4549 Feet to Takeoff

Boggs Airfield opens up access for a small community in Roane County

By Sarah Moore and Jon Offredo | 05/05/2010

Reverend Michael King cautiously circles his mid-sized, two-engine plane. He checks the wings, the underbelly of the cockpit, the engine and finally the tail wing for any bird nests.

Though it’s part of a routine checkup he does before every takeoff, this time King is doing it with purpose. Behind him, Richard Boggs is watching over King’s every move through his tinted aviators as King is going through biennial check ride, which the FAA requires an hour of ground school and an hour of flying.

It’s a sunny day and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Everything is ready to go. Boggs and King hop into the plane, check all of the instruments, and then the propeller begins to oscillate. Minutes later, they are taxiing down the runway and picking up more and more speed until they’re off, flying through the air and heading toward Charleston as part of the recertification process.

King, who has been a pastor at the First Baptist Church in Spencer for seven years, has been flying planes since 1961. The plane he flies currently is his third. Boggs is the son of the airfield’s owner. They’ve known each other for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that King began storing his plane in the hangers of the airfield’s 180-acre property. In fact, if it weren’t for the airfield, King said he wouldn’t have bought another plane.

The Boggs Airfield, which sits atop a small mountain on the outskirts of Spencer, is a sight to behold from the sky. Surrounding the elevated runway are small dots of housing, a few fields, some industrial area, but the thing that catches the eye is the sheer number of hills surrounding the flat ground.

The airfield is the brainchild of Harry Boggs, Richard’s father. The airport is privately owned and funded entirely by the Boggs’s money, which came from the family’s natural gas business. Harry built the airport in the early part of 2000, but now Richard runs the operations.

The family began operating a club airport in 1975, but soon realized that its runway was too small for the two-engine planes used by many businesses. “If we wanted to expand our community, we were going to have to do something different,” Richard said.

It was then that an airport authority was formed, with the task of finding some land to build an airfield that could host business flights. Despite locating some promising spots, the idea did not come to fruition. In 1989, Greg Boggs, Richard’s brother, found the current location for the airfield. In 1997, it was another small mountain in the middle of the hilly landscape surrounding the town. Tthe Boggs bought the property and began work. The task of preparing the land for a landing strip entailed all sorts of excavation work including dynamiting the hill at the end of what is now the airstrip, Boggs said. They opened the airfield in 2000 and finished paving the 4549-foot long runway in 2006. All in all, it took about 10 years, moving nearly 2,000 yards of earth and millions of the family’s own money to finish.

The airfield, in its central location, serves as a good hub for the community to access other locations around the state that would normally be inconvenient. The closest airport for similar use is in Jackson County, about 35 to 40 minutes away from Spencer. Currently, the airport’s traffic varies day-to-day. Some days, there won’t be a single plane that takes off or lands, but the next day, there are sometimes up to a dozen.

When King’s wife was in the hospital at Point Pleasant, King parked his car at the airport, and flew from Spencer to the hospital during the remainder of his wife’s stay.

“I see it as a community thing, not investment, but a community outreach to just give us one other way to get us in and out of town,” he said. “He (Harry Boggs) loves flying, and he’s willing to put his personal investment in to make sure the rest of us can do it. It’s just cool. Praise the lord for him. It would not be here if it were not for him, make no mistake.” King remembers when he was little, he used to go to the old airstrip in Spencer and watch planes take off and land. One day while he was “bumming around”, he met Harry Boggs, who offered to give him a ride in his plane. “I’d jump in his twin, and away we’d go,” King said. “I thought for him to take that much time to take a kid with him, who he didn’t really know or have a real investment in was pretty daggone special.”

The creation of the airfield has also made a little community for the pilots, both past and present, in town. While King and Boggs were checking the plane and prepping for takeoff, another one of their friends rolled up in his Lincoln Towncar, parked it near the runway, and watched the plane take off.

The airfield is almost like a little golf clubhouse community. King says he’s up there at least one or more days out of the week. He’s not necessarily flying either – in his own words, he’s an airport bum.

“People who fly, are kind of a unique breed, they stick together, enjoy company, at any given time you come up, and there are two or three other pilots around, and there’s something to talk about,” he said. Flying has been a big part of King’s life. He taught his dad to fly, and also taught his son, who is now a pilot for UPS. King’s grandson, 14, has also expressed an interest in flying.

“There’s nothing quite as beautiful as God’s green earth from here (the air). It’s just beautiful and we never tire of that,” he said.

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