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They Paved Paradise And Put Up A Parking Lot

It wasn’t that long ago that driving up North Second Street and glancing across this field provided entirely different scenery. Instead of an empty parking lot with cracked pavement and stale walls, the landscape featured a large grass field speckled with hangars and aircraft. The sound of engines and propellers beating the air dominated the air. In the early days, one would eagerly visit the airport on the weekend for a chance to take a ride with “Mac” and see Rockford from above for only $2.50.

Fred Machesney was Rockford’s first professional pilot. Nearly 92 years ago, he came to Rockford with an airplane and dream to turn his passion for flying into a full time career. His passion, eye for safety, and his astute business sense quickly endeared him to the Chamber of Commerce and local business leaders. They embraced Machesney not only as a tool to help promote local business but as a partner that could help grow the local economy. The Chamber invested in him heavily and almost immediately declared his airport the “Official Rockford Airport” in 1927, the same year it opened. Machesney nearly single-handedly introduced aviation to the forest city and kept aviation alive from the dark days of the depression well into the 1970s.  'Mac' and the airport once held the record for the longest single-person operated airport in the nation at 47 years. Today, Rockford is known for its aeronautical engineering and aviation industry. The local industry owes a lot to Fred Machesney whose efforts introduced and inspired many in the area to take up flight.

Today, Fred Machesney is largely forgotten by the community. The Village of Machesney Park is named for him and the official logo of the city shows a biplane in flight. Despite this, few in the area know who Fred Machesney was or why their logo features an airplane. The goal of the Machesney Project is to remember Fred Machesney and demonstrate through 1st person accounts, newspapers and other materials the importance of a man who contributed so much to our community.


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