Friday, March 3, 2017

Flying in and out

Many of my formative years were spent with a couple of families who lived in Oak Grove,
A part of the Graham homestead
Texas. At the time both of my parents worked and getting me to school was sometimes an issue of timing. At the Graham’s I was inducted into a family of six children, which, being and only child, was much like being dropped into a three-ring circus. This organized chaos was a great preparation for public school. While Oak Grove used to be an independent farm community it’s now one of the multitude of suburbs of Fort Worth. Named by three brothers from Kentucky in 1866 for its large stand of oak trees, there wasn’t much more than farming and ranching in the area for another ten years.  At that time a post office branch opened and in 1885 Missouri Pacific railroad came to the area. However, as soon as rail service cease, the community failed to grow. It wasn’t until the 1960s that excitement returned to the area: the Oak Grove Airport was established.

This tiny, local airport began with several hangars, and one building housing a flight school, aircraft sales, maintenance, stores, and a manager. But by 1966, surplus barracks had been
Top: Small planes at Spinks
Bottom: Entrance to Spinks
renovated to accommodate the flight school for both fixed and rotorcraft. This made the airport an attractive place for Bell Helicopter national and international customers' pilots to come into, as well as a place for folks to get their FAA certification and additional ratings. In addition to their normal business, the National Aerobatic Championships from 1967-71 were held here. This attracted such greats as Pancho Barnes, Allen Bean, Charlie Hillard, and Harold Krier. During this same time period the Spinks Aircraft Industries building was constructed specifically to build the Spinks Akromaster, a single-seat, low-wing, monoplane with conventional landing gear and a symmetrical airfoil. It placed 3rd in the 1970 World Aerobatic Championships. As Spinks Aircraft Industries grew, Oak Grove did less business and eventually was re-named Spinks Airport. Named for Maurice Hunter "Pappy" Spinks, this renowned aerobatic competitor/promoter and aviation manufacturer made a fortune during the Vietnam War manufacturing skids for Bell Helicopter's Huey helicopters.

Aircraft flying and manufacturing are not the only activities carried on at Spinks. The
Through the fence: Doppler Weather Radar
construction of a Doppler Weather Radar station brought some additional excitement to the area. This meant that weather information came to the Fort Worth residents from more local source rather than from Dallas. One of the people who spearheaded this improvement was the legendary meteorologist Harold Taft. Vince got to meet Mr. Taft in the 1970s when he trained to become one of the volunteer “Weather Watchers”. These people still supply the ‘ground truthing’ to go with the technological information that is reported on television and radio. Vince still maintains his accurate reporting each time there is a weather event.

Horse ranch in Oak Grove
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