History of the Defiance County Airport
Air travel has been an important part of the economy in Defiance County for a century. One of the earliest photos of flight in Defiance County was taken in 1911 and titled “Defiance Summer Fair 1911”. The photo captured an airplane flying over a large crowd only eight years after the advent of powered flight.
The first recognized airport in Defiance County was a grass field next to the railroad near Spruce Street in the City of Defiance. In late 1928 O.L. Woodson, an early aircraft designer, proposed a production facility at this location with a mission to build a revolutionary designed aircraft called “The Simplex”. Only nine or ten were built prior to the onset of the Great Depression, which ultimately ended production of this aircraft.
The second recognized airport in Defiance County was a grass runway on the north side of the City of Defiance adjacent to Elliott Road. The site was active just after World War II, however in the early 1950’s the airport moved to its present day location on 318 acres of county land about six miles outside of Defiance on State Route 15.
In the mid-1950’s a 3,000 foot paved runway was constructed at this location along with a new steel hangar, which is still in use today. This early development was completed in conjunction with Williams County in a joint effort. The runway was then hastily lengthened to 4,200 feet in anticipation of a visit from President Dwight Eisenhower; however the President ultimately switched travel arrangements and visited Defiance on October 15, 1953 by way of the B & O Railroad.
By 1965, the joint venture with Williams County dissolved when Williams County constructed their own airport near Bryan.
In the early 1980’s the Defiance County Commissioners transferred direct control of the airport to an independent five-person Airport Authority Board. In the 1990’s the Airport Authority Board implemented the formation of Ohio’s second JEDD (Joint Economic Development District) to provide water service extension from the Village of Brunersburg.
Currently, the TAS Aviation is the fixed-based operation (FBO) at the Defiance County Memorial Airport. TAS Aviation was formed in 1976 by Tony Saxton and his father, Vernon, with a mission to provide general services to the airport. In the 1980’s TAS Aviation implemented an air transportation network for cancelled checks throughout a six-state region, utilizing fifteen Twin Engine Cessna aircraft. In 1988 TAS Aviation refocused on maintaining customer owned Twin Cessna aircraft and soon became nationally known for quality maintenance of Twin Cessna aircraft. In 1993, Tony Saxton accepted the National Maintenance Technician of the Year Award, being named the top out of over 350,000 certified Aviation Technicians in the nation
Numerous aircraft storage hangars have been developed over the past two decades by private businesses and individuals by way of long-term land leases from Defiance County.
Other businesses have been involved at the Defiance County Memorial Airport throughout the years. In the mid-twentieth century Zeller Corporation operated the nationally recognized Zellair Company. Later, Dinner Bell Foods operated DB Aviation from the Defiance County Memorial Airport. Then in the mid-2000’s Standridge Color Corporation, from Social Circle, Georgia, constructed a hangar at the airport in conjunction with a manufacturing facility in the City of Defiance.