Airport Terminal Named After Local Pilot

by Paula McKibben   There wasn’t a big to-do about it last winter when it happened at Town Council. There wasn’t a big to-do about it the week of June 12 when the sign went up. And, there won’t be a big to-do about it when there is a dedication ceremony/cook out late this summer, but it is still an event of note – the naming of the Bluffton airport terminal, the Dottie J. Anderson Terminal.
   This low key event suits Dottie Anderson. According to her race partner, Jean Sloan, “Dottie was a very private person. She was quiet, and she enjoyed life, and she was a true friend.” Jean knew her as a “quiet, humble person. She would not brag about herself.” Bill Suter, airport committee member, says of her, “Dottie didn’t look for attention, but when it came her way, she was OK with it.”
   Though born in Columbus Grove in 1926, she grew up on her father’s farm near the airport on Township Road 51. This gave her the opportunity to practically live at the airport, according to Jean. As a matter of fact, she had her pilot’s license before she had a driver’s license. Dave Blank, also an airport committee member, said that her dad finally let her drive because he figured that if someone trusted her to fly, he should be able to trust her with the car.
   Even though she was virtually an airport fixture, she went to college at Bowling Green State University. Jean commented that she was excellent in math and science and earned her degree in teaching. However, she came back to her first love where her classroom was a cockpit.
   Over the years, Jean exuded, “She taught thousands of students to fly,” many of whom became professional pilots. Jean learned to fly at the insistence of her husband who Dottie had already taught. Jean agreed only because she wanted to feel comfortable in the air. “I had never in my wildest dreams thought about flying.” However, Jean’s son and father-in-law also got the bug. Jean commented that there were many families where three generations were taught to fly by Dottie.
   As an instructor, Dottie obviously excelled. She won Flight Instructor of the Year twice from the district office in 1975 and 1992. “I knew it helped me to have a female instructor. She made it interesting. She never got tired of it. She enjoyed it every time she went up,” said Jean.
   Jean got her license in July of 1982. A year later, Dottie asked her to race with her. What a pair they made. At first, Dottie did the flying, but soon, Jean took over the first seat, and Dottie became the navigator. Jean concedes that it was the navigation that won them awards. There was no GPS, so navigation was “a big, big, big part of flying across the U.S.” The Air Race Classic (ARC), one of the races they participated in each summer, was 2,500 miles long and occurred during the daylight hours over a period of four days. Each leg of the flight was 250-300 miles. Flyers would take off in 30-second intervals, and then do a fly-by to begin their time. About 50 planes participated each year. Those finishing in the top 10 were awarded medallions. According to Jean, they finished in the top 10, 11 times, and when they were not in the top 10, they finished in the top 15. In 1983 or 1984, they took fourth place in the ARC in California. Jean was quite emphatic, Dottie just knew how to use navigation to increase their speed and time. Altogether, Dottie and Jean raced for 27 years, covering 41 states.

See the full story in the Bluffton News