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University of Pittsburg Bradford Campus has an aviation past

May 2019

The Bradford Campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Bradford, Pennsylvania, has an aviation background that many may not realize.  The campus was once the site of the Bradford Airport, established on the family farm of William Emery in 1927. 

Emery’s son Harri was an avid pilot in the early days of aviation who had the distinction of being the first flying instructor in this area of the country and one of the first pilot to fly an airplane into the City of Bradford at the age of 21 in 1919.

Harri Emery had also finished fifth in a national air derby in 1927, making him a local celebrity.

The aerodrome had one turf landing strip initially, with an arched hangar, but by the time it was officially dedicated in June 1929, a second landing strip and other buildings had been added.  Taylor Brothers Aircraft Company opened a manufacturing plant at the aerodrome in 1928, producing their Tayorcraft airplane.

Sadly, on 29 September 1929, just 3 months after the official dedication of the aerodrome, Harri Emery was killed in when his airplane crashed on his return journey from an aerial show and airport dedication in St. Mary’s.  He was the first aviation fatality in the country.

Two weeks after his death, the Bradford Airport was re-named Harri Emery Field. 

By the end of WWII, Harri Emery Field had just a single 2,040′ northeast/southwest turf runway. 

The aerodrome’s importance was diminished with the opening of the Bradford Regional Airport in September 1948, but the aerodrome continued to serve as a general aviation airport until 1971, by which time the University of Pittsburg had established a campus on the property.

All that remains today of Harri Emery Field is the original 1928 wooden arched hangar, with new siding added but still recognizable and appropriately named the “Hangar Building,” and the Airport Administration and Control Building.

The hangar now houses the Office of Enrollment Services & Registrar, the Office of Financial Affairs, the Office of Business Affairs and the Systems and Administration Practice lab. The administration building & control tower is now the university Human Resources and Payroll building.

Sources:  http://earlyaviators.com/eemery.htm, http://www.airfields-freeman.com/PA/Airfields_PA_NW.htm.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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