Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Federal Heights Airport

The Federal Heights Airport, also known as Ruston Airport, once located at 100th & Federal, was formed in 1944, by Mr. Harry Hadley Ruston. He had a belief that the pilots of World War II would like to keep flying.

The airport was the first private airport in Colorado. It consisted of one hanger that was used for major engine repairs and a second building that was used for two classrooms, one with plane simulators and one which became a cafe called the "Pilots Perch."



There were four runways constructed which could be extended to eight thousand feet if needed. The longest runway was 3900 feet long.





The airport was a training center for Regis College and Denver University. There were only a few accidents during its life, one related to the schools: a student took a plane in the mountains and was caught in a down draft resulting in the loss of the plane, with not a scratch on the pilot. The second incident was when a pilot hit some power lines. Luckprevailed again; the plane was lost, but the pilot was not injured. Riley Burrows was a mechanic living in a small trailer at the airport in 1950. He & an air-show wing walker were killed in a crash about a mile north in a wheat field May 9, 1950."


The elevation of the property is 5,550 feet. It included 320 acres of land. The Postal address was 1100 North Federal Boulevard, Denver 11,
Colorado. The far South portion had rolling hills.

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The thought of closing the Airport came about because of housing developments nearby. The two largest were Broomfield Heights, about four miles Northwest, and Thornton, a very successful community two miles East. A home building project, Deza Estates, was built by Art Swanson. They were constructing contemporary homes in the price range of $20,000 to $35,000.

Between the years of 1957 and 1960, the Jefferson County Airport took a majority of the business from Ruston Airport. Mr. Ruston decided to close his airport in 1961. It took him three years to get out of debt.

After the closing of the airport, Mr. Ruston had also worked as a journalist. He had been employed by the Associated Press, Reuters, the Denver Post, and the Jerusalem Post. In this capacity he had interviewed many important world leaders. He was active in law and was an attorney for many years. At one time he was appointed by President Harry Truman to serve as a Federal judge. He also served the State of Colorado as its Attorney General and as its Inheritance Tax Collector.

Ruston died on June 14, 2002 at 94. His wife Florence died in 2006. Florence was a movie actress known as Baby Fleurette, and she appeared in the ''Our Gang'' series.

Ruston Park, located on the west side of the 9900 block of Zuni Street, is named in honor of Mr. Ruston and his many contributions to Colorado.



Have you ever driven past the blue-colored Napa Auto Parts around 102nd and Federal and said "what an odd looking building?!"



This was the hangar of the airport and is the only structure still standing. If you drive to the side of the building, you will notice old radio towers and the original offices used for the airport business.



The other building was recently called the "Flight Deck Restaurant"



It was still standing until 2005 when Shelly Ruston Munn, his daughter, had the building demolished.



These buildings were once connected by a tunnel that has long since been sealed off. The areas where most of the runways were once located are now occupied by homes and businesses in Northborough, Legacy Heights, and Federal Plaza. According to some, there is still an arched doorway downstairs in the hangar that had been bricked up.

The land around the hangar is still vacant and is curently for sale. Many homes and a trailer park occupy the former runway parts. There is no trace of the runways that used to be behind it. Now that the restaurant is gone, the Napa Auto Parts is the last and only trace left of the airport.

Update, October 2010: The NAPA Auto parts store has closed and the last remaining building is now empty. I am sure it will not be too long before the last of the old airport is gone.

2 comments:

  1. Kinda wish the hangar could be saved as a tribute to history... maybe a miniature museum of aviation circa Ruston Field?

    ReplyDelete
  2. One Last flight from Ruston Airport
    http://youtu.be/8o1fBL41jn0

    ReplyDelete