Aviation enthusiasts will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Bakalar Air Force Base in Columbus during this year’s Aviation Day at the Columbus Municipal Airport.

Seventy-five years ago, engineers from the U.S. Corp of Engineers in Louisville, Kentucky were surveying what would eventually become the city’s airport. But back then, it was a site for an Army air base, with construction work beginning on Aug. 13, 1942.

The airport is now a home facility to sleek aircraft transporting corporate clients from Columbus’ manufacturers around the country and is a popular refueling stop for pilots passing over Indiana.

But it saw its first aircraft in September 1942, when a Navy plane made an emergency landing on an unsurfaced runway at the air base that was still under construction.

In addition to celebrating the Bakalar history, this year’s Aviation Day event on June 10 will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum.

The museum chronicles historical moments such as that first landing at the airfield and the stories of people who served at the air base over the years, including the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Last fall, new highway signs designated the stretch of Interstate 65 from Seymour to the Bartholomew County/Johnson County line as the Tuskegee Airmen Highway in honor of the aviators, some of whom trained at the air base in Columbus and in Seymour during World War II.

Aviation Day is now in its fourth year in Columbus, a free event designed to highlight all aspects of aviation, airport director Brian Payne said.

An estimated 5,000 people are expected to attend this year for the day-long aviation celebration from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., similar to attendance numbers for last year, Payne said.

For more on this story, see Friday’s Republic.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com