If you have ever passed through Montgomery toward Princeton on Route 206, chances are you have seen a green sign by Airpark Road.
“Learn to Fly Here,” the sign reads; the text surrounds a small picture of a biplane.
Turn right on to Airpark Road and follow alongside the adjacent runway, and you will discover one of Montgomery’s hidden treasures. The Princeton Airport is an incredible facility with 110 airplanes, and offers flying lessons among other services. But for those afraid of heights, the airport also provides a free tour of its grounds through out the summer months: every Tuesday at 10:30 am.
The tour is open to the public, and will continue through August.
Steve Nierenberg, the Princeton Airport’s director of operations, led the tour I took in July. He began by discussing the history of the airport, which opened in 1911. At its beginning, the airport was little more than a cleared field where a local farmer allowed pilots to land. Since 1985 the property has been owned by the Nierenberg family’s company, Princeton Aero Corp, which has worked diligently to provide a safe and modern airport for Central New Jersey’s recreational pilots.
Among the first stops of the tour was a Cessna 172 airplane, a plane that can seat up to four passengers. Students attending flight school at Princeton Airport will learn to fly in this plane. Nierenberg explained that the Cessna 172 is the most common aircraft ever produced.
“You can visit any continent in the world,” Nierenberg said, “and you will find more of this plane than any other.”
Photo: A 1975 Cessna 172 Skyhawk listed for sale at Princeton Airport for $54,900.
Nierenberg went on to explain that the plane had a top speed of around 120 miles per hour, and that its wings were specially designed to also serve as fuel tanks. Guests were then allowed to step into the cockpit to take pictures. (See photo below).
The tour continued down the runway, where we watched planes take off and land, then led to a series of hangars.
In the first hangar, mechanics operated on helicopters, and in the second, an airplane was being prepared for inspection.
Past these two hangars, I asked about the largest aircraft at Princeton Airport, a Douglas DC-3. The DC-3 is much longer than a Cessna, and can seat more than 20 people. Nierenberg said the plane was built in 1944, and the United States gave it to Canada, who gave it to the Bahamas. It eventually wound up in South Africa, where a local paid to fly it back to Montgomery.
Nierenberg reports that when he asked the local why he flew the plane back to Princeton Airport, he simply responded, “to admire it.”
A relic from the Second World War, the DC-3 certainly is worthy of admiration.
The tour concluded in a final, much larger hangar, which Princeton Airport uses to host events ranging from car shows to fundraisers. That is, when it’s not filled with aircraft. The hangar provides a unique backdrop to any large-scale function, and this year, Princeton Airport has already hosted SAVE Animal Shelter’s benefit gala.
If you have any questions about tours, flight lessons, or event coordination, call Princeton Airport at 609-281-3100.