Delta XRay sits pinned to earth under a tree. Zero Hotel has a gate laying across the wheels as if someone had tried to build a cage around her. This is the devastation that the flood of 2010 brought to Cornelia Fort Airpark in East Nashville. The waters rose from almost a half a mile away to flood the runway, the field & the FBO with almost seven feet of water. Nothing prepared anyone for how far the waters would reach. Nothing prepared me for the sights of what was left of Colemill’s fleet. Nothing prepared me for the tears that welled up as I walked out on the muddy taxiways.
Cornelia Fort has been linked to Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc. since it’s inception. I walked into Colemill (the FBO on the field) almost seven years ago to the day asking…no, stating, that I would like to see their aircraft and talk to their pilots..I was starting an aerial photography company and would need their services. A little cocky, for sure, but with the dreams I had of being successful in the aerial photography business, I needed some guts. And with Colemill, over the next seven years, we did see succeed thanks to the pilots & trusty (at times) aircraft.
As photographers, we flew countless hours out of Cornelia Fort in the three cessnas; Bravo Tango, Delta XRay and Zero Hotel. Like everyone at the small airport, they each had their own personality. Bravo Tango would take you the farthest, Zero Hotel may or may not be in maintenance, and always check the seats for water. Ironic. Flying out over Shelby Bottoms and Opryland, talking to BNA, the Nashville skyline coming into view over the neighborhoods of East Nashville…it felt like home. And Colemill was home to so many; pilots, mechanics, plane owners..assorted characters that made up a family. Dysfunctional at times, but a family. The photographers of Aerial Innovations were a part of that.
I know there are so many who lost lives and loved ones in this tragedy….it seems silly to lament a struggling business, a forgotten airfield and a few planes on their last wings. But there are people tied to this place who have lost so much as well…jobs, their business, their savings tied up in aircraft, their homes. Will we ever fly out of the Fort again? Who knows… I would like to think so. But it will take time and someone to see the potential in her again. So for now it is goodbye as we help our neighbors and communities come back from the flood and we will hope that Cornelia Fort will rise again with the rest of Nashville.