Oct. 9--For months, east Tulsa residents and tenants at Harvey Young Airport have heard rumors that the 93-acre general aviation facility would be closed and converted to low-income residential housing.
"We had 66 tenants on Aug. 1," said airport Manager Mike Smith. "When people started surveying out here -- measuring hangars -- people started moving out, thinking everything was going south."
The only privately held general aviation airport in the Tulsa area, Harvey Young, 1419 S. 135th East Ave., occupies a special place in aviators' hearts. It was a pioneering late-1930s airfield, later a training ground for World War II pilots.
A Web site, found at www.tulsaworld.com/saveharvey, has been established to galvanize public opinion against the airport's demise -- and, possibly, to shame the landowner from turning it into a subdivision, bloggers say.
"There are plenty of places to build houses, unfortunately new airports aren't as easy," says saveharveyyoung.com blogger Micah Briner. "Shame on anyone who is in an aviation business that could destroy an airport."
But Harvey Young's owner, David Guzman, said he has no plans to close the airport nor develop it into housing.
"The airport is for sale . . . for $1.8 million," Guzman said. "The ideal situation would be for someone to step in and keep it as an airport, expand it."
Guzman is general manager of Southwest Aviation Specialties LLC, an aircraft charter, sales and maintenance operator at Jones Riverside Airport. He said Harvey Young was for sale when he bought it two years ago.
"I left it on the market for sale," Guzman said. "I plan on selling it."
That's good news for tenants such as Ken Ruggiano, a crew chief at American Airlines' Tulsa Maintenance & Engineering Center, who suggests tenants might consider buying the airport.
"It's in an ideal spot," Ruggiano said. "It's close to the city where businessmen can come in, do their business for a few hours and leave.
"The airport itself can generate revenue. There are people right now, even with the possible closing of the airport, who are wanting to rent hangars."
With two north-south runways, Harvey Young has about 79 aircraft takeoffs and landings a day -- 86 percent of them local general aviation, 14 percent transient general aviation.
Its main asphalt runway is 2,580 feet long by 40 feet wide. A second, grass runway is 2,380 feet long by 80 feet in width.
Jeff Mulder, airports director at Tulsa International Airport and Jones Riverside Airport, said the Tulsa Airport Authority will have to begin considering a site for another general aviation airport in the Tulsa area within a few years.
Jones Riverside, the general aviation reliever airport for Tulsa International, is home to 500 aircraft and half a dozen flight schools. It has 206 hangars, few of them vacant, Mulder said.
"Obviously, we looked at Harvey Young as a solution," Mulder said. "The problem is there is not a lot of room for growth, and it wouldn't provide space for us in the future."
Mick Fine, a tenant and pilot at Harvey Young whose saveharveyyoung.com Web site generated so many memories about people learning to fly, said the airport may survive because the land is not suitable for much else.
"The reason most of the old Tulsa airports are gone is simple: the land they occupied was economically viable for other uses, usually housing and/or commercial development," Fine says on his Web site.
"The main reason Harvey Young has not suffered the same fate before now is that it sits on a solid limestone rock shelf lying 3 feet or less below the soil surface. That rock shelf poses a serious obstacle to placing water and sewer lines in the ground."
It appears -- for the time being, anyway -- that Harvey Young will survive as an airport and an active reminder of much local history, officials say.
John Fleak, a Claremore pilot who learned to fly at Harvey Young, remembers "cold, crisp mornings in a Piper Super Cub PA-18. . . . The patterns and the scenery.
"Please don't lose that beautiful Tulsa history."
D.R. Stewart 581-8451
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