Yes. The Wilmington Air Park (sometimes spelled “Airpark”) covered a large area of what is now the Lincoln Forest subdivision off Oleander Drive and part of the present location of Independence Mall.
The turf airstrips were cleared in late 1945 by members of the Dunn family, who chartered Air Progress Inc. in November of that year.
According to stories in the Morning Star at that time, ambitious plans called for the creation of a triangular array of runways — one 2,100 feet long and two others 1,600 feet long — with six acres of service buildings.
At least some of those structures were built. A 1947 newspaper ad (now in the New Hanover County Public Library’s archives) promotes the air park’s “Snack Bar and Dining Terrace,” serving a menu of steaks, chicken, seafood and barbecue from 10 a.m. to midnight daily except Monday.
According to local aviation pioneer Anna Pennington, the Air Park and Air Progress were the brainchildren of brothers Carl, Bill and Murdoch “Murk” Dunn. The Dunns wanted to launch an “aviation country club,” a popular concept in the Northeast before World War II, where private planes could land, take off and be stowed.
Air Progress advertised general aviation services and, beginning in 1947, a local air charter service. The Dunns also offered flying lessons under the GI Bill. In 1946, the Star and News reported that Air Progress had acquired a four-passenger cabin aircraft and a Taylor Cub, presumably for training.
In late 1948, after Carl Dunn’s death, Bill Dunn took over as president of Air Progress, and Bill Robinson, who had been chief pilot, was promoted to general manager.
Planes that passed through the Airpark occasionally made the local news — such as a 1930s vintage German Bucker Flugzeugbau trainer, which landed here in the spring of 1948.
The Dunns apparently stayed in business through the early 1950s.
Date posted: July 13, 2011
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