Wednesday, May 4, 2022

An Air Base Becomes a Municipal Airport

As a child, I remember driving far to the east of what is now Highway 281 in order not to pass through the military base a few miles north of Pratt.  However, by 1962 the former B-29 training base had become Pratt's Municipal Airport, and the special edition Pride Magazine proudly declared "While its airport is not as fancy as some in larger cities, Pratt is proud to claim one of the best- equipped small-town airports in the Midwest...[with] two long runways, both hard surfaces, plenty of hangar space (even for overnight transient aircraft) and complete facilities for major engine and airframe overhaul."  The article added, "In addition there is a lighted runway, beacon, courtesy car and a certified radio repair station."

Jim Newhouse managed the airport at that time, and also operated Pratt Air Service.  The article admitted that "air traffic is never very heavy" but touted the unicom radio and the two long runways of 6,000 and 4,000 feet.

Ted Turner's plane on the Pratt Runway

Today the airport remains a valuable asset for Pratt.  The 1962 article mentioned that "some 20 aircraft owners make use of the facility, and local pilots continue to utilize the airport and house their planes there."  That continues to be true today, and in addition, planes from across the nation land there.  During hunting season, another growing business in the region, hunters often fly in to hunt.

The history of the Air Base and the men and women who served there are honored today at the airport,  which includes not only the museum housed in the former parachute building but also descriptive signs around the airport identifying locations and the structures and purposes of those places during war time.

An exhibit at the Pratt Airbase Museum

Part of the mission of the museum is to record interviews of people who served at the base during World War II.  Although the museum is operated by volunteers, there are very professional and educational exhibits to be seen.

The Pratt Airport remains something of which the community can be proud, convenient for local pilots and those passing through. From the original purpose as a military base to  its present use, the air port remains an asset for Pratt and surrounding communities.  Today the fixed base operator is Randy Huitt, following in the footsteps of his father, Mr. Curt Huitt.




Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information

The Blog Fodder said...

I visited The Bomber Command Museum in Nanton Alberta four years ago. They have a Lancaster that doesn't fly but the engines run. A few times a year they will wheel the plane out and fire up the engines. I love those WWII planes but could never fly any kind as I do not think in three dimensions. Barely capable of thinking in two.