words and photos by Colleen Hanke
At Akron Executive Airport, or AKR, the staff does everything from fueling planes to ordering pizza for passengers.
The Akron Executive Airport has been servicing corporate flights in the Akron area since 1929. The airport in Ellet, near the Goodyear Blimp hangar, was formerly named in memory of Bain E. “Shorty” Fulton, who managed the airport in its early years. Today the airport is dubbed Akron Executive Airport, with the tagline “AKR means business!”
“It’s kind of a concierge service; whatever they want we do for them. We’ve had all kinds of unusual requests. We’ve had people call in here and they request pizza from Luigi’s,” says John Hogarth, the owner of Summit Airport Services, which operates AKR. “So, they’ll come in, the passengers will load up and we have hot Luigi’s pizza for them because they know they like that pizza. But it’s anything they need.”
AKR is relatively small and low-traffic — around 20,000 flights annually, compared to 67,509 out of the Akron-Canton Airport in 2016 — but Summit Airport Services is trying to change that.
“Our goal has always been to expand traffic and things like that,” John says. “We can track any airplane going to any airport we want. So, we would track planes going into Akron-Canton, into Cleveland, into Cuyahoga County, airports like that. We’d get the tail number of the airplane, locate the pilot, send them a letter, saying ‘We’re here!’ and that’s how we start getting traffic coming in. Every year after that, it’s grown.”
The founder: A Goodyear engineer and WWII pilot
B. E. “Shorty” Fulton opened what is now known as the Akron Executive Airport back in 1929.
He was born near Kenton, a town in northwestern Ohio, on Jan. 5, 1892. Although he grew up on a farm, that was not the life Shorty wanted. He attended Ohio State University before coming to Akron in 1916.
Before opening the airport, Shorty worked for Goodyear in the engineering department. In his time outside of work, Shorty designed and built an airplane. He flew it back to Kenton on its first flight.
In the late 1930s, business at the airport was booming. It was the only place that United Airlines was scheduled to land between New York and Chicago. During World War II, 4,000 FG-1 Corsair fighter planes fresh off the production line used the airport’s runways to do tests.
Shorty served in the Air Force during World War II. In April 1945 his plane was shot down while flying over Germany. Shorty survived but was captured by the Germans. His imprisonment did not last long; in May he was rescued by Russian soldiers.
In the 50s, the airport was kept busy with the private planes and aircraft owned by Akron’s companies. Shorty returned to Akron to manage the airport until his retirement. The airport was renamed in his memory.
The airport’s present and future
Today, AKR services around 20,000 flights annually, including flights by pilots in training. The passengers on incoming and outgoing flights range from corporate employees to athletes to celebrities, many of whom include PGA golfers and country musicians. Children’s Hospital utilizes the airport as a base for dispatching their helicopter and an ambulance.
“It’s all corporate,” John says. “So, beginning of the week we had two Gulfstreams, which is a big aircraft, come in here, and they like the airport because of the proximity. And what they would do is, fly their people to various locations around, but they would use this as their hub. They just left last night, so they flew maybe six flights out of here. Now, they’ll be back in a couple of months and they’ll do the same thing.”
The airport currently has two runways. The smaller of the two will be closed after the larger one is repaved.
Currently nothing can be built in what is called the “clear zone” surrounding the smaller runway. Closing that runway will allow for land around it to be developed and built on.
“Right now, we have very little land that we can develop… because of that one runway,” John says. “So, I think next year we’re closing [the smaller runway] because it’s not used that much. Now that’s going to open up a bucketload of land here. So that’s where we’re going to start developing more. Commercial development, things like that.”
AKR will continue to host the Props and Pistons airshow, as they have done in recent years. Props and Pistons is an annual festival that displays airplanes and other aircraft. Attendees can purchase a ticket to ride in one of the airplanes or watch from the ground. The event includes activities for the entire family.
The event is getting better with every year according to John. “This year it’ll be even better,” he says.
Akron Executive Airport is located at 1600 Triplett Boulevard. The Props and Pistons Festival is currently scheduled for Aug. 15 and 16.
Colleen Hanke is a senior at The University of Akron.