History of Waterville Airport

The Beginnings

RAF Greenwood was established between 1940 and 1943 as an OTU (Operational Training Unit) and had several different aircraft of strength including Ansons and Hudsons at first. Later on in 1943, Mosquitoes also were present. Apparently at first Bolingbrokes, Lysanders and Oxfords were used for target tow. RAF Greenwood eventually became an RCAF station and was still in operation in 1946 as it hosted 6 training units in that year.

Aircraft landing at Waterville Airport in the late 1940's.
Aircraft landing at Waterville Airport in the late 1940’s.

The land where the Waterville airport is located was purchased during World War II by the Government and was to be an emergency airstrip in the event that the airfield at Greenwood came under attack. John Foster sold 100 acres for part of the airport. Some of the land including the homes of W.G. Forsyth, his son, Boyd, Roy Ward, and Jack McDow who were forced of their property. More land was purchased from Timmins, Reeves, Reece, Websters and Durno owners.

The Municipal Spray Company was given the contract to build the airport for the Department of National Defence. A fine drainage system was put beneath the long runway. When the Michelin plant was under construction, they found embankments to the south of the runway at Waterville which were probably built to provide protection for aeroplanes.

The aerial photos below are of the Cambridge, N.S. area. The sepia coloured one that shows the newly constructed Waterville strip in 1943.

Cambridge-aerial-1943
Cambridge Area 1943
Piper Cub J-3
Piper Cub J-3

Following the war end, in 1945, the airport was purchased by Pulsifer
brothers of Halifax. At that time the property covered 463 acres and was a mile
long, east to west. Donald Keith was appointed Manager and Flying Instructor. Mr. George Johnson was also an Instructor and Mr. Irwin Webber was the engineer.
The Flying School operated until 1948. There was a garage/restaurant next to the field at the eastern end called the Sky Gardens and was owned by Fred Robinson of Kentville.

Sky Gardens at the Waterville Airport in 1946
Sky Gardens at the Waterville Airport in 1946

[ Note on Donald Keith: In 1940 he joined the RCAF, where he became a Spitfire pilot. He was a veteran of the Second World War, serving overseas with a Fighter Squadron, posted on the coast of the English Channel and later in Singapore. He had been taken prisoner of war in Singapore but was able to make a successful escape. Following his discharge he rejoined the RCAF in 1947 flying Lancasters for five more years. Prior to 1950, he trained pilots at Stanley Airport, Hants County. In 1950 Don was sent to Gimli, Man., to teach N.A.T.O students. Following his first discharge, he opened and managed the Waterville Airport and Flying School. ] – from his obituary Halifax Chronicle Herald 27 Feb 2006

A Fleet Cunuk
A Fleet Cunuk
Don Keith nearest the aircraft during a search for missing hunters
Don Keith nearest the aircraft during a search for missing hunters

Sometime in 1949 or 1950 a flying instructor had a few beers with a friend and they decided to go flying. One of the J-3’s was taken without permission and a few minutes after they took off they went into a spin and crashed in an orchard that used to be where Central Kings High School now stands. Apparently both were killed and in 1950 the flying school ( Castle Air Services) was shut down and the airport became a hayfield.

In 1949 A.V. Cook purchased the airport now consisting of 360 acres. Part of the property had been sold to Rocky Hazel and Phil Barkhouse for the drive-in theater The airport hanger was removed and the theater screen was built on that location. About the same time the Sky Garden Limited was sold and was no longer part of the airport.

In 1954 the size of the airport property was reduced when some acerage was sold to a Mr. Campbell who later sold to Visser Brothers.

Harry Bull and three others bought the field in 1963 when it had been abandoned and was merely pasture. There may have been a 2500 ft N/S strip as part of the auxiliary strip but all evidence of its existence is gone now. When the three partners dropped out, Harry became the owner. He had an office building, a maintenance hanger and a T hanger. He began with 2 Cessna 120’s and also sometime during his ownership, he placed tires along the gravel/sod runway with lights in them.

At that time Miller Lane extended across the field and joined onto Randolph Road. There was a garbage dump just south of the airfield and there was aviators were always on the lookout for seagulls!

In the fall and early winter of 1963 the Greenwood Flying Club operated a satellite flying school at this site and had a small travel trailer as an office.

A new flying school was established by Harry Bull and associates in the early summer of 1964, with two very nice aeroplanes, a 1946 Cessna 140 (CF-JZR) and a Cessna 120 of similar vintage (CF-HHA). Gerard Killam began flying with an instructor with the last name of Shatford then. They flew a Fleet Canuck (CF-DYM) from the grass strip marked with old tires with white plastic pails stuck in the centres and when the snow came these were replaced with little spruce trees!

Peter Austin-Smith first flew out of Waterville (1968) and was part of a gliding group there in the early 70’s along with Art Patton.

Cambridge in 1975 Aerial
Cambridge in 1975 Aerial

Harry Bull sold the airport to Kings County in 1976, The Municipality of Kings County had been awarded a $50,000 grant from the provincial government to enable the purchase of the privately-owned airport. The transfer to municipal ownership allowed the airport to qualify for federal upgrading money and the county the county paved the runway at that time.

The airport was managed for the County of Kings by a full time manager and staff until 1999. The Waterville Airport Co-operative began managing the Kings County Municipal Airport, also known as Waterville Airport (CCW3), on October 1, 1999 for a three year term followed by subsequent three year terms.

Thanks to Gerard Killam and Peter Austin-Smith the information presented here. Some of the information is from “History of Cambridge – to the Best of my Knowledge” by Frances Taylor – pages 84-87 .

airport-damage
Wind Storm Damage in the 1970’s

There are many other stories from the past centered on the Waterville aiport. The photograph below must have an interesting story with it. Why is a Piper Pawnee flying so low and going under the power lines? Is it perhaps doing a spray of the field beyond the power lines? Photo courtesy of Ken Cheslock.

Piper Pawnee many years ago
Piper Pawnee many years ago

If you have facts, information, or pictures related to the Kings County Airport, we would appreciate copies to include here. Email to admin AT nature1st.net

Closure of the Waterville/Kings County Aiport (CCW3)

AP+Michelin-GElabels
Aerial View Showing the Relationship between Kings County Airport and the Michelin Tire Plant
(- click on the image for larger view -)

The Waterville airport was closed by the Municipality of Kings 1 April of 2016. A committee of aviators have negotiating with Canadian Airforces Base Greenwood to relocate local airport operations there. The necessary agreements and approvals will be finalized in 2016. The County of Kings will sign a lease with Department of National Defence (DND) and sublease to the Freedom Aviation Society who will administer general aviation at CFB Greenwood.

For a full description of the effort to save the Waterville Airport go to the AVFA.ca where a taskforce of pilots and concerned citizens are working to preserve what has taken so much effort to create. Annapolis Valley Flying Association Taskforce – Save your Airport

Michelin Tire has a manufacturing plant adjacent to the Kings County airport (KCA) on its south. The plant is laid out such that if Michelin were to expand their manufacturing capability, they would want to go to the north onto KCA land for economy and efficiency reasons. The aerial image here shows that this would cause it to extend on to the west end of the airport runway, making it impossible to use the airport. At present, 2016, Michelin has no plans to expand this plant.

In an effort to encourage Michelin to invest in this province, the Nova Scotia provincial government suggested (2012) that the airport could be moved off its current position to allow the Waterville Tire plant to expand. They did this by financing an engineering study to determine the cost of relocation of the airport. The study was finished in May 2013 and the final report is available on the N.S. government website.

Costs of Moving the Airport

Building a new airport would have cost about $10 million plus the cost of buying land that it would occupy, and compensating the owners of hangers and business at the current airport. Total cost of a new relocated airport could be $12-15 million. There is an option to incorporated the airport in the facilities at the Greenwood Canadian Airforce Base. The cost of doing this would be about $7 million but due to the restrictions and agreements associated with the security at the Base, the operation would be different from the present airport operation. Also, its future would depend on the continuing agreement of the Department of National Defence (DND) to the arrangement.

Subseqent to the release of the study, the Municipality of Kings Council, which owns the airport and land on which it sits, resolved to provide this land should Michelin need it for expansion. The Kings Council also approached Greenwood CFAB to ask if a move of the airport to their base would be possible and under what conditions.

There were no funds set aside or commitment to move the airport by the province or the municipality. As emphasized above, there are no plans for a Michelin plant expansion. Michelin is an international company and has been expanding plants elsewere in the world. In 2012 they began expanding in North Carolina in the USA and in China and Brazil. (See Michelin’s Annual Reports). The Waterville plant manufactures truck tires destined for the North American market. In 2012 sales of truck tires was up 2% in new equipment and down 2% for replacement tires.

The Waterville Airport had been operated by the Waterville Airport Cooperative Limited for the Municipality of Kings (MOK). After 31 September 2015, it was no longer supported by MOK.

General Aviation for the Annapolis Valley – COPA Flight 147