“Aviation will follow in the path of the automobile. What concrete roads did for the automobile, air harbors will do for air transportation.” – Wayne County Road Commissioner Edward Hines, from a speech given at the dedication of Wayne County Airport, September 4, 1930.
Wayne County Airport from the air, 1933. Image couresty of Walter P. Reuther LIbrary, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.
On September 4, 1930, eight thousand people gathered for the dedication of Wayne County Airport (now known as the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, or “Detroit Metro Airport”). Participants were curious about airplanes, airplane pilots and flying daredevils. The 107th Aero Squadron, Michigan National Guard demonstrated military maneuvers, and Lieutenant Clyde Mitchell performed airplane stunts. Detroiter Joe Crane did a parachute jump from 2,500 feet. The Ford Trimotor was quite popular. As part of the festivities, Commissioner Edward Hines offered rides in the Tin Goose to those who sold land for the one square mile county airport. Twenty-two people accepted the offer. At the age of 74, John H. Johnson of Romulus took his first airplane ride.
This photo of Goddard Road was taken in August 1930, one month before the airport dedication. You can see the airport building on the right. (Photo from Wayne County Road Commission Photograph Collection.).
How it Came to Be
In the late 1920s, the Wayne County Board of Supervisors considered a county airport a public necessity and resolved to acquire, equip and operate such a facility. They chose a rural site at Middlebelt and Goddard roads in Romulus Township, because room to expand was a priority.
The airport’s construction fell under the jurisdiction of the Wayne County Road Commission. The newly-bought land had to be cleared of timber and structures erected by original owners. The property had to connect with main water supply at Michigan Avenue, and needed sewers and drainage ditches. Detroit Edison placed the electric wires underground because above-ground lines would interfere with the safe landing of aircraft. The property was then transformed into four concrete runways with lights, so that airplane pilots could negotiate night landings. A main hanger, an Executive Terminal that provided a central point for arrivals and departures, and a new Michigan National Guard facility were built. In all, state and local government and private entities worked toward building an airport that would take advantage of the new aviation economy.
Detroit News, September 5, 1930.
Wayne County Road Commission Photograph Collection, c. 1908-1990. RG 2011-40. Archives of Michigan, Lansing.
Mason, Daniel W. Detroit Metro Airport, Acadia Press, c. 2011: pages 9-20.