Jared Calvert is a young man with big ideas. He’s working tirelessly — along with a group of other dedicated volunteers — to revive Ranger Airfield (F23), in Ranger, Texas, about 65 miles west of Fort Worth.
He’s the force behind the annual air show, slated this year for May 28-30. Something new this year: The International Biplane Association will hold its 2010 Fly-In the same weekend at Ranger Airfield.
“The mission of the International Biplane Association is to play a part in maintaining the history of biplanes and to promote those being preserved, flown and built today,” said Jed Keck, IBA’s organizer. “It is only fitting that the 2010 fly-in be held at Ranger, where a great group of volunteers are keeping the old airfield alive.”
Calvert is also the force behind Calvert Charitable Projects Inc., a nonprofit organization with hopes of raising $1 million to restore the airport to its former glory, as well as build a museum on the field.
Centerpiece of the new museum will be a 1946 Cub that spent the last 59 years in a barn. Calvert is in the midst of restoring the Cub, which was donated by the Moseley family to the fledgling museum (see The Barn Cub).
What drives this 22-year-old college student to spend his days and weekends at the airport?
“I grew up there,” said Calvert, who said his father, Charles, first took him out to the airport when he was 4. By the time he was 6, he was spending much time at the airport, learning life’s lessons from Troy Taylor and R.P. Davis, two dedicated volunteers who kept the airport going. “I had the coolest upbringing with those guys. Hanging out with them after school and nearly everyday during summer taught me so much.”
Taylor died in 2006, with Davis following in 2008. “I miss them and the older guys who once called the airfield home,” Calvert said. “I’m giving my time as much for them and the past as for the future.”
But the passing of the torch to the next generation has not been easy. Frustrated by the lack of activity at the airport, Calvert went to City Hall in 2007, asking city officials to disband the airport board, which he says hadn’t met for more than 18 months. The city — which pays for the airport’s insurance and utilities — agreed, disbanding the board, and appointing Calvert’s father, Charles, airport manager, a volunteer position. All labor at the airport is volunteer and has been for years.
“The airfield has so much potential,” said Calvert, who, besides his college studies, is also running for City Council. “It is one of the great things Ranger has to offer.”
Ranger was transformed in 1917 when its first oil well was discovered. The sleepy Texas town swelled to 30,000 people seemingly overnight. Fueling the town’s boom was World War I and the need for more oil. At one time the city was home to 29 oil companies. In 1928, the citizens decided the town needed an airport and Ranger Airfield was born. Amelia Earhart landed there in 1931, while a Civilian Pilot Training Program was established there in 1938. After World War II, the airport was modernized, and an asphalt runway added. But as the population of the town dwindled — it’s now down to about 2,500 people — so did activity at the airport. By the 1990s, it was all but abandoned when a group of volunteers came together to clear the remaining grass runway and use the airfield again.
Volunteers continue to mow the grass runways, but the asphalt runway is in dire need of repaving, Calvert said. The 1928 hangar is in desperate need of restoration, he added.
Calvert and the other volunteers realize the best way to bring the airport into the future is to concentrate on its past. “We’re focusing on the historical aspect,” he said.
That’s why there are plans for a museum.
“We plan to start a flying museum through the non-profit so other donors can contribute their antique airplanes to a place that will not only take care of them, but where the planes themselves will contribute to the preservation of a historic, unique airfield,” he said.
He also believes that pilots in surrounding towns will be willing to base their vintage aircraft at a renewed Ranger with its grass runways, if hangars were available. “We want people to see the value in our airport.”
With some help from the city, volunteers hope to raise $60,000 to build a 70-foot by 50-foot hangar by the end of this year. It will house The Barn Cub, as well as other flying and project aircraft.
Through the non-profit, Calvert hopes to raise $1 million, as well as encourage people to donate airplanes, parts, supplies — anything they can — to the cause.
A big chunk of the money — an estimated $300,000 — will go towards repaving the asphalt runway. There also are plans for a self-service fuel system, establishing a campground with showers in the airport’s wooded area and restoration of the 1928 hangar.
While Calvert is the driving force behind the field’s restoration, it is, by no means, a one-man effort. He quickly rattles off the names of those who have helped him, from R.W. Howard for aircraft restoration, to Howard’s daughter, Carrie, who helped set up the non-profit organization, to Bob Green, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, who is “always there when a hand is needed.”
“It is a group effort in seeing the airport survives. My job is finding and bringing everyone together,” he said. “I just need to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
For more information: MySpace.com/RangerAirfield