"low pay and long hours."
The announcement by Harry T. Bodwell, Chairman of the State Airport Commission in 1929, that Hillsgrove was to be the site of the new airport was greeted with a great deal of discontent and prompted much criticism of the commission and of the state government. The site was selected upon the recommendation of a New York engineering firm, Black and Bigelow, and time has shown that the decision was based on careful and sensible evaluation.
In 1928, the Warwick Town Council passed a resolution asking Governor Norman S. Case to use his influence to establish the proposed state airport in Warwick. They believed the town would benefit greatly by having an airport and strongly recommended Gaspee Plateau as the most desirable site.
An angry protest
The Providence Magazine, which had supported the cause for aviation for a number of years, was extremely critical of the Hillsgrove choice. In an August 1929 editorial it charged that, "Despite the recommendation of a survey conducted by impartial aviation and airport engineering experts..., despite the recommendation of The Providence Chamber of Commerce, .... Despite ...overwhelming public favor, the State Airport Commission ignored the logical location at Gaspee Point...." The editorial went on to conclude, "Posterity will hardly forgive a failure that is so completely the fault of misdirected reasoning."
A plat demolished
The anger and protest of the media was overshadowed by the great dismay of the people living in the Oakwood Plat section of Hillsgrove. This plat would be literally erased from the geographical map of Warwick by the new airport. One citizen of the area noted that residents of the plat had waged a vigorous campaign just a few years earlier to have a road built that would connect Post Road in Hillsgrove with central Warwick. This road, Oakland Avenue, was finally built in 1927, and in 1929 the Airport Commission filed a petition to condemn land in the area and close the road.
It all takes time
Rhode Islanders who had high hopes of seeing a modern airport emerge overnight were sadly disappointed. The state confined their effort in the early period to simply clearing and grading the field. During the early 1930s, the planes landed on grassy strips as there were no paved runways. Private air companies erected their own hangars and it wasn't until 1932 that the state began to build a terminal and administration building.
Low pay and long hours
There were those who felt getting into aviation meant high wages and ideal working conditions. Arthur R. Jones, a pioneer in flying in Rhode Island, notes, "It turned out to be low pay and long hours. I started as a mechanic's helper at $8 a week." Jones added that while working for Wings Inc. he worked "as much as 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for $8. Also, we received 20 minutes free flight instruction." He went on to say, "The schedule called for me to get instructions every Monday, but if the weather was bad or we were busy, I had to forfeit the 20 minutes. I soloed in two hours and 10 minutes. Today (1964) it takes a minimum of eight hours instruction." Jones also noted that in 1927, anyone who made application would receive a license without taking a flight test.
A more lucrative development
In time, however, Jones' salary increased to $12 a week. In addition he said, "We had student instruction at $30 an hour, charter flights, sight seeing hops over the city which were the main source of support." He added, "We would go out into the parking lot at Hillsgrove Sunday afternoons and sell hops (rides) to people who had never been in a plane before. At the end of each good Sunday we would have $400 to $500 apiece in our pockets."
Kirby Fritz was one of the early pilots at the T. F. Green airport. Her he is before the early E. W. Wiggins hanger.