Cost of Liability Insurance Leads to Closing of Small Iowa Airport

May 14, 2012

The grass-strip McBride Airport has closed nearly 50 years after it was carved out of an eastern Iowa farm field.

Ivan McBride told The Gazette it’s difficult to close the tiny airport in Marion that his late father created in 1962. But with liability insurance becoming increasingly expensive, McBride said the time was right to make the change.

“Shutting it down is not easy for me,” McBride said.

Melvin McBride created the air strip out of land the family had owned since the 1920s. He later shaped a 2,400-foot-long grass runway, built a hanger and moved an old service station to the property to serve as an office.

The airport officially opened Oct. 14, 1962.

Ivan McBride, 57, said he recalls being impressed as a child by the family’s small but busy airport.

“As a kid, I remember 30-some planes based here,” he said. “It was an active little strip back then.”

Melvin McBride didn’t know how to fly but his son learned and took his first solo flight at the field when he was 19, flying in the family’s 1952 Piper Tri-pacer. He later studied aircraft mechanics and became a corporate pilot for Rockwell-Collins.

Melvin McBride died in 1972.

The airport has been home to flying clubs over the decades. During a three-day period in 1983 when it was the designated airport for the nearby Farm Progress Show, more than 700 planes landed at the field.

“There’s no question this airport defined my career and my life,” Ivan McBride said. “I met a lot of people, made a lot of friends, as a result of this little airport.

McBride’s 19-year-old son Calvin, now an agriculture student at Iowa State University, plans to farm the land again.

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