The first weekend in May marked yet another successful Aviation Days in Breezy Point, but a surprise announcement by airport president Jeff Smith marked a historic change for the location.
Midway through the fifth annual event Saturday, May 4, Smith announced that the airport has officially been renamed Breezy Point Airport at Muller Field, in honor of longtime airport manager Cliff Muller.
Not informed before the event, Muller was "honored and totally surprised" by the announcement, and he thanked the community for its support.
"It is very rewarding," Muller said. "It was a complete surprise. It's just nice to see aviation in the area kept alive."
This marks the first time since 1949 that an airport was named in honor of a military serviceman, a news release from the airport said. Muller served in Vietnam as an airborne infantryman. An airport was last named after a military serviceman when Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was renamed in 1949 after Butch O'Hare, a World War II veteran, the release said.
Muller has lived on the Breezy Point field for 20 years, caring for and managing the field. A Vietnam veteran from the 1/12th Cavalry of the Army, a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Air Medal recipient, Muller was drawn to Breezy Point and the airport through his love for flying and dedication to the industry, the news release said.
He currently lives on the airport's edges in a refurbished hangar and spends his time tending to the property while fueling his love for aviation. An historian of military plans and memorabilia, Muller has refurbished a World War II Stinson 10-A airplane called a L-9B that was built in 1941 and then rebuilt in 2011.
"His service to country and the tremendous efforts he has put towards this airport are the catalyst to this significant renaming," Smith said in the news release. "Cliff has been the mainstay of this airport for two decades. We already knew it was Muller Field, we just needed to make it official."
The aviation event itself saw nearly 50 aircraft stop in at the airport and roughly 1,000 spectators in attendance.
"I fed 940 people, so it must have been around 1,000. It was a great day," Muller said. "The weather was perfect. It was a little windy in the afternoon on the north end (of the runway), but otherwise everything went OK. It was a lot of fun."
Muller said the number of attendees is higher than most years, but the number of planes coming in decreased a bit. He chalked that up to foggy conditions in the morning that may have convinced pilots to stay on the ground for the day.
The newly named airport was farmland 55 years ago, purchased by Breezy Point Resort and developed into a 2,600-foot lighted airstrip. The airport is now the property of Breezy Point Airport, Inc.