In 1930, “Municipal Airport Owens Field” celebrated its grand opening on April 24th and 25th. Planes and people buzzed around the newly constructed airport and its first permanent building, the Curtiss-Wright Hangar. This hangar, shown mid photograph, features a curved roof with “Columbia” stretched across one side and “Curtiss-Wright” displayed on the other. The Curtiss-Wright Flying Service, named for Glenn Curtiss and the Wright brothers, was a private company that worked along with Columbia’s “Flying Mayor,” L.B. Owens, and Richland County to construct the first public use airport in the Midlands.
Although the Curtiss-Wright Flying Service denotes a partnership between Glenn Curtiss and the Wright brothers, the trio started as bitter enemies in the aviation realm. Glenn Curtiss, considered by many as “The Father of Naval Aviation,” trained the first uniformed navy aviator and developed some of the first flying boats. The Wright brothers engineered the first free, controlled flight with a heavier-than-air-power-driven aircraft and later marketed the Wright Flyer through the Wright Company. Both Curtiss and the Wright brothers owned companies dedicated to the development of aviation and technology and thus were business archenemies. Squabbles regarding patenting and similar legal issues drained much time, effort and energy from the two companies until the threesome finally agreed upon a merger, which created the Curtiss-Wright Flying Service. This merger took place between 1929 and 1930, in time for the 1930 opening ceremony of the Owens Field Curtiss-Wright Hangar.
“Municipal Airport Owens Field” was renamed Jim Hamilton – L.B. Owens Airport, the facility’s current name, upon the retirement of Jim Hamilton. Richland County Council voted upon this new name to recognize Jim’s 40-plus years of service as the Fixed Base Operator and volunteer airport manager.