Drag racing to return to St. Marys airport

Photo submitted – A picture submitted from the St. Marys Municipal Airport file shows Allen Zimmerman burning out in the Ridgway Lumber “Lumber to lightning” car in one of the 1999 drag races.Photo by Larry Simon – A look at the back deck of the West Wind Restaurant overlooking the runway seen crossing left to right in the foreground where the drag races will be held.
By Larry Simon
Special to The Daily Press 

The idea for the present day airport in St. Marys began in a meeting of the town’s Kiwanis directors on Feb. 15, 1944. Funds raised by local businesses, clubs and the public totaled $23,990, part of which went to buying the land.
Construction costs took $12,500 of those local funds, a sum that was matched by the state and the combined total was then matched by federal funding adding up to $50,000. It took a year of construction before an 1800x300-foot strip was formally opened on June 30, 1950.
In the mid 1950s, a hardtop, east-west runway replaced the old grass strip, an omen of changes to come. As the airport grew so did the ideas on how the grounds could be utilized.
A Caruso Aircraft Service facility at the airport handles things from aircraft inspections through engine and structural rebuilding/repair. A fueling station is also on hand for refueling of all kinds of aircraft.
Aircraft-wise, the airport is used most importantly for local commercial and medical transporting both cargo and personnel in and out of the area. Other flights include recreational and instructional flights with pilots in the area capable of instructing students in all phases of getting their pilots licenses (contact Capt. Faisal El-Awar at the airport).
According to Matt “Box” Box, the current airport manager and his indispensable administrative assistant, Amy Anderson, they are constantly collaborating on ideas and events to keep the airport above ground. One of the latest ideas was to sell some airport scrap metal to buy a new hot water heater for the West Wind Restaurant.
Bill Laird of Elk Flyers Inc. is organizing an Aircraft Owners Pilots Association (AOPA.com) Rusty Pilots Seminar scheduled for April 7. All pilots – young, old, active and inactive, along with any interested parties – are encouraged to attend.
The annual American Spirit Aviation Festival along with the Elk County Cruiser’s 9th annual car show is on the calendar for Aug. 25. This is lining up to be a busy weekend at the airport as a drag race is scheduled for the following day.