Noble County Airport Recreation Manger Ed Smith is an outdoor enthusiast who has always had an interest in flying.
It was that interest in flying combined with his love of the outdoors that led him to getting his pilot’s license and later assuming the volunteer position at the Noble County Airport. In his role as recreation manger, Smith works on finding ways to utilize the airport more, planning events and working on improvements to the airport and the fly-in campground located at the airport.
“I’ve always been interested in flying. It’s an interesting thing,” Smith said. “Flying for me was just something that came up. A few years back I decided I wanted to give it a try.”
According to Smith, he woke up one morning and decided he wanted to fly an airplane and later in the afternoon on that same day he was flying an airplane.
“It was Memorial Day, four years ago, I decided I wanted to fly an airplane and found a guy a Burke Lakefront Airport that had a flight school advertised,” Smith said. “He was open and accepting new pilots that day.”
Smith went up to the airport and took the first step toward getting his pilot’s license by taking an introductory flight.
While flying over the lakefront about halfway through that first flight, Smith was hooked and asked his instructor what one had to do to get a pilot’s license.
When the instructor answered by telling him it required 40 hours of flight time and ground school, Smith thought that sounded pretty easy and that he would have a pilot’s license by the following month.
Smith gave a hearty laugh when he said, “That’s not exactly the way it works.”
He decided to move forward with the process of getting his pilot’s license and with the help of the instructor, Smith found a flight instructor closer to his home.
The nearest one he could find was in Parkersburg, West Virginia, so he started taking flying lessons there.
Between evening and weekend flight lessons, late-night ground school, managing a household, and running a construction company, it took Smith nearly three years to pass his FAA check ride and earn his pilot’s license. Smith became a licensed pilot this past spring.
He has not yet purchased his own plane but is looking into it. Currently, he has a partnership with a couple of people from Parkersburg who give him access to three different planes to fly.
He currently flies a Cessna 172 and is shopping for a plane hoping to buy one within the year.
He flies solely for personal enjoyment.
“I used to do a lot of highly physical activities and I have also been in a physical labor industry my whole life so, I wanted something that kind of got my adrenaline going but yet I could sit on my butt,” Smith said. “This did the trick. It crossed off all those categories. It’s a little less physically demanding but it’s still every bit mentally stimulating. I had to learn a lot of things that I didn’t know about. I just wanted to fly airplanes.”
His flying experience has lead to him learning about different cloud structures, storm systems, and navigation handling the radios, radio frequencies, and the lingo they use.
“It’s a whole different world and you have to learn every aspect of it,” Smith said. “You got to be a bit of a perfectionist and be pretty thorough.”
For Smith, flying helps take his mind off everything else going on around him.
“I like my flight time. I get to get out there and it just clears my mind of anything else that concerns me and I thoroughly enjoy that,” Smith said.
Smith recently took his girlfriend and her children on a flight with him to West Virginia to see fireworks and camp out under the plane’s wing.
As the recreation manager for the airport, Smith has been working with ODNR and the airport to make improvements to the campsite, which is a part of Wolf’s Run State Park and owned by the State of Ohio. Access to the campsite is limited to only those who fly-in to it due to having to cross a runway to access it.
“Noble County is a hidden gem, so to speak, and it needs to be polished up and kind of shown off,” Smith said. “Of course we want to show it off. It’s a place here in Ohio that will give pilots access to fishing, camping, and fun events like the STOL competition.”
The ability to do all these things is what piqued Smith’s interest, in being the recreational manager for the airport and seeking out ways to make improvements to it.
“I’ve been camping out there, birding out there, fishing out there, since I was kid vacationing here at Wolf Run State Park before I ever lived in Ohio,” Smith said. “I’ve always been aware of the airport.”
It was a hot summer day when Smith and his flight instructor first flew into Noble County. Something they noticed right away was that it lacked the amenities offered by many other smaller airports such as not having a place for pilots to get anything to drink. Smith is working with the airport to provide something like that for pilots.
Smith, in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the airport’s board of directors, is now working to enhance the campsite to make it a desirable destination for pilots.
“The state has been very helpful in allowing us to move forward,” Smith said. “We are going to be putting in some tent platforms down there, utilizing some of the banks for tents that would otherwise be un-campable areas so that we can have large tents and more places for people to comfortably camp.
“We have fire rings and picnic tables that will be coming in courtesy of the State of Ohio. We got some local pilot association groups throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia who have pledged and will be donating. Also, some individuals from Ohio who have camped out here for generations and wanted to see some development (will be donating).”
He anticipates that over the next year or two, there will be some major additions to the airport such as a waterway safety improvement dock for fishing, and the demolition of the outhouses to build new restrooms.
Smith also hopes to be able to bring a flight instructor to the airport so residents interested in flying can learn locally.