Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Farewell to Fenton Airport Weiss Field Will Fold Its Wings on May 1

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Farewell to Fenton Airport Weiss Field Will Fold Its Wings on May 1

Article excerpt

When retired Ozark Air Lines pilot Jim Robertson first started going to Weiss Airport as a teen-ager back in the 1940s, he walked, through farmland and along roadsides, all the way from Kirkwood.

"I'd walk maybe two hours, both ways, just to take flying lessons," Robertson, of Sunset Hills, recalled as he mingled Saturday with other aviation enthusiasts at one last party before Weiss shuts down its runways and closes its doors.

The owners of the 50-acre, 55-year-old airport in Fenton say that with rising real estate taxes and other expenses, and no help coming from the government, they can no longer afford to keep the place open.

Weiss is to close May 1, and the airport's 34 employees, about 100 airplanes based there and all its business operations will move to Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield.

Many who turned out Saturday, like Robertson, had memories going back decades.

Take Dale Kopff, who got his taste for wanting to fly as a small boy, going with his father who worked on a construction project near Weiss.

Kopff, who later learned to fly at Weiss and then became a flight instructor there, told one of the scarier tales of the day. He recalled being in an airplane with a student when the engine stopped.

"The student didn't even know there was a problem," said Kopff, who now lives in Osage Beach, Mo.

"I was afraid he would panic if he knew the engine quit, so I didn't tell him. I just said, `We are going to make a forced landing, and we are going to do it only one time.' "

Dick Wilbers, president of the St. Louis chapter of the Missouri Pilots Association, had his own harrowing experience taking off from Weiss years ago on his second solo flight.

As the plane "kind of jumped off the ground," he recalled, he realized he had forgotten to pull up the flaps.

"It could cause the airplane to go straight up, stall, and then go down like a rock," Wilbers said.

But after momentary panic, Wilbers came through OK. "I remembered what my instructor had told me," he said, "and I gently lowered the flaps. …

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