning all about aviation. Over the years we had the joy of hosting JAARS a Christian Aviation Missionary support group demonstrate at our airport the job that they do in jungle flying and support for Wycliffe Bible Translators. We continue to support out of our own funds a missionary pilot with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship). Recently in the last few years we have started a foundation “CAEF” Christian Airmen Educational Foundation. The goal of this foundation is to promote aviation and safety and help young people by giving them a scholarship start in aviation as a career. We have already given grant funds in the past few years to local Akron High School students who qualify academically and in the local community.

Civil Air Patrol an auxiliary branch of the United States Air Force that trains young people for aviation and gives them search and rescue practice missions experience became based with their Akron airport office and CAP airplane at our airport since the year of 1977.

As far as airplanes and events are considered we have had all kinds and types at our Akron airport over the years. Some have visited us and planes were based here from twins, seaplanes to an acrobatic Decathlon to helicopters, home built aircraft, and WWII aircraft. At present we now have jumpers doing tandem parachute jumps with a very qualified program director. Many years ago around 1965 you could watch the jumpers from “Frontier Sky Divers” coming from the sky landing at the Akron airport till they moved their operation in 1975 to the Hollands International Field Airport in Wilson NY. In the 1970’s sailplanes departed off from our airport as a sailplane glider school was based at Akron. In the 1980’s and 1990’s the airport grew in pilot numbers and planes based at Akron with new hangers being built on the grounds. With the new Millennium coming soon in 1999 Akron airport was blessed and awarded Federal and State funds as a “reliever status airport” to upgrade the land with a new runway, taxiway, fence around the property and a new access road to the airport.

Our airport has been a place where people from the outside communities have felt at home visiting us, as many come back each year to our Pancake Breakfast, and others who may be flying East or West come and see us and refuel their aircraft. We give thanks to the many residents on our field who have been great friends over the years and made this adventure possible as they themselves have volunteered and worked shoulder to shoulder to accomplish many of the wonderful times and successes at our airport. Much more could be said about our airport and the Christian Airmen, so why not come by and find out?

By His Grace, and bathed with much prayer, has been the answer to the ultimate success and running of our airport and flying club. A verse in Colossians says that “by Him all things consist”, and so He has continued to keep us going by His Almighty Power and Grace!
The Beginnings of our Future!

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Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

Christian Airmen, Inc. proposes an overall goal of 3.9 percent for its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program for FAA funded projects for federal fiscal year 2020. The proposed goal and its rationale are available for inspection during normal business hours at Akron Airport,John Street, Akron, NY 14001. Comments on the goal will be accepted by Christian Airmen,Inc., P.O. Box 126, Akron, NY 14001, and the FAA Office of Civil Rights, FAA South Florida Flight Standards District Office (CMO-29), 2895 SW 145 th Ave., Suite #291, Miramar, FL 33027.

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