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The Carpet City Airport
Published on: 2014-08-30
The Carpet City Airport
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 08-30-14

Local residents say that bootleggers used an airstrip on Route 67 in Amsterdam during Prohibition to fly liquor in from Canada. Sometimes there was a night landing when lighted barrels guided the plane with its alcoholic cargo to a safe touchdown.

The airfield was just outside the city, on the right side of Route 67 when heading toward Saratoga County. The location later became an auction house.

The field was owned by farmer and aviator George Verkleir who later became active in the Amsterdam Flying Club, which operated a more substantial airfield near Perth.

Oscar Frisch was the first Perth resident to earn a pilot’s license, according to town historian Sylvia Zierak. Frisch’s airplane was kept at a field at Hills Corners at the junction of Midline Road and Route 107, the Perth-Galway Road.

The airfield was near the settlement of Perth and often called the Perth Airport, although the land involved is in the town of Broadalbin.

Historian Kenneth Shaw wrote that Art Ruback and Al Wright, both from Amsterdam, began using the Midline Road location as a landing strip in 1936. Wright had learned to fly a biplane at Verkleir’s airstrip in the town of Amsterdam.

Real estate records show the Amsterdam Flying Club bought the Midline Road airstrip from Myrtal Eddy in 1939. George Verkleir was one of the principals.

Shaw wrote that the side of a barn was removed to allow storage of two planes, “A 1,500 foot east-west runway was built and later a 2,500 foot north-south runway was added.”

The first plane at the field was a Taylor Cub that cost $1000, according to Shaw. The plane was badly damaged when a windstorm blew it into a big hole that had been dug for gasoline tanks. A new tail section had to be installed. The first flying instructor was Ken Young.

A large hangar was constructed about 1940, according to Shaw who said 25 airplanes were stored at the airfield.

Sometimes the operation was called the Carpet City Flying Club and the words “Carpet City Airport” were painted on the roof of one of the structures. The operation also was known as Amsterdam Flying Services.

In the years leading up to World War II, the government established a Civilian Pilot Training program to teach potential military pilots how to fly. The Carpet City airport could have been part of that effort.

In any event, Shaw wrote that the local airport prospered right after the war as returning soldiers learned to fly under the G.I. Bill. But the boom was short lived and the airfield was sold to a construction company in 1951.

Real estate records show the airport’s hangars, office building, shop and land were sold to American Construction on July 6 of that year.

DEMONSTRATION FLIGHT TRAGEDY

During the time when Carpet City Airport was active, two men died when a two-seater Aeronca plane crashed during a demonstration flight twelve minutes after takeoff on Sunday afternoon, October 6, 1946.

The Aeronca was owned by Ray A. Shaver of 88 Forest Street in Gloversville. Willis E. “Slip” Slater, 33, 401 Locust Avenue in Amsterdam was demonstrating the plane to Edward Rytel, 20, of Perth, who had expressed interest in buying it.

Slater, a longtime pilot and Army Air Corps veteran, was a flying instructor at the airport. He died on impact. Slater’s wife, the former Marcella Flaherty, had given birth to their son eight days before the airplane tragedy.

Rytel, a wounded veteran and student of aviation, survived about three hours, dying at St. Mary’s Hospital.

It was not clear who was at the controls at the time of the crash.

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