How Will Loss Of Aviation Buff Impact Smith Field?

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 28, 2011 Updated Jun 28, 2011 at 5:24 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Gone, but not forgotten.

Dr. Stephen Hatch's death in a Michigan plane crash leaves a void to fill, in terms of the future for Smith Field airport in Fort Wayne.

Hatch was instrumental in rescuing Smith Field from the scrap heap.

No one played a bigger role in keeping Smith Field viable.

Now, who will take up the torch and move forward.

In 2003, there were voices in the community, saying it's time to close the small northside airfield.

Dr. Hatch, an aviation buff, was the lead voice on the other side of the debate.

He put his money where his mouth was, stepping up to buy Smith Field Air Service, a business that provides aircraft rentals, flight instruction, and a flight simulator for use by Smith Field patrons.

A manager with the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority says Smith Field won't be doomed, just because Hatch is no longer in the picture.

"I believe Smith Field is an airport, it's not a one-person environment. Smith Field is here to stay,” says Scott Hinderman, the Director of Operations for the airport authority.

“He was very enthusiastic towards aviation, he was a strong promoter. Despite that, we’ll get through this hurdle," says Hinderman.

Mike Landram, the President of the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, says he hopes somebody will step up and preserve Hatch's legacy, but it may take some, he says, to see who, if anyone, does step up, and how Smith Field's future will be shaped under new leadership.

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