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Have recollections of Fred or Mae Machesney you'd like to share with us?  Click here

The goal of the Machesney Project is to record and promote a lasting legacy for the life, work and community influence of Frederick Eugene Machesney.  Machesney and his wife Mae were loyal community minded individuals through tireless effort helped bring aviation to Rockford, thus helping to establish the city as the outstanding hub of the industry it remains today.  It is through the community they served that we hope to reignite an interest in the Machesney's legacy.

We hope you will join us in this online space to learn about Machesney's story or share your own memories of the man or the airport.  If you have recollections you would like to share, please visit our Share Your Memory page, here.  

You can also connect with us through e-mail at: themachesneyproject@gmail.com and Facebook






Fred Machesney (left) and Nick Rezich at a Illinois Chapter of the OX-5 club event. Both were charter members

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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 immed…

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“" ... We are only pioneers, but we are pioneers with a great idea. Sometime in future centuries, the whole world will be revolutionized by that idea. Then it will know the value of the hope and the thrill we feel as our aero planes rise from the earth, pass through the clouds, and fly high in the clear upper air." -- Art “Bird Boy” Smith”


In 1927 Frederick Machesney and his wife Mae moved North from the small farming town of Kewanee, Illinois to Rockford to begin the operation of a small regional airfield.  Over the course of the next fifty years Machesney's story would help to shape the development and thus the history of air travel in his local community and throughout the upper Midwest.  By the time he retired in the late 1970s, his field was recognized as the oldest existent single operator airport in the country.  
Machesney was a skilled airman and a community leader, a man with a strong vision and the ambition to bring it to life.  In his fifty years as a central f…

Machesney Concedes to Progress

“Forty-nine years ago I dug my first spade of ground here, and now I’m doing it again. But this’ll be longer lasting.” -- Fred Machesney, August 2nd, 1977.





The headline from Rockford’s Morning Star-Register Republic paper from August 22nd, 1974 reads “Machesney Concedes to Progress”. As a researcher, I have read thousands of historical headlines over the years but none have had a personal impact on me more than the one listed above. When Machesney came to Rockford he ushered in a whole new era. For the first time in the history of the city, the airplane was now seen as a viable tool for commerce, recreation, and tourism. Business leaders could charter Machesney to take sales trips all over the region and be back home in time for dinner. Intrepid shoppers could take a shopping tour of Milwaukee and Chicago and be home the same day. Hundreds of aircraft from visiting cities and tours came through the airport during the year to promote aviation or conduct business. The possibilities for t…