Early Pilots in Aviation
When you think back to the earliest pilots in aviation, your mind quickly goes to two names. Orville and Wilbur Wright. And rightfully (no pun intended) so. 117 years ago, the two brothers piloted the first airplane near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. And thus, North Carolina got the title of “First in Flight.”
West Virginia also has a seat at the table when it comes to the early pilots in aviation. The mountain state is home to a pioneer in aviation. Paul Peck was a world record holder, the first pilot to transport U.S. Mail, and one of the first U.S. Military aviation instructors. And he was also from West Virginia.
Who was Paul Peck?
Born in 1889 in Ansted, West Virginia, Peck grew up in Hinton. As a kid, Peck took an interest in cars and liked to work on their motors. His love of machinery, specifically engines, led him to the skies.
In 1911, just seven years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, Peck took his first flight lesson at 22-years-old. He would go on to learn how to fly in just seven days and became the 57th pilot to be licensed by the International Aeronautics Federation. Peck is often thought of as the first pilot in West Virginia.
Two weeks after earning his pilot’s license, Peck set a world speed record in Washington, DC covering 24 miles in 25 minutes. Peck would go on to do many other firsts as a pilot.
- The first pilot to carry U.S. Mail via airplane
- The first pilot to fly over the U.S. Capitol (set the speed record)
- Set an endurance record in Boston, flying for four hours, 23 minutes, and 15 seconds
- One of three officers chosen by the War Department to learn to fly under Glenn H. Curtiss
- An instructor at the nation’s first military aviation school
Peck was well known in his day for being able to fly extremely well in stormy weather, once setting a world record during a hailstorm. However, a storm ultimately led to his death.
Peck’s Final Flight
Peck’s final flight was in 1912, just one year after becoming a pilot. Peck was representing the United States in the International Gordon Bennett Trophy Race in Chicago. On a windy and stormy evening before the race, Peck took off on what would be his final flight. During his ascent, the motor on Peck’s plane came loose. His plane went into a steep and rapid descent and Peck was unable to pull up before the plane hit the ground. He was 23 years old when he died.
Why then, with all of these accomplishments, is Peck’s name not up there with the Wright Brothers, Lindbergh, and other early pilots in aviation? Good question. Peck died only one year after he started flying. You could argue that he did not fly long enough to achieve name recognition. However, you could also argue that given all of the accomplishments listed above were all done in less than a year, Peck’s name should be much more widely known. Especially in his home state of West Virginia.
And for what it is worth. In 1923, 12 years after Paul Peck passed away, a man by the name of Charles Yeager was born in Myra, West Virginia. So, I would say the mountain state definitely has a seat at the table when it comes to pioneering modern aviation.
What a difference one year makes. This time last year, most of us were still working from home, figuring out how to work TikTok, and canceling all of our vacation plans. Travel numbers at Yeager Airport were close to single digits, and no one was sure when or if this pandemic would come to an end.
How empty was CRW on Memorial Day Weekend 2020? Let’s look at the passenger numbers from 5-27 through 5-31 of last year.
- 5/27 – 80 passengers
- 5/28 – 90 passengers
- 5/29 – 96 passengers
- 5/30 – 95 passengers
- 5/31 – 83 passengers
To give you a reference point, CRW averaged between 700 and 800 daily passenger’s pre-pandemic. One (long) year and a whole lot of vaccinations later, and the numbers for MDW 2021 were a sight for sore eyes.
- 5/27 – 741 passengers
- 5/28 – 824 passengers
- 5/29 – 812 passengers
- 5/30 – 851 passengers
- 5/31 – 801 passengers
Travel Numbers are Coming Back
The passenger numbers from the holiday weekend align with what we have been seeing at CRW over the last few months. And we are expecting our passenger numbers to keep rising. Starting June 6th, American Airlines’ route from Charleston, WV to Philadelphia, PA, is returning. With that flight back in operation, all of the routes that were temporarily paused at CRW because of COVID-19 are back in operation.
Travel Numbers Bouncing Back Quicker Than Expected
There are many different answers to that question. At the beginning of the pandemic, experts predicted countries with large domestic markets would bounce back first, and the United States has one of the biggest domestic markets in the world.
Airports across the country, including CRW, have also spent tons of time and money ensuring passengers can travel safely. CRW installed UV-C filters, cleaned out every HVAC duct, had round-the-clock cleaning of high touch surfaces, just to name a few.
The heightened cleaning, along with masks and a quick vaccine rollout, has lead people back to the skies. And CRW is here for it!
Are COVID Measures Still in Place at CRW?
Although the federal mask mandate was eased, the mandate still states that face coverings must be worn in airports and airplanes. Our passengers at CRW have done an incredible job wearing masks throughout the pandemic, and for that, we thank you.
It has been a long road to get back to some normalcy. We are happy to see you and your families again at CRW. And if you are waiting for your flight and want to show us some of the TikTok dances you learned last year, we would love to see those too!
We often tell kids to dream big, they can do anything they set their mind to. The truth is, no matter how old we are, we should always dream big. And that is what we do at Yeager Airport.
Having the military use CRW as a hub, while they train at old coal mine sites in West Virginia, was once a pipe dream. The same for the Marshall University Flight School and the United States Customs Building. At one point, all of these things were just an idea, a dream, but are a reality now at Yeager Airport.
All of these projects at CRW are being done with one goal in mind, make Yeager Airport the most important economic engine for West Virginia. With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the construction projects going on around CRW.
Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School Construction at Yeager Airport
The groundbreaking for the Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School was on August 13th, 2020. Since then, construction has been fast and furious. Work on the classroom building and hangar have stayed ahead of schedule for most of the project.
Classroom Building- The entire frame of the school is up, the roof is on, and the siding for the building is starting to go on. Work on the inside of the building is making great progress too. Framing is done, and sheetrock is going up.
The Hangar- The hangar is also up, and siding is up, and the roof is on. Work is being done on the inside of the building now. The hangar is just to the left of the classroom building.
The first group of students is set to start in August this year. Both the classroom and hangar will be ready to go by then. These future pilots are going to have a state-of-the-art building for their education and training.
United States Customs and Border Patrol Building Project
Yeager Airport is home to the only Unite States Port of Entry in West Virginia. We have had a CBP agent for several years but never a dedicated building for him. He did his work either on the plane or at Capital Jet Center.
Getting a designated space for CBP has been on the radar at CRW for a few years. Construction started earlier this year and should be finished by the end of 2021. Footers have already been poured, and walls are already starting to go up. The building has to be built United States CBP specifications. When the building is finished, CRW will be on the map for international travelers looking to clear customs before heading to their final destination.
Yeager Airport Taxiway B Project
Two different projects happening on taxiway B. The first is a drainage project. This project is going to divert water away from taxiway B. This is a smaller but important project. Keeping the taxiways and runway as clear and dry as possible is important.
The next project on taxiway B is to give airplanes easier access to Capital Jet Center. As our general aviation customer base continues to grow and will get even bigger when the customs building opens, we thought this project necessary.
Planes leaving Capital Jet Center now taxi on Bravo before jumping over to Charlie. After this construction is finished, planes will be able to have access to taxiway C, which is the old Runway 15/33, directly from Capital Jet Center. This will make for an easier route to and from Runway 5/23.
Exciting Projects at Yeager Airport
More construction is coming. Some plans were paused because of COVID-19, but the projects have not gone away. As passenger numbers start to return to normal, more projects are going to be placed back online. This new construction is going to give CRW a fresh look and feel. It will give passengers an exciting travel experience. It will make some once far-fetched dreams become reality.
In the COVID-19 world we are all living in, the information does not change day-to-day, it changes hour-by-hour. With the sheer amount of new information, how do you know when it is the right time for you to start traveling again? The short answer is, it is entirely up to you and how comfortable you are with taking to the sky. If you are struggling with the decision, Yeager Airport is here to help! We are going to take our best shot at answering the question: “Is it Safe to Fly.” All of the information in this article comes from airline leaders, as well as frequent travelers.
So, is it safe to fly?
This is not a yes or no question. With all of the precautions and guidelines, airlines are taking, flying now is safer than you might think. Most commercial airplanes are equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air, HEPA for short, filters. They are similar to the HEPA filters found in hospitals. These filters capture more than 99-percent of airborne bacteria, and continuously recirculate clean air throughout the cabin.
In a recent interview on the Masters of Scale podcast, Delta CEO Ed Bastian talked about an air study recently done by Delta.
“I tasked our team to measure the air quality onboard our flights, and we’ve been traveling with sensors on a number of flights and that they’ve found is indeed the quality of the air you breathe aboard our planes is somewhere between 7 to 10 times cleaners than a baseline measure of the grocery store you shopped in yesterday.”
Pre-COVID-19, commercial airplanes were wiped down and cleaned after most flights. However, during COVID-19, planes are cleaned and disinfected after each trip. Making the surfaces as clean as they have ever been. Most airlines are even spraying specialized disinfectants on seats, armrests, air controls, and seat belts.
Brian Kelly, CEO, and founder of The Points Guy, is an avid traveler. Kelly’s company is all about traveling smart. In a recent article, Kelly had the following to say about the cleanliness of the plane he was on.
“Normally planes get turned around for a new flight every hour, and most fights get a very quick cleaning. You can feel the slime on the plane. This was different, it felt and looked spick and span.”
Airlines are encouraging check-in at kiosks and are letting you scan your own boarding pass at the gate. Materials in the seatbacks have been removed, and most airlines are not filling their planes to capacity. Inflight service has also changed to limit contact with flight attendants.
Then there are masks. As far as airports go, most are following local and state guidelines. However, airlines are requiring all passengers to wear masks while on the aircraft. The only exceptions for masks requirements are young children and people with conditions that make breathing through a mask difficult.
In reality, the only person who knows if it is safe for you to fly is you. Airport and airlines across the country are working around the clock to keep you safe. At Yeager Airport, we clean and sanitize pretty much everything you see. We want you to feel comfortable at the airport, and the airlines want you to feel safe flying with them.