Inducted: October 28, 2017
Kenneth R. Franks got his first airplane ride at age 10. When he was 15 he and a friend bought a 1941 Piper J-4 without their parents permission. The secret lasted five months; then they were forced to return it to the seller.
Franks joined the U. S. Navy in early 1963 and trained as an Aviation Electronics Technician. He worked on Radar and Electronic Counter Measure equipment. Ken obtained a Top Secret Security Clearance and flew missions as an ECM operator from Spain, Libya, Turkey, Cuba, Greece, Italy and the U.S. His final assignment was to RVAH-11 Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron Eleven at Sanford, Florida where he found time to earn his Private Pilot License.
After serving in the Navy, Ken returned to college at Columbia State Community College and later transferred to MTSU to study aviation where he earned his Commercial Pilot Certificate. He was employed by the FAA as an Air Traffic Controller at Memphis ARTCC subsequently transferring to the Nashville ATCT. Franks was selected to go to Oklahoma City to train as a programmer on the ATC computer system and after requesting a return to Controlling was terminated along with 11,000 controllers for observing a strike in 1981.
In 1983, Ken joined the IRS and worked his way up to a position at the National Office in Washington, DC. Gail worked for the IRS for 35 years as a computer programmer and Database Administrator. They were married in September of 1988.
The newlyweds bought a Cessna 172, Gail learned to fly and they began searching for property to build their own airfield. 3½ years later they bought property in Bedford County that 9½ years later became T-Top Airfield. Ken and Gail began sharing T-Top Airfield hosting fly-ins and camp-outs with MTSU students, Boy Scout Troops, EAA Chapters and church groups in 1997.
As Founding Members of the Airfield Owners Association, The Franks understood the extraordinary liability exposure of privately owned airfields and they sought to change it. They began lobbying the General Assembly in 2002. Success finally came in 2009 after shepherding legislation limiting airfield owner’s liability benefitting an estimated 200 privately owned airfields across the state.
Ken and Gail Franks tirelessly and unselfishly share their beloved T-Top Airfield to promote general aviation and the freedom to fly.