West Asheville Municipal Airport
Dr. J. E. Owen, “Doc” Owen, as he was known, a local dentist and aviator, was one of WNCs earliest aviation pioneers. He was an avid flyer, and offered flying instruction several years before Asheville had an airport of any kind. Owen learned to fly in a WW I “Jenny” shortly after the war, and for the next 40 years he found it difficult to keep his feet on the ground.
He was well-known throughout the South as a stunt flyer at air shows. In the early 1920s, he acquired some acreage along Amboy Road, put up a hangar, and created his own airfield.
In 1920, Mayor, former NC Congressman for Buncombe County, and West Asheville resident and booster Gallatin Roberts proposed that the property be secured for use as a landing field.
In 1927, “Doc” urged that a field be established in Asheville as soon as possible in order to be included on an aviation map being prepared by the federal government. That same year he turned his dentistry business over to an assistant, and joined a New Jersey aircraft company as a test pilot. He then became chief pilot for a New York-Miami airline out of which grew Eastern Airlines. When the stock market crashed in 1929, Doc returned to Asheville and to dentistry, but he continued to keep planes at Carrier Field and to offer flying instruction here.
Photo of DOC OWENS (1948)
Dr. J. E. Owen in hat and 3-piece suit leaning on the J2 40hp Cub NC17984 at Owen Field in West Asheville in 1948. He was a local dentist, barnstorming pilot and inventor of a front end loader which was assembled at the Asheville Foundry Co., and the Dempster Dumpster among other inventions. He was born Jan. 31, 1896 on Biltmore Ave. and died Oct. 8, 1964 after a heart attack at his office at Carrier Field (Owen Air field), which opened in 1925. He was a pilot and bombardier in World War II. Afterwards he became a commercial pilot for Eastern Air Express Lines, and continued to fly until his death.
Scan donated by Jack Pike for the West Asheville History Project.
North Carolina Collection at Pack Library, image N865-5.
On August 28, 1930, the field was officially opened as a municipal airport. The event was celebrated with 3 days of parachute jumping and stunt flying. Free rides were offered to the couple with the oldest marriage certificate, the couple with the newest marriage certificate, the homeliest man and the prettiest girl! The field had only one runway, but it was nearly 3,000 feet long.
During WW II an A-26, two-engined attack bomber with only enough fuel left to last 5 minutes made an emergency landing at Carrier Field, “narrowly avoiding a crash in the French Broad River”, according to the Asheville Citizen. The plane skidded 1700 feet, to a point within 20 feet of the river, but no one was hurt.
Space restrictions at Carrier Field and the opening of the Asheville-Hendersonville Airport in 1936 put an end to the field’s use as a municipal airport, but private planes continued to use the field into the 1950s. In 1955, local residents heard a plane coming over the field and thought the pilot was in trouble. Several residents drove down to the field and turned their headlights on the landing strip. It turned out that the veteran pilot was fine, amused at the mistaken assumption but appreciative of neighborliness of West Asheville folks.