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This Place in History: Colchester Champlain Airport

COLCHESTER, Vt.

At 'This Place in History, we're in Colchester's Airport Park with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

"We are standing right in the middle of the runway. Bruce Lindner, who is a local historian, is going to come out and tell us all about this really cool place."

"The earliest information that we can find was a deed in 1945 to Charlie and Virginia Brink, conveying this to them. The earliest on anything aeronautical, any aviation map, was in 1947 which indicated Champlain Landing Field. Then, later in 1956, it was on the topography map for the first time," began Lindner. "You had the north and south runway that you see here, and then this way over here was the east and west runway. The buildings used to sit more over towards the road."

"This was a 'going' airport, particularly in the 60s and 70s. This was, I'll say, an affordable place to fly. You know, you weren't paying the hangar fees at Burlington or the other fees associated with the airport out there. It was very reasonable and mostly light aviation and stuff," explained Lindner.

"There are a lot of stories. One of the Ten Most Wanted people on the FBI list landed here one night in the wintertime. Charlie came out and talked to him and, of course, didn't know who he was. He wanted to know if he could leave his plane here in the hangar. [He] got a ride into Winooski and later stole a car from an auto dealership in Winooski. I read later on, he was captured," said Lindner.

"In '83, I think it was, when we had the tornado, it came through and particularly any fabric aircraft that were here it really raised problems with those, punched holes in the fabric and everything. We had one flipped over on its back. And then there was another one that the tail required a lot of work on it. It really came through here. It took all the leaves off, it took trees down. There was a piece on the hangar over here that blew off and went over towards Tanglewood Drive and Biscayne Heights and it was embedded about six inches into a tree over there," explained Lindner.

"There was a guy that hand propped his plane over here, forgot the throttle was open as far as it was. It took off and if you ever read the accident report, he diagrammed how many times that plane went around in a circle before it hit a big maple tree by the road and both winds folded around and that was the end of that. There are lots of those stories that are associated with this that I'm aware of," continued Lindner.

"The thing was that Charlie was getting ready to retire. In the end, there was a lot of pushback environmentally because he was going to sell the property to a developer and people didn't like the idea of developing everything right next to the bog and any of the wetlands and things like that. So they pushed back. The town was able to get a grant and that in turn was used to develop what you see here. Slowly but surely you see what evolved out of that to what you have for a park here today, which is impressive," concluded Lindner.

At 'This Place in History'! 

For more from our 'This Place in History' series, click here.

For a map of Vermont's roadside historic markers, click here.


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