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Downtown Island Home Airport

On July 25, 2007

Downtown Island Airport   2701 Spence Place   Knoxville, Tennessee 37920   865.609.0500

My son delights in scaring the bejesus out of me by saying he wants to learn to fly his own plane; after spending a couple of hours at Knoxville’s Downtown Island Home Airport, I can almost – but not quite – understand why he might want a plane of his own.

A landing plane comes into view at Island Home with the skyline of downtown
Knoxville in the background.

Although I had friends who housed their planes there, I didn’t discover the delight of spending a few hours at Island Home Airport until a friend and I happened upon it almost by accident on a very rainy football Saturday last fall.  The rain kept us from seeing any planes land or from even taking pictures on that particular day but just talking with the friendly folks who maintain the airport and seeing the skyscrapers (all three of them) of nearby downtown brought me back for a second visit.  The second time around lived up to the memories of the first visit.  On this day numerous small planes took off and landed, several of them on their way to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for one of the year’s biggest air shows.

You don’t need any special clearance to visit Island Home and watch the planes traverse the runway only a few dozen yards away.  Just make the drive across the Gay Street Bridge, travel through the Island Home neighborhood – a treat in itself with many well maintained bungalow and craftsmen style houses still lining the streets – past the Tennessee School for the Deaf and a left turn into the parking lot.  Sit outside on benches or step inside to the comfort of air conditioning and rocking chairs.  Soft drinks, popcorn and a small number of sweet treats are available.  The bulletin board with its announcements of planes for sale, hangars for rent and flying schools is worth a good ten or fifteen minutes but the planes are the reason you go.

On the afternoon I was there a six seater with a professional pilot came in just to pick up a couple of friends of the plane’s other occupants, a small advertising plane scooted down the runway with its tail on the ground (just the way it was supposed to land) and a man with his lunch, his golf clubs and a pretty woman took off for parts unknown (just the way my son would want to take off); all with Knoxville, the water and the Gay Street Bridge as backdrops.

The airport’s idle air traffic control tower –
a mobile tower is used when traffic gets hectic,
say on a University of Tennessee football weekend.

The fine men and women who work with Remote Area Medical hangar their planes just beyond the public facilities of Island Home.  On our first visit, we wandered in amongst the planes, several of which were being restored by volunteers at the time.  Since that time access has been limited to members of the group and supervised guests but the planes are still visible through the fence.

For no more than the cost of gas and the time needed to make a short drive, Island Home Airport offers a couple of hours of educational fun for people of all ages, a hidden treasure that I recommend to Knoxville residents and visitors alike.

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