Chairman of Jasper County Aeronautics Commission
PO Box 653
History of Ridgeland Airport
A sixty-nine acre parcel of land one mile northwest of Ridgeland, South Carolina, was purchased by Sanders Jenness from J. Lee Dean on March 12, 1938. The property, vacant at the time, had previously been a flower bulb farm. Shortly thereafter, a small group of aviation enthusiasts approached Mr. Jenness requesting that they be allowed to build an airstrip on his property. Mr. Jenness graciously agreed to this request.
With no funds and no experience in this type of project, the group began the task with a borrowed farm tractor and hand tools. After a lot of hard work, they actually completed a workable landing runway early in 1939. Soon, Mr. L.D. Kleckley, Sr. purchased a two-place Aeronca Chief aircraft, becoming the first to begin flying from the new landing field.
Sanders Jenness joined the U.S. Navy as World War II began and as a result, the property was transferred to H.B. Harbade. A few years later in June, 1943, the newly organized Jasper County Aeronautics Commission purchased two parcels of land with a view toward establishing a permanent airport in Jasper County. One was a 48 acre tract from H.B. Garbade and another from Y.C. Weatherbee of 28 acres. Together, the two parcels totaled 76 acres and cost the County $4,850.
The new airport was solidly in operation in 1947 when Miller Flying Service began operations there. Herbert Miller owned the three aircraft put in service and was himself the chief flight instuctor as well. Over 70 local pilots obtained their initial pilots licenses under the tutelage of Mr. Miller.
In 1960, the popularity of the airport attracted funding from the State of South Carolina. A paved and lighted 3,000 feet long by 70 feet wide runway was constructed and put into operation. During that same decade, the training demands of the Vietnam War brought the U.S. Army to the Ridgeland Airport. Army helicopter pilot training was frequently conducted there. After the war, U.S. Army Colonel Oscar C. Mack (Ret) established a flying school at the airport. Mr. Mack operated his very successful flying school for a number of years prior to his untimely death in 1998.
The long tradition of grass-roots flight training begun by Mr. Miller and Mr. Mack continues today at Ridgeland Airport. The Lowcountry Soaring Assocation is home-based at the field and operates two gliders and a tow plane, having provided entry-level and advanced soaring training and flight operations to local enthusiasts for the last 15 years. In addition now, powered aircraft flight training is available from a new operation, Lowcountry Aircraft Management.
Today the Ridgeland Airport is a typical, active county airport with fuel and aircraft repair and inspection services available to both visiting aircraft and the more than fifty light aircraft that call the airfield home. The well-attended, annual "Race to Ridgeland", a light plane fly-in conducted in May of each year, is a highlight of the flying year. Ridgeland Airport is a county-owned, public-use airport. Mr. Claude Dean is the Commissioner of the Jasper County Aeronautics Commission and the manager of the airport.