Former Main Line Airport Site Getting Historical Marker

MALVERN, PA – The Great Valley Corporate Center in Malvern used to be the home of the Main Line Airport, something many in the area may not know. And to commemorate the defunct airport's contribution to aviation, a ceremony dedicating a historical marker for the airport will be held Oct. 5 and the public is invited to attend.

The ceremony will be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5 at 70 Valley Stream Parkway, Malvern.

The ceremony is being held in partnership with East Whiteland Township, Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, and Ricoh USA Inc.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, there will be an exciting, low-level flyover of several historic aircraft of the type flown into the Main Line Airport, weather permitting.

A reception with light refreshments will then follow within the adjacent Ricoh headquarters.


Attendees can see many historic photographs and meet with aviators who actually flew out of the Main Line Airport and its subsequent heliport.

"The importance of the Main Line Airport cannot be overstated," organizers said.

The Main Line Airport, commonly referred to as the Paoli Airport when it was still working, served the area between the 1920s and 1970s, making it one of Pennsylvania's first airports and stood for more than 50 years.

Few people today remember the existence of the legendary Main Line Airport, let alone its many contributions to fixed-wing and rotary-wing aviation, organizers said.

During the 1930s, the airport was home to research advancements in rotary-wing stability and control were developed that would be later incorporated into the world’s first successful helicopter, according to organizers.

The airfield served as a flight training center for hundreds of fixed-wing pilots in both war and peace for decades, organizers said.

During the early months of World War II, a Civil Air Patrol squadron established at the Main Line Airport provided desperately needed manpower and material to support the battle against marauding German submarines along America’s mid-Atlantic coast, according to organizers.

Then in the 1950s and 1960s, more rotary-wing innovations were created at the airport contributed to the helicopter as we know it today.

A full breakdown of the airport's history is available on the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society website here.

After almost 200 flights over the airport and the Valley in “Configuration No. 2” during August 1931, Wilford then created a much more powerful “Configuration #3” with a radial engine, as shown in this August 1932 image outside the large barn modified to serve as a hangar and workspace (note PAOLI painted on the roof of the barn as a visual aid for passing aviators). Encouraged by his innovative successes, Wilford leased a much larger facility near Philadelphia and moved his development operation there in November 1932. However, Wilford retained ownership of his Philadelphia-Main Line Airport until 1936 and negotiated for local pilot John Jacob to lease the field for fixed-wing flying.

Image via Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society