Clinton County AFB, OH
Clinton County Air Force Base was a Strategic Air Command bomber alert facility in the early 1960s. The All Weather Flying Center was based at the Clinton County Army Airfield during the late 1940s. The big Skyhook balloons, part of a classified naval research project, were launched from Clinton County AFB in the late 1940s.
On 07 January 1948 newspapers across the U.S. carried headlines similar to the Louisville Courier: "F-51 and Capt. Mantell Destroyed Chasing Flying Saucer." The "Mantell Incident" was the most thoroughly investigated sighting of that time. Captain Thomas Mantell died trying to reach a Skyhook balloon, launched from Clinton County AFB. He didn't know that he was chasing a balloon because he had never heard of the huge, 100-foot-diameter skyhook balloons, let alone seen one. Mantell's death was ultimately caused by the hype over UFOs, which no doubt caused him to chase after it at all costs.
In the late 1960s Clinton was the site of a UASF Special Operations Squadron Field Training Detachment, preparing gunship crews for deployment to Vietnam. In 1971, the Department of Defense closed the Clinton County Air Force Base in Wilmington, Ohio, eliminating over 300 civilian jobs and an annual payroll of $9 million. Wilmington citizens and the business community banded together and turned the 1,432-acre facility into a commercial air park, the home of Airborne Express since 1980.
The Wilmington Air Park/Airborne Commerce Park is located on the site of the former Clinton County Air Force Base. As of 1999 the airport consisted of two runways, taxi-ways, aprons, buildings serving as aircraft and equipment maintenance facilities, sort facilities, storage facilities, a training center, and operations and administrative offices.
Wilmington prides itself on being located within a "golden triangle" anchored by Dayton 35 miles to the northwest, Cincinnati 60 miles to the southwest and Columbus, the Ohio's capital, 65 miles to the northeast. Clinton County was settled in the late 1700s when land in southwestern Ohio was "set aside" for Revolutionary War veterans. The county was named after former Vice President George Clinton; in fact, the town of Wilmington was originally named Clinton. The town of Wilmington was selected by Cincinnati Magazine in 1995 as Cincinnati's "Most Livable Neighborhood" and has been listed in both editions of Norm Crampton's book The 100 Best Small Towns in America.
The first religious meetings held in the county were in Union Township as early as 1804 by the Society of Friends (Quakers). Wilmington College is a private, four-year, career-oriented, liberal arts college founded in 1870 by the Religious Society of Friends. Wilmington College maintains and promotes the Quaker ideals of peacemaking, nonviolence and stewardship, which manifest itself in such entities as the Peace Resource Center and annual Westheimer Peace Symposium. The Peace Resource Center attracts scholars and visitors from around the world. The Center houses extensive materials on World War II atomic bombings. Its Hiroshima-Nagasaki Collection, related to the bombings of those cities, is the only collection of this kind outside of Japan.
Clinton County's largest employer is Airborne Express, which currently employs nearly 7,000 workers at its main hub in Wilmington. Airborne Express, an overnight air express company, has its main sorting hub at the 2,200 acre Wilmington Air Park. The facility includes an aircraft maintenance facility and Foreign Trade Zone. In 1980 Airborne purchased Clinton County Air Force Base, becoming the only carrier to own and operate an airport. The package sort center created the "hub" for the hub-and-spoke system. In 1995 Airborne opened a second runway at its hub, the United States' largest privately owned airport.
The Wilmington Airborne Express hub is the central package sort and maintenance facility for the overnight air forwarder, with over 200 planes landing and leaving the hub each weekday night. In addition to part-time package handlers, the company employs a variety of skilled trades and professionals from clerical workers, data base management, avionics technicians, jet engine and air frame mechanics, to pilots, and computer programmers.
As express delivery volume has increased, the main sort center has been expanded. The sort center currently has the capacity to handle approximately 1.2 million pieces during the primary 3-1/4 hour nightly sort operation. On average, approximately 1.0 million pieces were sorted each weekday night at the sort center during the fourth quarter of 1999. In addition to the main sort facility at Wilmington, nine regional hub facilities have been established primarily to sort shipments originating and having a destination within approximately a 300 mile radius of a regional hub.
The operation of the Wilmington facility is critical to the Company's business. The inability to use the Wilmington airport, because of bad weather or other factors, would have a serious adverse effect on the Company's service. The Company has invested in sophisticated instrument landing and radar systems and other equipment which is intended to limit the effect bad weather may have on the Wilmington airport.
Shipments that are not serviced through regional hubs are loaded on Company aircraft departing each weekday evening from various points within the United States and Canada. These aircraft may stop at other airports to permit additional locations and feeder aircraft to consolidate their cargo onto the larger aircraft before completing the flight to the Wilmington hub. The aircraft are scheduled to arrive at Wilmington between approximately 11:30 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. at which time the shipments are sorted and reloaded. The aircraft are scheduled to depart before 6:00 a.m. and return to their applicable destinations in time to complete scheduled next business morning or deferred service commitments. The Wilmington hub also receives shipments via truck from selected stations in the vicinity of the Wilmington hub for integration with the nightly sort process.
The day sort operation for shipments is supported by 16 aircraft that return to Wilmington from overnight service destinations on Tuesday through Thursday. These aircraft, and trucks from five regional hubs, arrive at Wilmington between 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 pm, at which time shipments are sorted and reloaded on the aircraft or trucks by 3:30 p.m. for departure and return to their respective destinations.
The Company also performs weekend sort operations at Wilmington to accommodate Saturday pickups and Monday deliveries of both Overnight Express and deferred service shipments. This sort is supported by 19 Company aircraft and by trucks.
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