The town of Plainville claims a special relationship with aviation culture that dates back to the earliest days of flight in the state. Pilots and aviation enthusiasts of all varieties came to Plainville to reinvigorate their passion for flight. Plainville became both the literal as well as symbolic home for smalltime pilots, hot air balloon adventurists, and even a state governor, all of whom soared through the sky just overhead.
Plainville’s Robertson Airport
Robertson Airport in Plainville services small-engine commercial and private aircraft. Founded in 1911, it is Connecticut’s oldest airfield. Originally consisting of little more than a meadow used by novice pilots in the early 20th century, the land was purchased by Stamford Robertson in 1941 for $5,000. Over the next 30 years, Robertson increased the acreage of the airfield, refined landing strips, and built permanent hangar space for aircraft.
As the airport’s capacity increased, so did its clientele. A common visitor to the airport was the weekend enthusiast, who went aloft at Robertson’s to reconnect with a love of flight and to catch a glimpse of New England unimaginable to those remaining earthbound. In addition, the airport’s strategic location made it an ideal base for the Civil Air Patrol during times of war and for small businessmen in need of a quick trip to New York or Boston.
A Flying Governor
Plainville is also the home of John H. Trumbull, who served the state as governor from 1925 to 1931. Although no relation to the previous Connecticut governors with whom he shared a name, Trumbull became famous in his own right when he developed a passion for flight. A resident of Plainville since childhood, Trumbull earned his pilot’s license at the age of 53 and became known as the “Flying Governor” when he began piloting his own flights to gubernatorial functions. He also helped found an airport in Groton that still bears his name. For years, this airport operated under the guidance of another Plainville man, John N. Kelly.
Soaring into the 21st Century
Throughout much of the 20th century, Plainville continued to immerse itself deeper into aviation culture. Lieutenant (junior grade) Moreno John Caparelli served as a member of the infamous “Black Cat” squadron that patrolled Japanese airspace during World War II. In the 1950s, Plainville began hosting an annual aviation dinner, sponsored by the Connecticut Wing of the Civilian Air Patrol, and ran a Miss Connecticut Aviation contest. Air shows, flying competitions, and pilot training courses all supplemented aviation activities at the Plainville airfield.
In 1985, as a way to mark the centennial of the local fire department, Plainville hosted a hot air balloon festival in Norton Park. Now an annual event, it continues to draw up to 20,000 people each year. In 2009, among a flurry of small airport closings in Madison, Burlington, and elsewhere, the town of Plainville bought Robertson Airport and still maintains its operation today.