A heavy turnout of people came out to the Crossville Memorial Airport at Whitson Field today (Saturday, September 30, 2017) for their 83rd annual open house and fly-in. The event featured three drawings for one free ride in a helicopter and planes. One individual winner got the chance to ride in a vintage 1927 Waco Model 10 biplane, another individual got the chance to fly in a P51 Mustang plane and a third person rode in a Huey H1 helicopter. Many planes, including World War II warbirds were on display for those in attendance. Some of those planes included the Chance Vought F4U Corsair, one of the main fighter planes in World War II and the Korean War. Also on display were small light sports aircraft, gyro planes and antique cars and Corvettes. The Cumberland County Community Band kicked off the ceremonies entertaining the public leading up to honoring five individuals who have made a difference in the history of the airport.
This year’s 2017 Aviation Award Winners included William E. “Bill” Mayberry, Kenneth Burnett, Cosby Harrison, James Whitson and Curt Watson.
William “Bill” Mayberry graduated from Cumberland County High School and the University of Tennessee. He was a veteran of World War II and saw action in the Battle of the Bulge. He also served in the Korean War and returned to Crossville in 1953 to run the family business. He was elected mayor of Crossville in 1950 at the age of only 28. He served two additional terms on the Crossville City Council and 40 years on the airport committee. He passed away in April 2002.
Kenneth Burnett graduated Cumberland County High School in 1945 and went into the Navy. He served on the Crossville Airport Committee for many years. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the City of Crossville for his dedication to the airport. He passed away in June 2012.
Cosby Harrison and his wife started Trade-A-Plane in Crossville at their kitchen table at the age of 27. The first issue came out in late 1937 to over 9,000 pilots registered in the nation. One copy is housed at the Ramsey Room of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The publication is still strong and active present day in Crossville. Harrison is called the father of aviation in Cumberland County. Harrison passed away in 1984.
James Whitson started in the aviation business at the age of 16 at Gillespie Airways in Nashville in the 1940’s. In 1960, Whitson became the fixed-base operator/airport manager of the Crossville Memorial Airport. He served over 25 years with the forestry service as a helicopter pilot. Dennis Whitson took over for his father for the operations of Crossville Flying Services after James passed away in 1997. The family earned their reputation as the “Flying Whitsons” for their 40 plus years of continued service to the airport.
Curt Watson graduated from Cumberland County High School and went on to play college football for the Tennessee Volunteers. Watson was a three-time all SEC football player. He went on to play two season in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. He would later join the Navy and serve 11 years as a pilot, including four years with the famed Blue Angels. Watson was instrumental in bringing a replica Blue Angels fighter jet that sits this day in front of Cumberland County High School.