Airpark Has New Owner
By Mike Mitchell
September 11, 2011 - Cornelia Fort Airpark which was
named after aviatrix Cornelia Clark Fort in East
Nashville is under new ownership. Ernest “Bill” Colbert
and Elaine Colbert ran the 141 acres airpark for
decades, went into foreclosure after the couple
defaulted on two loans one for $1 million in 2005 and
the second for $1.4 million in early 2010.
The couple had sought a buyer for the airpark for a
number of years and had been selective in who bought the
property. “We don’t want to just walk off and leave it,
and the airport goes to pot” said Bill Colbert.
The airpark was purchased by and under the ownership of
the city of Nashville, it will retain the name, Cornelia
Fort Airpark and it will become part of the neighboring
Cornelia Clark Fort (1919–1943) was an aviator in the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) later called Women Airforce Service Pilots, who became the first female pilot in American history to die on active duty.
born to a wealthy and prominent Nashville, Tennessee, family;
her father, Rufus Elijah Fort, was a founder of National Life
and Accident Insurance Company. She graduated from Sarah
Lawrence College in 1939. After college, Fort would join the
Junior League of Nashville. She showed an early interest in
flying, ultimately training for and earning her pilot's license
working as a civilian pilot instructor at Pearl Harbor, Cornelia
Fort inadvertently became one of the first witnesses to the
Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States
into World War II. On December 7, 1941, Fort was in the air near
Pearl Harbor teaching takeoffs and landings to a student pilot
in an Interstate Cadet monoplane.
Hers and a
few other civilian aircraft were the only U.S. planes in the air
near the harbor at that time. Fort saw a military airplane
flying directly toward her and swiftly grabbed the controls from
her student to pull up over the oncoming craft. It was then she
saw the rising sun insignia on the wings.
Within moments, she saw billows of black smoke coming from Pearl Harbor and bombers flying in. She quickly landed the plane at John Rodgers civilian airport near the mouth of Pearl Harbor. The pursuing Zero strafed her plane and the runway as she and her student ran for cover. The airport manager was killed and two other civilian planes did not return that morning.
With all civilian
flights grounded in Hawaii, Fort returned to the mainland in early 1942.
She made a short movie promoting war bonds that was successful and led
to speaking engagements. Later that year, Nancy Love recruited her to
serve in the newly established Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron,
precursor to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She was the
second woman accepted into the service. The WAFS ferried military planes
to bases within the United States.
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