Granted, with the increase in commercial air flight, the skies are a lot more crowded than they were in the heyday of these small airstrips, but some aviation fields are still thriving. Some of the key smaller airports, like Teterboro,
Then there are the general aviation fields like
which have remained largely middle-class in demeanor, with no fancy aircraft or
equipment around. Those are the places that really hark back to the days when
all a fixed-base operator (FBO) really needed was a wind sock, a level field and someplace to
gas up the plane. Standing on the grounds, you can easily imagine that the next plane
to land might be piloted by Charles Lindbergh or Wiley Post, returning from a
leisurely flight over the Jersey countryside.
Back in the day, one could never know who just might be running the place. She might be an accomplished military pilot like Marjorie Gray, or, in the case of Lincoln Park, Amelia Earhart's mechanic Ed Gorski.
|Ed Gorski with Amelia Earhart and mechanic |
(photo credit performancedatamanagement.com )
Gorski reconnected with Earhart in 1932, as she prepared to become the first woman to pilot an airplane across the Atlantic. Working with another mechanic, he reinforced Earhart's Lockheed Vega to withstand the rigors of the extended flight time and added weight of the extra fuel the craft would be required to carry. To test their handiwork, Gorski and the other mechanic logged several consecutive hours of flight time over the Meadowlands, loading the Vega with sandbags to simulate the weight of the fuel it would require for the crossing. When they were ready to return to the airport, they'd drop the sandbags where Giants Stadium now stands, leading a few observers to believe the marsh was being bombed. Gorski also accompanied Earhart to her departure site in Newfoundland to make any last minute adjustments before her historic flight.
Following his stint with Earhart's Vega, Gorski opened an FBO operation at Teterboro with his new wife Julia. Together they made a living during the depths of the Depression, providing flight lessons, running sight-seeing flights to Hackensack and back, selling airplanes and operating an aerial photography business, among other ventures. After the United States entered World War II, they moved the business to Warwick, NY and continued training pilots until Ed joined the Air Corps. Julia kept the business going as Ed flew in the Pacific theater, though wartime shortages eventually forced her to close up shop.
The Gorskis returned to New Jersey after the war, purchasing the Lincoln Park Airport in 1946. He might not have continued to make aviation history, but in many respects, Ed did much more. From all accounts, he and Julia ran a tight operation with little tolerance for cutting corners or bending the rules. In my research, I found fond remembrances from several former employees and people who'd flown in and out of Lincoln Park, recounting the lessons Ed taught them, and how he made them better, more disciplined pilots. Many mentioned his unassuming nature and their own amazement that this down-to-earth man had worked with so many aviation greats.
Both Ed and Julia were named to the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in the 1970s; Ed as part of the inaugural class which included Lindbergh, Earhart and Chamberlin. While the Gorskis retired in 1979, Lincoln Park Airport continues to attract regular traffic and appears well maintained. Unlike so many of New Jersey's other historic airfields, it seems that Ed Gorski's old field will continue to welcome flyers for quite some time.