Historic flight landmark honors Carter - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Historic flight landmark honors Carter

By Jay Polk - bio | email

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - There's controversy over the re-naming of the Americus airport. What's always been Souther Field is now Jimmy Carter Regional Airport.

But this gesture to honor the nation 39th president has gone over like a ton of bricks.

It's such an emotional issue, there was an attempt to block our cameras.

Many times decisions by government bodies pass by without much notice from the public. But one recent decision from the Sumter County Aviation Board was different.

"Officially it would have been a 3 to 1 vote," said Franklin Williams, Airport Manager.

What they voted to do was to change the name of the airfield in Sumter County from Souther Field to Jimmy Carter Regional Airport. The people who make a living here, and the ones who have personal histories tied to this place, were not in favor of the decision.

"I am extremely unhappy... that's putting it mildly," said Kay Guttenberg of Americus.  "I've not heard anybody that's in favor of this."

And they say that they're not alone. So why are these Americus residents so attached to a name? To get a hint, simply look around. Everywhere that you turn, there are reminders of the proud past of this airfield. After all, this is one of the oldest airfields in the country, dating to 1917.

Over the years it has been important in the Allied war effort. Starting in World War I... "This site was put here to train cadets to become pilots," said Mike Cochran, a South Georgia Tech instructor.

During the inter war years, the airfield became known as a place to be for the daredevil pilots-- known as barnstormers. The most famous of these was Charles Lindbergh, who soloed here in 1923.

It was his first solo flight, a full four years before he would become the first to cross that Atlantic alone. During the Second World War, Souther Field once again became important to the Allied war effort. As they did a generation earlier, locals again pitched in to help.

 "My father, W. K. Farber, was an instructor out here at Souther Field. And my aunt was a dispatcher," said Guttenberg.

In the years since the war, Souther Field took on a new purpose. Today it is a general aviation airport.

"We do annual inspections, 100 hour inspections, repairs. Anything in the maintenance line we do," said Williams.

Opponents say that being against changing the name is not based on any dislike for President Carter. "There's a history. It's been here 92 years," said Williams.

They're simply hoping that in the end, they'll again be able to fly the friendly skies from Souther Field. As they always have.

Opponents of the name change say that the only way that they believe the name can be changed back is if President Carter himself intervenes.

Souther field has a long, rich history-


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