When David Williams, dean of the Ohio State University College of Engineering, spoke at the June 3 annual meeting of the Northwest Civic Association, he said years of indecision and neglect regarding the airport off West Case Road were at an end.

When David Williams, dean of the Ohio State University College of Engineering, spoke at the June 3 annual meeting of the Northwest Civic Association, he said years of indecision and neglect regarding the airport off West Case Road were at an end.

Backing up those words grew a whole lot easier with the announcement late last month that the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation of Cincinnati was donating $10 million to upgrade the aviation education program and research facilities at the Ohio State University Airport, also known as Don Scott Field.

John Ehlers, president of the NWCA board of trustees, was heartened by the remarks of the dean, whose department oversees the airport. Ehlers said last week he was practically thrilled by the announcement of the grant, which he learned of in advance as a member of the OSU Airport Outreach Community Council.

"I'm just very pleased," Ehlers said. "First of all, it's been a long time coming. There's been no significant investment in the airport for maybe 50 years or so."

"The gift will support construction of a new aviation education and research facility with state-of-the-art flight simulators, research labs and classrooms," according to an announcement posted on the Ohio State and airport websites.

"With this core funding in place, Ohio State will be sharing the vision for airport modernization with community, civic and corporate leaders over the next few months. In conjunction with development of the Austin E. Knowlton Aviation Learning Center and Executive Terminal, additional university and philanthropic funds will be used to construct complementary aircraft hangars and support facilities for Ohio State's flight education fleet and private aircraft."

Austin Eldon Knowlton, nicknamed "Dutch," died in June 2003. He received his architectural engineering degree from Ohio State in 1931. He was the owner and chairman of the Knowlton Construction Co., which he started in Bellefontaine in 1937 and which, according to the OSU announcement, "was responsible for over 600 major construction projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including school buildings, hospitals and libraries."

Knowlton was part of the original founding partnership for the Cincinnati Bengals and for many years had a major ownership interest in the Cincinnati Reds, according to the website for the foundation, which he established in 1981.

"Mr. Knowlton was always a huge supporter of Ohio State," John Lindberg, president of the foundation, said last week. "Don Scott Field was his home field, as far as his travels. He used to come in and out of Don Scott Field all the time when he was alive.

"The airport was certainly lacking as a gateway to the university and to Columbus," Lindberg said. "The foundation felt this was an appropriate use of foundation money to support Ohio State and Ohio State's department of aviation."

"It's going to be a much more attractive front door for those visitors who are coming into the airport," Ehlers said. "I think overall this is going to be a real benefit for the community, in that it's going to be a much more attractive facility. I'll give Dean Williams a lot of credit for his long-term planning, along with the rest of Ohio State.

"That funding makes the vision viable.

"The interesting thing is, the OSU Airport is remarkable within the United States as to its scale and its use," Ehlers said. "The suburban airport like this operated by a university with the sort of research opportunities, if it's not totally unique it's fairly unique.

"Northwest Civic aspire to be the voice of the community and we were invited to be on this council as the voice of the community. I would ask people to submit comments and questions to me ... on our website about the airport," he said.

"We know that people are concerned about things like noise. I think there will be considerable public input on these issues in the future, and I would like to hear from people about their concerns."

The association's website is northwestcivic.org.