Brighton Airport History
The Brighton Airport, formerly known as Brighton Field and prior to that Hyne Field, was constructed in 1946 by Duane Hyne and Lloyd Beurmann. These pilots turned friends developed a portion of the Hyne family farm into two grass runways.
Later, Lloyd purchased the property from Duane and continued to develop it with hangars, fuel, maintenance, aircraft parts, and flight instruction. He and his wife Muriel lived on the airport until 2000.
The Beurrmann family sold the airport to the Brighton Airport Association in 2001. The BAA now operates, maintains and improves the airport with volunteer effort from its shareholders.
For a more detailed history of the airport, see below.
An Abbreviated History of Brighton Airport
By Ryan Waller
The following is a summation of interviews in January 2020 of multiple Brighton Airport Association members, hangar and homeowners, pilots, and some people who were effectively here the day ground was broken to build the Brighton Airport, formerly Hyne Field. We hope you enjoy the history of our great airport and forgive any minor inaccuracies.
A friendship turned airport
Brighton Airport actually used to be called Hyne Field. Duane Hyne was a local dairy farmer whose father, Edward Hyne, owned the land that Brighton Airport currently occupies today. The Hyne family were large landowners in the area and family members also owned a saw mill near downtown Brighton.
Sometime in the mid 1940’s Duane met and befriended Lloyd Beurmann at the Howell City Airport, which was located around where M-59 and Michigan Ave. are today, just west of Thompson Lake in Howell. Although younger, Lloyd became Duane’s aviation mentor and flight instructor. Duane in return became Lloyd’s voice of reason and maturity. Lloyd lived a bit to the west of Duane, down Brighton Road on his own farm with his own airstrip. Due to its hilly nature, one commenter said it may have been the “world’s worst” runway.
Lloyd and Duane started flying at the Howell City Airport and for a couple years lobbied to have the county airport be based in Brighton. Unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful, which lead them to form Hyne Field. A deal was struck with Duane’s father for use of the land and construction began in the summer of 1946.
Hyne Field Construction
Brighton Airport regular Bill McConnell was around at this time and remembers fondly landing at Brighton before it was an official airport “just cut out of a farmer’s field.” He was also involved in the construction of the airport in the summer of 1946. A grader was hired to level the land, with Bill recalling “the glaciers did a great job depositing all those rocks” which he then cleaned up. This was also Bill’s first (and last?) time using dynamite to remove tree stumps which he remembers as “rather unremarkable, instead of an atom bomb mushroom cloud it just lifted the stumps up about six inches with a rumbled thud which we later removed with tractors.”
The first runway was oriented as it is today, runway 04-22. It was about 1800ft long and 200ft wide, which was typical for the time. Visible on the right side of the pictures below, there was actually a crosswind runway built at the same time, oriented roughly perpendicular to where 04-22 is today. Bill recalls it being about 1500ft long with a hill and tall trees on the east side. “It was a good runway if used in the winter or if you were single pilot. With two pilots or on a hot day, it became interesting. Two pilots on a hot day, downright scary!”
By July 1947, Lloyd was operating the airport in full swing. He had two Taylorcraft which could be rented for $8/hr plus the instructor for $4/hr. BAA member David Hubbard still owns one of those airplanes to this day. The GI Bill saw a lot of war veterans using their benefits to learn how to fly and Lloyd helped fill the need. Lloyd established a full-fledged fixed base operator (FBO) with flight training, hangars, fuel, equipment, flight planning room, and light maintenance on occasion. Bill McConnell took his private pilot checkride on July 17th, 1947 at Pontiac, but flew the airplane used for the test from Hyne Field.
Somewhere around 1948 Lloyd entered into a purchase agreement or land contract to take over the airport as his own. The airport was officially sanctioned as a public airport in 1969.
Unfortunately, much of the history from the 1950s to the 1980s has been lost to time. It would be succinct to say that the airport continued as envisioned with Lloyd and later his wife Muriel operating the airport, maintaining it, and providing access and hangar lease agreements to airport patrons. BAA member Bill Bertrand stated that “it was a pretty busy place, hangar doors open, friendly conversations, and a nice atmosphere.”
In the 1970’s the east side of the airport was developed into “Airway Hills” and multiple hangar homes were constructed. This was much in line with the aspirations of the Beurmann’s and they granted airport access to homeowners so they could fly from their backyard.
An Airport in Transition
In 1992, Lloyd suffered a fatal fall while trimming some trees, some said due to a heart attack. Muriel continued to run the airport with assistance from hangar owners and the airport continued to exist in state.
Sometime in the mid 1990’s, several groups had approached Muriel about selling the airport. These groups were generally two to three well intentioned pilots but Muriel was hesitant to sell because she and Lloyd had spent their lives building, maintaining, and growing the airport. It was important to her it be left in the right hands.
As time passed, Muriel started to struggle with health problems and when asked what it would take to sell the airport, she stated “a large group of current hangar owners would need to be involved.” When asked how many, she said “almost all of them.”
So, in 1997 several pilots got together and started meeting weekly to determine the best course of action. David Hubbard commented that oftentimes these meetings resulted in “more questions than answers.”
The Formation of the Brighton Airport Association
Several airport regulars understood that a change in ownership of the airport would be imminent and the new owners may or may not have interest in owning, operating, or even keeping the airport as it was. A “core group” of pilots was formed in 1999 with the intention of buying the airport. David Anderson, Patrick Bergmann, Fred Betzoldt, Randy Burks, Bill Cody, Marvin & Ruth Dunlap, Peter Droncheff, Chester & Mary Fleming, Michael Gillis, David Hubbard, David Keller, Jerry Killeen, Robert Komjathy, Kurt Layland, Raymond Mudge, Russ & Kathleen Newhouse, Clint Ray, Paavo Ruohonieni, Peter & Lorraine Sheppard, and David Sullivan were all core group members who saved the Brighton Airport.
Marvin Dunlap, David Sullivan, and David Hubbard helped spearhead the development of a not-for-profit corporation, a loose set of by-laws, and generally how the association would be structured. Much work and effort was put into forming the BAA although Marvin commented they “tried to keep it as simple as possible.”
Negotiations with Mrs. Beurmann proved fruitful over a series of meetings resulting in a signed purchase agreement in 2000. However, prior to closing the deal, Muriel passed away in December 2000. That signed purchase agreement proved crucial in dealing with her estate and eventual sale. During this time, her estate asked the association if they would be interested in her home for some additional considerations. The board agreed and close the deal in July 2001. The board felt incredibly lucky to purchase the airport. Mrs. Beurmann insisted that if it were to be sold with such favorable conditions, it must be kept an airport. She could have sold it to a housing developer for many fold more.
The group determined in order to purchase the property they would need a minimum of 83 interested shareholders. Fortunately, they ended up with 116 which provided a significant down payment on the property and mortgage for the remaining. The board had the foresight to know they would need some extra cash for capital improvement projects. They started by removing some dilapidated hangars and office space (the old FBO) on the north end of the field, performed general maintenance, hangar and grounds upkeep, and used part of the mortgage to re-pave the runway. The west side taxiway was installed. Muriel’s old farmhouse was renovated using volunteer labor to make it an airport clubhouse. Yearly airport maintenance & access fees remained the same as Lloyd had charged. With a shoestring budget and smart financial decisions, the mortgage was paid off six years early.
As stated by one member, “if Lloyd and Muriel saw the airport now, they would be on cloud nine. It was everything they envisioned and more.”
The New Hangar Row
As you can see in multiple period photos, the number of airplanes at Brighton Airport almost always exceeded the amount of available hangars. When enough pilots demonstrated interest, Lloyd would collect a deposit and build a new hangar row. But after the airport was purchased by the BAA, there were many members who were either looking for hangars or wanted to upgrade into something a bit more modern.
A full site plan was developed, hangars were designed, and interest garnered for a new hangar row. Pilots interested were able to select their hangar based on the order in which they paid their deposit for the formation of the BAA; a very fitting way to honor those that “stuck their necks out” first for the airport purchase.
Completed in about three months in 2003, the million-dollar project was paid for completely before a shovel moved any dirt.
The West Side Development
Around the late 1990’s, the west side of the airport was developed by Dan Boss and the owner of the property, Gary Roberts. The Ravines of Woodland Lake featured homes built by Adler Construction. Homeowners bought lots that were split from the old tree orchard. In fact, even today homeowners still find old irrigation piping when they do digging projects. The new homeowners negotiated a deal with Lloyd Beurmann for airport access.
With the BAA celebrating its 20th anniversary, the airport continues to thrive on participation of its shareholders. Work parties aren’t necessary quite as often as before, but generally occur in the spring and fall. Capital improvement projects are planned and taken care of. Thoughtful investments with the association’s assets are made and careful planning for future costs are under way.
Most members interviewed for this piece said they hope that the BAA and Brighton Airport doesn’t change much. It has been a lot of work and they want to see our wonderful airport protected for the freedom it provides and unique approach to management demonstrated. They agree the challenge will be continuing to attract new pilots, hangar owners, and maintaining the airport. Those are all within the control of a dedicated group of pilots.
Brighton Airport is a shining example of what a driven group of pilots can do to purchase, manage, and improve a storied general aviation airport. Although, the “to do” list at Brighton Airport will likely never be finished, the airport’s volunteer shareholders volunteer spirit will continue to keep making progress.
Many thanks to Clint Ray, Ray Krom, Gene Wedekemper, Marvin Dunlap, David Hubbard, David Sullivan, Bill Bertrand, and Bill McConnell for their time and memories capturing the story of Brighton Airport.
Brighton Airport Future
The future of our airfield is bright, exciting, and challenging. We have a group of seasoned "airport veterans" who have successfully organized our airport into what it is today. And we have a new wave of up-and-coming members who are driven, passionate, and enthusiastic about our wonderful community.
Together, we work hard to preserve our history, respect our past, and invest in our future. Our challenges exist in the continued maintenance of our facilities, runway, and protection of the airport as it is exists today. We'd love to have you help us with your ideas, participation, and keep Brighton Airport a shining example of what pilots can do to keep general aviation strong.