A recent satellite photograph of the Marion Municipal Airport
Aviation in Grant County has its origins dating back to more than 80 years ago. In particular, Marion has had a municipal airport--meaning an airport for a town, city, or local government--since 1927. Over this time it has gone through several changes to become what it is today. Marion Municipal Airport originated in the late 1920’s during the “Golden Era of Aviation” as a small grass airfield on the southern end of town (Brookshire). During the 1950’s the small strip had been expanded and was the beginning of what would become Marion’s Municipal Airport. Finally, by 1979 Marion’s Municipal Airport was well on its way to becoming the airport that we know today.
The original airport plan
In the 1920’s, aviation was characterized as barnstorming. The barnstormer’s persistence was what kept aviation in the public eye. During this time the airplane was slowly being realized as a form of economic interest. From this interest the Junior Association of Commerce (JAC), Marion Chapter No. 1 was formed in 1921 (Brookshire). In August of 1922 the JAC formed an investigative committee. The committee’s job was to determine the feasibility of establishing an airport as a project. Clyde Ice, a former Fairmount resident and commercial pilot, and many other outside interests helped in the creation of Marion’s first airport (Appendix A, and left). On July 29, 1928 the JAC airport was dedicated. Over 13,000 people paid 10 cents to enter the airport (Marion Chronicle, 1928). During World War II recreational aviation declined sharply and by the end of the war in 1945 Marion had two airports (Appendix B). West Side as it was known operated where the GM factory resides presently. Also around this time the press deemed the JAC airport South Field (Kendal).
By the 1950’s Marion was operating two airports and had a functioning Board of Aviation Commissioners (BOAC). The two airports of Marion would be short lived however, because the West Side Airport was bought by General Motors in 1955 (Ashley). When General Motors bought the West Side airport it was announced that the airport would be moving its operations to the new municipal airport being built on the old South Side airport.
Plans for the South Side Airport
The South Side location was chosen primarily to meet the requirements of the State Aeronautical Commission (Appendix C, and right). The Commission required a minimum of 100 acres of land, have a runway between 3800 to 4000 feet long by 100 feet wide, and be of a hard surface. This proved to be more difficult than raising the necessary finances. The BOAC needed to acquire the Henry and Anna Erlewine farm as well as a portion of the Wimmer farm which still sets adjacent to SR37. In January 1955 the BOAC had appropriated $30,000 current funds, $112,000 from the Civil Aeronautics Administration, $81,000 from the county, and $35,000 in the budget of 1955. In June it was learned that another $20,000 was to be received by way of a federal grant. The grant left the BOAC only $22,000 short of the estimated $300,000 required to begin construction. Construction on the airport began in July 1955 with the contract for the North-South runway going to Mohr Construction. Initial Work on the airport was completed on October 29, 1955. The total cost for the project amounted to $281,080.72 (BOAC). The total cost of these to the airport amounted to $1,288,279.85 however more than half was paid for by government grants (Brookshire).
On June 1, 1956 George Merrill Davis (Appendix D, and left) was selected as airport manager. It is generally agreed upon that “Davis had the innate ability to work with a broad spectrum of people, bringing out the best in them and often accomplishing what others would have found impossible.” His first act was the dedication of the new airport on August 25, 1956. In the coming years from, 1955 to 1970, several construction projects were also undertaken. These projects included: a second runway running NW-SE, runway lights, parking, T-Hangars, maintenance hangar and finally the North-South runway was extended to 5,200 feet (McKinney). Davis successfully developed Marion’s airport until his retirement in 1970.
Richard Darlington assumed control of the airport (Appendix E) as Air Marion Inc., on October 13, 1979. Mr. Darlington has since maintained control of the airport. Work soon began on a new terminal, to replace the old one used by Mr. Davis (Old terminal: Appendix F and right; New terminal construction: Appendix H, I, and J). After all air operations were transferred to the new building, the old terminal was burned down(Appendix G). Perhaps the single greatest honor to Mr. Davis was the dedication of the George M. Davis Terminal Building on June 21, 1981 (Appendix K). The new terminal building was built roughly 1000 feet south of the terminal used by Mr. Davis.
Several additions and changes were made shortly after the move to the new terminal building. The first major construction project occurred in 1989 to the main taxi-way, an access road to a runway, when it was extended in order to parallel the main runway for its entire length (Appendix N, O). It was thought at the time that by doing this, the airport would be prepared for the growth projected in the coming years. The second large project occurred with the construction of the first set of pre-fabricated aircraft hangars in 1992. This project was in part to replace the aging original hangars. The most drastic change to the face of the airport came in 1993 with a total redesign and expansion of the apron (airplane parking area) in front of the terminal building, removal of the front set of hangers, and a straightening of the north end of the main taxiway (Appendix P).
Since the construction of 1993 there have been few other major changes on the airport property. A few individuals have built large private hangars, and a corporate hanger was built in 1998 to house chartered jets, larger aircraft, or any overflow that might occur from Marion’s main hangar. The only large project since then occurred in 2004, with another 800’ extension to the main runway. This extension has increased the size of aircraft able to land at Marion in either normal or emergency conditions. If necessary in an emergency, Marion is now able to accommodate aircraft as large as a Boeing 747 airliner.
The renovations and changes that have occurred since 1928 have made aviation in Grant County and Marion Municipal Airport into the airport that it is today. Had it not been for the JAC the airport might never have been started. Without George Davis's dedication and love of aviation, the airport as it is today might never have been born. Finally, if Richard Darlington had not come to Marion the expansions and commerce that has been brought to Marion might never have occurred. Marion Municipal Airport has been integral not only to Grant County aviation but also to Marion’s economic development since 1928.
Airport Related Websites
Air Marion, Inc. 
is a family owned and operated full service FBO (Fixed Base Operator) and Cessna Pilot Center providing a wide variety of services to the general aviation community. Services include flight training, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, fuel services, and more. Air Marion is located at the Marion Municipal Airport in Marion, In.
Saturday, September 1st, 2007 is the date for the 17th Annual Fly-In/Cruise-In 
at Marion Municipal Airport. The action starts early at 7:00am and runs until 2:00pm. This annual event features antique, classic, homebuilt, ultralight and warbird aircraft as well as vintage cars, trucks, motorcycles, and tractors. An all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast is served, with all proceeds going to the local Marion High School Marching Band.
Written by Jordan Ashley
- Ashley, Donnie L. Personal interview. 23 May 2007.
- BOAC Financial Reports. Marion Municipal Airport.
- Brookshire, Carl. Wings Over Marion, Indiana. Marion, IN: Carl a Brookshire, 1998. 1-116.
- Brookshire, Carl. Wings Over Marion, Indiana Revised. Marion, IN: Carl a Brookshire, 2000. 1-158.
- Butsch, Carl. Interview with Bill Brookshire.
- Darlington, Andrew. Personal interview. 20 May 2007.
- Darlington, Richard A. Personal interview. 19 May 2007.
- Greater Marion Association. "History of Marion." (1935).
- Hosttler, Wilbur. Personal interview. 12 May 2007.
- "JAC to Dedicate Airport." Marion Chronicle 28 July 1928.
- Kendal, John. Grant County Indiana in World War II. Vol. 1-3. Marion: Marion Public Library, 1993.
- Manganello, Steve. Interview with Bill Brookshire.
- "Marion Men Granted Patent on Propeller Device." Marion Chronicle-Tribune 16 Dec. 1945.
- "Marion Municipal Airport." Chart. 2006.
- Marion Municipal Airport. Final Master Plan. Marion Municipal Airport. 1975.
- "Marion Municipal Airport." Map. 1982.
- "Marion Municipal Airport." Map. 1997.
- McKinney, James. Personal interview. 19 May 2007.
- "Two Aviators Solo At Port." Marion Chronicle 12 Oct. 1945.
Appendix A – Original Airport Plans
Appendix B – At the West Side Airport in 1953
Appendix C – South Side Airport Plan (1953)
Appendix D – George M. Davis
Appendix E – Richard Darlington
Appendix F – Old Terminal
Appendix G – Old Terminal
Appendix H – Terminal Construction
Appendix I – Terminal Construction
Appendix J – Terminal Construction
Appendix K – Airport Dedication
Appendix L – Airport Satellite Photograph (1978)
Appendix M - Airport Dedication (1979)
Appendix N – Airport Satellite Photograph - 1982
Appendix O – Airport Satellite Photograph - 1992
Appendix P – Airport Satellite Photograph - Present