The Watertown Regional Airport has been a member of our community long before the 1940's. In fact, records indicate that the airport was up and running as early as October 10th, 1917. Since that time, the airport has strived to be a friendly neighbor and member of the community, while displaying the joy of aviation and the economic prosperity that airports bring. The following is a timeline of events for the Watertown Regional Airport since October 10th, 1917. Some of this information was obtained using Jim Anez excellent History of aviation in South Dakota.

Table of Contents

  • The Golden Age of Aviation
  • World War II
  • The Korean War Era
  • The Vietnam War Era
  • The 70s, 80s, and 90s
  • The 21st Century

The Golden Age of Aviation

Oct 10, 1917
Air Show held

Aug 1919
Walter Cooke, a music store owner, purchased 2 planes and established first airfield near present location of stadium. Cooke and another pilot flew exhibitions and had, possibly, the first pilot training school in the Midwest. Night landings accomplished by "following the lights on Kemp Ave."

Under the Air Commerce Act of 1926 the Secretary of Commerce was empowered to examine and rate airports. Top rating was A1A. in order to receive the top rating an airport was required to have a windsock, drainage, repair facilities, lights, 2500 feet in all directions and 24 hour service. [Nothing said about runways] [see 1930 & 10/14/33]

Jul 1, 1927
Department of Commerce took over responsibility for facilities developed and maintained by Post Office: 2612 miles of transcontinental airways, all lighted except the portion from Salt Lake City-San Francisco. Also acquired the Aeronautical Radio Service which Included 17 fully equipped radio Stations with 44 personnel, 68 emergency landing fields with caretakers, 21 emergency landing fields (automatic), 21 electric beacons with caretakers, 79 electric beacons (automatic), 405 acetylene gas rotating beacons (automatic), and 102 airway operating personnel

Sep 5, 1928
City postpones plans to purchase land for airport

Sep 6, 1928
George Ice announces plans to base Pionair Lines, Inc.. at Watertown using 2 Eagle Rock and 1 Curtiss Standard aircraft

Sep 21, 1928
City acquired land for airport. Quarter section 1 mile north of Kemp Ave. Plan to have 8 runways radiate on the cardinal & semicardinal points of compass from 100 foot circle at the exact center

Land for airport was leased from Midland National Life Insurance Co. and sublet to Pionair Lines, Inc..

Sep 28, 1928
Mid-Planes and Transit Co. of Minneapolis announced that Universal Air Lines plans Fargo-Cleveland service

Oct 22, 1928
Runway construction complete. 8 runways 660x250 feet radiate from center circle. Hanger is under construction

[same as above and]...Two hangers were built by end of the year

Dec 20, 1928
Advertisement for Pionair Lines, Inc..: LEARN TO FLY PHONE 2966 BOX 71 WATERTOWN, SDAK

Jan 28, 1929
Proposal by investors to organize Northwest Transport Company to operate airline and be a holding company for the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad. To be an Air-Rail operation, coast to coast

Feb 22, 1929
Pionair Lines merged with Rapid Air Lines. Rapid Air Lines took over the airport lease

Apr 1929
Governor WJ Bulow proclaimed April 29-May 4 "South Dakota Aviation Week" during which the Rapid City, Pierre, Huron and Watertown airports would be dedicated

Apr 27, 1929
Department of Commerce announces plans for a radio system for aviators to obtain weather information at any hour, day or night, from scheduled broadcasts. Aircraft with less than 6 passengers will be required to have receive only, 6, or more, passenger aircraft must also have transmitter. There are presently 52 companies flying 40,000 regularly scheduled miles a day. 15,000 of these are at night

May 2, 1929
Watertown airport dedicated. First mail plane departed at 8:30am to Huron for connection to Rapid City. Army pilots from Ft Riley, Kansas say "best in state"

George Ice, chief pilot of Pionair Lines was airport manager. 5000 people turned out for barbecue, air show and dance. 29 planes took part in ceremonies.

May 5, 1929
First intercity air race in South Dakota (Watertown-Sioux Falls) was won by Lee Parrish of Redfield in Travelair with a 52 minute time. Second was Harry Welmer of Sioux Falls in a Fairchild. Third was Oscar Winchell of Watertown in a Monocoupe

Jul 25, 1929
WL Glover, 2nd assistant Postmaster General said studies were underway on a proposed air mail route Omaha-Sioux Falls-Watertown-Fargo-Grand Forks-Winnipeg

Sep 19, 1929
Map of Watertown airport Included in 7/19/29 National Airway Bulletin issued by Department of Commerce Aeronautic Division. Chamber of Commerce, as sponsor of the airport, has prepared a pamphlet listing gas, oil, mechanic's services and hanger space as available

Oct 1929
William Mehlan is Pionair Lines, Inc.. manager in Watertown

Star air mail route from Watertown-Milbank begins operation. Pionair Lines using enclosed 4 place Cessna for service

Oct 19, 1929
Pionair Lines Cessna [see 10/1/29] burns in Iowa after engine catches fire in flight

Dec 5, 1929
James Bruns passed the flight examination to obtain a pilot's license [see 4/21/30]

Dec 17, 1929
Pionair Lines conducting night flights over city in Eagle Rock plane. Using "strong" landing lights to land on unlighted field

Members of the Independent Scheduled Air Transport Operator's Association were Hanford TriState Airlines of Sioux City and Rapid Air Transport of Omaha

Only 2 airports (Denver, Colorado and Pontiac, Michigan) surveyed under the Air Commerce Act of 1926 [see 1926] had received a top rating of A1A [see 10/14/33]

Mar 1, 1930
Pionair Lines pilot Roy Leggett on mail run Watertown-Milbank is forced down near Troy while flying Eagle Rock open cockpit plane in storm. [departed in what sounded like severe icing conditions][see 9/2/33]

Mar 4, 1930
Ralph Hubbard, formerly of Watertown, Sales Manager for Aviation Management, Inc.. of Omaha, operator of Pionair Lines, Inc.. is in Watertown. He is making arrangements for 3/5/30 Chamber of Commerce meeting at which Walter F Halley, president of Aviation Management, will be guest to promote expansion of aviation in Watertown.

Mar 5, 1930
Donald Halley outlined plans for expansion and development of airport and extension of his company's route from Watertown-Rapid City-Cheyenne and development of a route from Winnipeg-Omaha. Ralph Hubbard is to remain in Watertown for the next 6 months to assist William McCall in expansion projects at the airport Also at the meeting were William McCall - Pionair Lines, Inc.. manager in Watertown, Sid Burke - Pionair pilot/instructor at Watertown, LC Pierce and Ted Ashford - Aviation Management Inc.. pilots from Omaha.

Mar 22, 1930
Pionair Lines, Inc.. added a Ryan Brougham 5 place monoplane with a 225 HP air-cooled engine. Aircraft is equipped with latest type of instruments: compass, air speed indicator, altimeter and turn & bank indicator

Mar 24, 1930
A letter mailed in Omaha on 3/21 at 8:30pm arrived in Watertown at 2:15pm [17.75 hours]. Route was by train from Omaha-Minneapolis-Milbank and by air from Milbank-Watertown

Apr 21, 1930
First major accident at Watertown takes the lives of James Bruns, private pilot and mechanic for Pionair Lines, and 19 year old Selmer Halvorson of Bradley. They crashed 3 miles west of Watertown on south side of Highway 212 [see 12/5/29]

Apr 22, 1930
Officials of Rapid Air Lines and Pionair Lines meet in Watertown: Walter Halley of Omaha (president), John Miller of Rapid City (manager of branch there) and JS Gehan of Sioux Falls (chief pilot)

Apr 23, 1930
Department of Commerce inspector from Chicago is unable to determine cause of 4/21/30 crash [sounded like stall-spin]

May 17, 1930
Article about aviation in Watertown says: "Ralph Hubbard, representative of the Pionair and Rapid Air Lines and other Halley interests in Watertown...."

May 17, 1930
Minneapolis Journal reports that Minneapolis Civic and Commerce Association is seeking approval of a Watertown-Rapid City air mail route

May 22, 1930
First annual "Into the Air Days" are scheduled 5/31 & 6/1

Jun 3, 1930
Into the Air Days were canceled both 5/31 and 6/1 due to windy weather

Jun 19, 1930
The Watertown-Milbank mail contract was won by an individual who plans to use an automobile

Jun 27, 1930
Weather Bureau announced plans to have hourly weather reports gathered by teletype for 13,000 miles of airways beginning around July 1st. Remaining 5,000 miles would have information gathered by telephone or telegraph less frequently

Jul 28, 1930
Article about aviation in Watertown says: "...Watertown branch of Rapid Air Lines..."

Jul 29, 1930
New runways completed. Runways 150 feet wide [no info on length] still radiate in 8 directions with the center circle marked by a 6 foot wide white line. Airport can accommodate planes taking off or landing at speeds up to 60 mph.

Aug 8, 1930
Article about busy day at the airport "...8 aircraft"

Sep 18, 1930
Paul Miller, a student pilot at Watertown since Oct 29 passed check ride in Sioux Falls

Oct 3, 1930
WJ McKenzie, a Washington DC airport specialist, inspected airport and gave advice for improvements. Also present for the inspection were Ralph Hubbard, manager of Pionair Lines and Walter Halley, of Omaha, President of Rapid Air Lines, of which Pionair is part

Oct 27, 1930
A wasp powered Bellanca 6 passenger plane, one of the largest planes ever in Watertown, was at the airport over the weekend with pheasant hunters

Dec 30, 1931
Boeing Air Transport announced plans for airline service to Watertown using Boeing 40-B-4 planes. Ralph Hubbard, airport manager, to be in charge of passenger business.

Jan 1, 1932
Airport statistics: 656 municipal airports, 675 commercial airports, 364 Dept. of Commerce intermediate fields, 310 marked auxiliary fields, 52 Army fields, 13 Navy fields, 4 state fields, 1 government field. 610 airports are equipped for night flying.

Jan 11, 1932
3 routes are proposed from Minneapolis-Spokane: Watertown-Aberdeen-Miles City-Billings-Butte-Missoula, Fargo-Devils Lake-Minot-Havre-Great Falls-Helena, Fargo-Jamestown-Bismarck-Glendive-Billings-Butte-Missoula.

Jan 12, 1932
Boeing Air Transport setting up station in Watertown. Due to weather they had to take train from Omaha.

Jan 16, 1932
United Airlines...had to take over the unprofitable route from Omaha to Watertown, South Dakota. At the time of this extension the Watertown route was being flown by three small lines...

Boeing air Transport of United Airlines begins service. [map] [This issue has a major article with map and pictures] Based on the map the air mail routes in the region were Minneapolis-Fargo-Grand Forks-Pembina-Winnipeg, Minneapolis-Fargo-Valley City-Jamestown-Bismarck-Mandan, Des Moines-Omaha-Lincoln-North Platte-Cheyenne-Rock Springs-Salt Lake, Omaha-Sioux City-Sioux Falls-Watertown, Salt Lake-Ogden-Pocatello-Butte-Helena-Great Falls.

Mar 26, 1932
Ralph Hubbard announced that Hanford TriState of Sioux City would begin Sioux City-Minneapolis service on 4/1/32

Jun 22, 1932
Advertisement for United Airlines: Serving 137 cities. Fares as follows: Sioux Falls $5.82, Sioux City $10.14, Omaha $15.54, Chicago $41.52, Denver $51.89, Detroit $55.08, Cleveland $57.43 (train from Chicago), Salt Lake City $69.78, Los Angeles $108.96, San Francisco $111.30, Portland $113.32. Tickets: United Airlines or Hubbard Motor Car Company.

Department of Commerce Aeronautics branch changed name to Bureau of Air Commerce and reorganized to 7 regional offices in Newark, Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Mar 24, 1933
Ralph Hubbard forms the Watertown Airway Corporation to operate the airport.

Apr 12, 1933
United Airlines Monomail (single engine, 8 place, metal, 70+ foot wing span) visits city. To be used on Omaha-Watertown run when needed.

Ralph Hubbard, airport manager, mentioned airport improvements: Runways graded and big red barn moved.

Jul 10, 1933
United Airlines officials visit Watertown in new twin engine Boeing 10 passenger plane.

Latest airport improvements: Runways graded and marked with wide bordering strips of gravel.

Jul 11, 1933
Department of Commerce report has the Omaha-Watertown air mail route on a list of routes to be eliminated.

Jul 18, 1933
Eugene Vidal, native of South Dakota, named Department of Commerce Assistant Director of Aeronautics in charge of imposition of regulations. [see 7/1/36]

Aug 30, 1933
Airport inspected by Department of Commerce

Sep 2, 1933
United pilots get pay raise: Base pay of $1,600 the first year up to a maximum of $4,000 plus flight pay. Expenses paid when away, insurance and 2 week paid vacation. Hourly flight pay: $4.00 for aircraft under 125mph, $4.20 under 140mph, $4.40 under 154mph, $4.80 under 176mph. Additional $2.00 at night. Copilots paid $195-$235 per month.

Sep 2, 1933
Roy Leggett of Omaha, former Rapid Air Lines pilot in Watertown, was killed in accident at air race in Chicago. [see 3/1/30]

Sep 25, 1933
United Airlines planning to use 6 passenger plane in Omaha-Watertown service [see 4/12/33]

Oct 14, 1933
Department of Commerce assigned Watertown airport a rating of "D3X": D identifies equipment and mechanical facilities, 3 indicates size of airport, X indicates the field is not lighted. The only other airport in South Dakota with a rating is Sioux Falls. [see 1926 & 1930]

Nov 27, 1933
Chamber of Commerce looking into possibilities of using CWA (Civil Works Administration) funds to build a hanger at the airport.

Dec 20, 1933
City Council approves contract with Watertown Airport, Inc.. as required to secure CWA funds. [CWA probably required that airports be operated as a municipal facility in order to receive funds]

CWA approves $28,850 for 100x100 foot brick hanger, 18 feet high with steel roof and door. Funds also to "dustproof" the NW-SE and E-W runways with gravel and tarvia. Other runways would also be upgraded. First airport project approved in South Dakota

Dec 29, 1933
Geodetic survey of Watertown area begins

Rapid Air Lines bid for mail contract from Winnipeg-New Orleans, but contract was given to United Air Transport. This was part of the scandal that led to cancellation of all mail contracts and the Army flying the mail. [see 2/29/34 & 4/13/34]

Jan 15, 1934
Construction of stone hanger commenced [approximate date]

Jan 24, 1934
WW Howes [Huron native] appointed 1st Assistant Postmaster General

Jan 27, 1934
Contracts awarded for materials for construction of hanger. Side walls about 4 feet above the ground

Jan 29, 1934
Group meeting in Minot trying to get an air mail route established Watertown-Minot-Great Falls

Jan 31, 1934
Stone hanger progressing. Expect lumber for project to be shipped within a week

Feb 9, 1934
United Airlines announces they expect to continue flying into Watertown as a passenger service only

Feb 9, 1934
All air mail contracts canceled.

Feb 9, 1934
Ralph McKinnon, director of Civil Works Administration for South Dakota, announced plans to establish airways and build airports every 50 miles along the airways. The only sanctioned airways in South Dakota are Sioux Falls-Minneapolis and Watertown-Sioux City. Proposed airways are: Huron-Pierre, Pierre-Mobridge-Bismarck, Rapid City-Belle Fourche-Sheridan, Rapid City-Hot Springs-Edgemont-Cheyenne, Sioux City-Yankton-Mitchell-Huron-Aberdeen, Sioux Falls-Mitchell-Pierre-Philip-Rapid City, Watertown-Aberdeen-Mobridge-Lemmon-Miles City, Watertown-Minneapolis, Watertown-Fargo, Watertown-Huron. Existing airports near the routes are: Beresford; Brookings, Forest City, Garretson, Highmore, LaPlant, Madison, Milbank, Redfield, Volga and Webster. Proposed airports are: Artesian, Buffalo, Bowdle, Cannistota, Clark, Crocker, Dupree, Emery, Estelline, Faulkton, Flandreau, Gann Valley, Gary, Gettysburg, Ipswitch, Isabel, McIntosh, McLaughlin, Midland, Sisseton, Stephan, Summit, Victor, Wasta, Wessington, White River and Wi

Mar 5, 1934
United Airlines terminated service due to air mail route cancellation [see 2/9/34]

Mar 15, 1934
3 weeks work remains on hanger construction

Mar 17, 1934
Ralph McKinnon inspects hanger

Mar 19, 1934
Army assumes responsibility for flying air mail

Mar 24, 1934
Hanger walls nearly complete. North and west walls complete. 5 wooden trusses to support roof, each weighing 5 tons, are being prepared

Black-McKeller Act of 1934 split up airlines and manufacturers. Boeing took over manufacturing west of Mississippi, United Aircraft took east of Mississippi and United Airlines became independent and the largest air transport company in the country

Mar 26, 1934
Temporary air mail bill passed by Congress

Mar 28, 1934
Bids for private air mail contracts called for

Apr 4, 1934
Martin Severson, of Denver, a traffic survey man for Hanford Airlines is in Watertown meeting with Ralph Hubbard

Apr 6, 1934
Trusses are in place on hanger. Doors to be put up in the next few days. Plans being considered for construction of a smaller adjacent structure to serve as an office

Apr 11, 1934
CWA airport projects in South Dakota: Watertown $28,227, Lawrence County $27,472, Huron $22,398, Belle Fourche $18,243, Yankton $17,404, Mitchell $16,619, Rapid City $15,700, Brookings $13,762, Hot Springs $13,347, Sioux Falls $12,250, Edgemont $11,100, Redfield $7,979, Fairburn $7,782, Mobridge $7,534, Edmunds County $5,500, Lemmon $5,000, Garretson $3,875, Pierre $1,897, Wagner $1,784

Apr 12, 1934
Statistics: 77 planes in South Dakota (58 licensed), 88 pilots (39 with transport ratings, 7 limited commercial, 38 private and 4 solo)

Apr 13, 1934
United Airlines Omaha-Watertown route is subject of Hanford Airlines testimony at Airmail Hearings. Hanford and Rapid Air Lines assisting each other.

Apr 20, 1934
Roof is on hanger

Sep 1, 1934
Statistics reported by Bureau of Air Commerce: 58 planes inspected in South Dakota. 93 pilots licensed in South Dakota

Sep 13, 1934
Watertown trying to get Sioux Falls-Minneapolis air mail route changed to Sioux Falls-Watertown-Minneapolis. Postal officials say it would add too much distance to the route

Sep 17, 1934
Donald Hess, formerly of Watertown, Maynard Stone and Joe Depper killed in a plane crash at Ft. Pierre. Pilot, Stone, was 21 year old high school senior with student permit flying an unlicensed 2 place Curtiss Robin [see 1/15/34]

Sep 20, 1934
Formation of Watertown Air Service, Inc.. announced. Clyde Ice, George Jackson and Glen Davy applied for the charter. Capitalized at $25,000. They have purchased a 6 passenger Travelair

Watertown Air Service Company formed to provide service Rapid City-Pierre-Huron-Watertown-Minneapolis after United terminated service

Hanford begins service in Watertown on Huron-Minneapolis route

Horizontal Control Data for airport station refers to stone hanger, a proposed addition, a fence and a road

May 1935
First flight of Watertown Airways took place with Clyde Ice at the controls of a Travelair 6 place transport. Route was Spearfish-Pierre-Huron-Watertown-Minneapolis [see Feb 1936]

Nov 18, 1935
City of Watertown gets deed to airport property from Midland National Life Insurance Co. and grants 30 year lease to Watertown Airport, Inc.. so WPA will approve funding for administration building. [see 1/26-2/6/40 and 8/25/42]

Dec 7, 1935
Airport property deed transfer recorded

Feb 1936
Watertown Airways abandoned attempt to establish Spearfish-Minneapolis route [see May 1935]

Jul 1, 1936
Bureau of Air Commerce director is Eugene Vidal [see 7/18/33]

Promoters Carrol Lockhart (banker), Ralph Hubbard, Clyde Ice and 3 others bought a used Travelair 6000, 9 passenger plane and decided to establish an air mail route from Black Hills-St. Paul. Clyde flew 6 days a week, both directions every day, for 6 months and barnstormed around Rapid City on Sundays. He only missed part of one trip when he lost an engine, landed at Pierre and took the train to St. Paul with the mail. They had to fly the route for 4 months or more to "establish" the route so the government would bid it. Route was Spearfish-Rapid City-Philip-Pierre-Huron-[Watertown]-Willmar-Mankato-Minneapolis/St. Paul. Contract ended up being awarded to Inland Airlines Spearfish-Huron and Hanford Airlines Huron-Sioux City-St. Paul [Date probably wrong - this probably began in 1935 {see 9/20/34 and May 1935 Watertown items} and ended about Feb 1936 {see Feb 1936 Watertown and 1937 Pierre items}]

Inland Airways came to Pierre [date probably wrong...Inland Airways probably began service about Feb 1936 {see 9/20/34, May 1935, Feb 1936 and 1937 Watertown items}] and Wyoming Air Service began service in Apr 1938 {see 5/27/37 Huron, 3/23/38 Washington, 3/24/38, Apr 1938 Huron and Apr 1938 Pierre items}]

Rapid City was an all sod airport according to the 1937 edition of the Airport Directory Company's "Airports" directory

Mar 11, 1938
Omaha-Minneapolis route would Include Sioux Falls-Mitchell-Huron-Watertown

Mar 17, 1938
Article refers to 4 hour trip Watertown-Chicago via Milwaukee on Hanford Airlines and Northwest Airways [apparently Watertown-Minneapolis was on Hanford and the remainder was on Northwest]

Mar 23, 1938
Hearings were being held in Washington on placing all Federal Air Regulations in new agency. Need seen to change legislation to provide for development of better airports. Testimony by William Denning of Wyoming Air Service that his company had received authorization for route from Cheyenne-Huron in summer of 1937, but had been unable to begin service, mainly due to landing field difficulties [see 8/19/40]

Apr 28, 1938
Bureau of Air Commerce establishes private flying section. Civil airway width reduced from 50 to 20 miles. Requirement established to maintain 500 foot altitude above terrain. There are 17,681 registered private pilots, 1,064 air transport pilots and 37,860 student pilots

May 1, 1938
Bureau of Air Commerce forms 7 regional divisions. Harold Neely supervisor for ND, MN,WI,IL,MI,IN,OH and KY. Leonard Jurden supervisor for SD, NE, IA, MO, KS and CO. RD Bedinger supervisor for MT, WY, ID, OR, WA and AK

May 14, 1938
Numerous articles/editorials about aviation leading up to and through Air Mail Week

back to top

World War II

Mid-Continent purchases Hanford Airlines and begins service

Mid-Continent was only Hanford TriState Lines dolled up with new equipment as a feeder line running out of Tulsa in two branches to the Twin Cities and Minot, North Dakota

Jan 23, 1940
Specifications filed for field lighting. NW-SE runway to be extended 400 feet as CAA would not approve lights unless runway was longer

Jan 26, 1940
City of Watertown seeking modification of 30 year lease to Watertown Airport, Inc.. [see 11/18/35]

Jan 27, 1940
First contract for a lighted runway signed

Feb 1940
CAA station opened

Feb 6, 1940
Bids for runway lighting to be opened 2/26. Mid-Continent scheduled to start night operations 3/1/40

Feb 21, 1940
Mid-Continent's new flight schedule to be Minneapolis-Watertown-Huron-Bismarck. It will be night schedule later. The other route through Watertown is Minneapolis-Watertown-Kansas City

Feb 27, 1940
Contract for runway lights awarded. Delivery in 2 weeks

Mar 13, 1940
CAA weather station open 10 hours per day. Installation of teletype, radios and weather observation equipment was completed some time ago. Station staff: Vernon E Hufman (Chief), Norman F Robertson and Joseph Lavadiere. Low frequency ranges Minneapolis-Willmar-Watertown are in use, but not certified. Ranges from Huron-Bismarck must also be certified

Mar 19, 1940
WPA report on past 5 years indicates that new airports had been built in Newell, Mitchell, Pierre, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Improvements had been accomplished at Aberdeen, Huron, Hot Springs, Spearfish and Watertown

Mar 24, 1940
CAA station operates 8am-midnight. Teletype system went on line at 8am 3/24/40. Additional personnel have arrived. Hufman moved to Alaska. Staff: CW McIntosh (Chief), Norman F Robertson, Joseph Lavadiere, Paul J Faur and Rolla Fay

Apr 1, 1940
CAA begins taking official weather observations at airport

Apr 16, 1940
Weather observing office in city moves last of equipment to the airport. CAA station is now 24 hours. A ceiling light is to be installed 100 feet north of the station

Aug 16, 1940
Ceiling light installed. [Read and Initial boxes have initials of first 5 employees and 2 others]

Dec 7, 1941
Mid-Continent Airlines ... continued flights through Watertown during WWII

Apr 11, 1942
Representative Mundt suggested to Army that auxiliary bases be established at Aberdeen, Chamberlain, Huron, Madison, Mitchell and Watertown

Jul 20, 1942
Watertown approved as location for satellite bomber air base to be affiliated with Sioux City Air Base

Aug 12, 1942
Contracts awarded for paving runways at Watertown Air Base

Aug 20, 1942
Government takes control of airport. Air Base construction began

Watertown base was intended to be used by several squadrons of B17 Flying Fortresses

Aug 21, 1942
Roads to and through airport/air base are closed

Aug 25, 1942
Dispute between city Army and Watertown Air Service [Ralph Hubbard] regarding airport lease and use of airport [see 11/15/35 and 1/25/40]

Sep 1942
Hubbard moves operation to a field 8 miles north of Watertown [3 miles north of Rauville]

Sep 6, 1942
Stone administration building destroyed in order to build runway 12-30

CAA official observation point moved to Air Base administration building [approximately location of terminal building]

Sep 25, 1942
Construction of Watertown Air Base 45% complete

Oct 22, 1942
Base commander and staff arrive

Nov 4, 1942
Mayor of Watertown asks for donations of furnishings for buildings at Air Base

Nov 19, 1942
Article about the "...weather station..." at the Air Base

Nov 21, 1942
Most Air Base construction complete. Open house held. [some photographs in paper]

Horizontal Control Data recovery data for airport remarks that station and one reference mark were destroyed when the Air Base was built

Apr 15, 1944
Air Base transferred from 2nd Army Air Force to Proving Ground Command

Jul 19, 1945
City and Watertown Airport, Inc.. have contract dated 7/1/45 for lease of Army hanger for 10 years and an additional building plot for 25 years if and when the Army returns base to the city. Hubbard has been operation on smaller field north of Watertown through war and has 9 aircraft

Jul 22, 1945
Government returned airport to the city on 99 year lease. [this doesn't match information in newspaper accounts ... see 1/15-17/46]

Aug 1, 1945
Mid-continent to expand service on 8/10/45 to 3 flights per day. Route is Minneapolis-Watertown-Huron-Sioux Falls-Sioux City-Omaha-Kansas City. Arrivals from Minneapolis at noon a DC3, and 5:28pm a Lodestar. Arrival from Huron at 5:41pm a DC3

Aug 2, 1945
Open house at Air Base. On display were 3 B29s, 3 B26s, 2 C45s, 1 B25, 1 P47 and 1 P51

Aug 29, 1945
Mid-continent is looking into shipping fresh sea food into Watertown from New Orleans

Sep 4, 1945
Captain Tom Weber, Flight Surgeon, drowns in Lake Kampeska. He parachuted into the lake to test water survival gear, got tangled and rescue boat couldn't reach him in time.

Sep 17, 1945
25 planes from Eglin AFB, Florida flew into Watertown to escape hurricane. On the field were 2 B32s, 8 B29s, 10 B17s, 4 B24s and 1 B25

Sep 20, 1945
Mid-continent and American Airlines talking merger, but need CAB approval [see 1/4/46]

Oct 15, 1945
Army announces plans to keep Rapid City, Casper and Kearney Air Bases open

Oct 29, 1945
Major in charge of Air Base to be discharged. Base now under command of a Lieutenant

Nov 1945
Flight operations July 1944-November 1945: 1300 flight operations, 900 transient aircraft, 900 local flights

Nov 15, 1945
Ralph Hubbard is chairman of South Dakota Aeronautics Commission. At a meeting in Pierre the Army announced plans to sell Air Bases and equipment with the agreement that they be maintained and available to the military

Nov 25, 1945
Dale V Dahl, Aviation Radioman 2nd Class, of 732 4th Ave. discharged 11/17/45. He'd enlisted 10/27/41. [Later worked at Watertown FSS]

Jan 3, 1946
Navy pilot landed Hellcat and said "here's the plane for the high school"... speculation was that plane was intended for Ortonville, MN

Jan 4, 1946
American and Mid-continent still trying for merger. CAB hearing to be 1/21/46 [see 9/20/45]

Jan 5, 1946
Only 35 men still at Air Base. They are assigned to Eglin AFB, Florida and should leave about 1/15/46. The Army weather station closed ... CAA station to remain. City is pursuing plans to use base housing for returning veterans [see 1/7/46 & 1/14/46]

Jan 5, 1946
44 Air Bases which cost $5 million, or more, each, plus 200 smaller airports are to be declared surplus. Included are: Sioux Falls, SD $10,061,000, Pueblo , CO $9,799,000, Alliance, NE $8,892,000, Colorado Springs, CO $8,338,000, Sioux City, IA $8,291,000, La Junta, CO $6,903,000, Grand Island, NE $5,434,000, Scribner, NE $5231,000, Scotts Bluff, NE $5,024,000

Jan 7, 1946
Army approves plan to use base housing [see 1/5/46 & 1/14/46]

Jan 14, 1946
16 apartments to be ready soon [see 1/5/46 and 1/7/46]

Jan 15, 1946
Army gives city a 5 year lease for airport

Jan 16, 1946
Air Base officially declared surplus and closed. Several weeks will be needed to finish winding up shutdown then the base will operate under the Corps of Engineers until the maintenance agreement with the city expires

Jan 17, 1946
DW Pennertz, President of North Central Airways, Inc.. announced that the CAB is considering a proposal for passenger and mail feeder routes in South Dakota. Stops would be Mobridge, Selby, Onida, Pierre, Kennebec, Chamberlain, Kimball, Mitchell, Salem, Alexandria, Sioux Falls, Madison, Brookings, Watertown and Milbank. A Fargo to Minneapolis route would Include Aberdeen and Britton

Feb 8, 1946
Aircraft at city airport north of town damaged by wind storm...some blown a half mile form the airport

Feb 20, 1946
City announces that it is to take control of the Air Base at midnight on 2/24/46

Feb 27, 1946
City Council met and formally accepted airport transfer. City took lighting previous Saturday. Took over all equipment, although it still belongs to the Army. They expect to take early action on lease with Kampeska Flying Service

Ralph Frothinger is to return to Watertown [from Air Transport Command] to operate Kampeska Flying Service which was Incorporated in his absence in fall of 1945. He will be owner and operator offering flying school, charter, and shops for service and overhaul. Will be dealer for Luscombe and Ercoupe, 2 place and 4 place models

Mar 2, 1946
CAB examiner recommended: 1) Inland Airlines route #35 be extended permanently from Huron to Minneapolis, subject to provision that no flight originate east of Rapid City. 2) Inland Airlines be temporarily authorized to serve Brookings, Rochester, and Mankato on the Huron-Minneapolis extension. 3) Mid-continent Airlines be temporarily authorized to add Mitchell and Yankton to their Huron-Omaha route

Mid-continent is planning to add Huron-Minot and additional stops if allowed to merge with American Airlines [see 9/14/45 & 1/14/46]

Mar 6, 1946
Watertown Air Service completed move to airport with 12 planes. Ray Wiles in charge of operations. Ralph Hubbard president and manager

Mar 12, 1946
CAA radio operator, Wayland Williams, 28, arrested while on duty for theft of radio equipment from Army Tower. Sheriff was looking for light fixtures reported stolen by CAA officials and found light fixtures, approximately $5,000 worth of radios, and removable aircraft seats

Ralph Lang started as pilot instructor for Kampeska Air Service

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The Korean War Era

Sep 1950
Kampeska Flying Service quits operation

Dec 7, 1950
Weighing rain gauge installed

Aug 1952
Mid-continent merged with Braniff

Aug 14, 1952
Federal grant received to build new administration building to replace the building destroyed when Air Base was constructed

Aug 1953
New administration building completed

Nov 1953
Braniff began service Omaha-Fargo with stop in Watertown

Nov 28, 1953
CAA wiring completed in new administration building

Mar 31, 1954
CAA operations relocated to new administration building

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The Vietnam War Era

Mar 1957
[In March 1957]...the CAB handed North Central a fat award: A new route from Grand Forks to Omaha via Fargo, Watertown, Brookings, Sioux Falls, Sioux City and Norfolk. This added 8 cities, 3 new states and 579 miles to the system

Apr 15, 1957
F240C wind instruments installed

Jun 1, 1957
North Central Airlines begins service

Dec 1, 1958
TACAN commissioned [printout] [date WRONG ... see 12/10/58]

Dec 10, 1958
TACAN commissioned

Dec 19, 1960
REIL installed runway 17

Jun 29, 1962
Watertown Flying Club has 27 members and 2 aircraft. Club began in 1954. President Jerry Cook, Secretary/Treasurer Dale Dahl [FSS Specialist]

Jul 1962
Yellow Page listing: Burmood Air Service

Jul 10, 1962
Louie Potter retirement dinner. Received 30 year pin. 57 attended. Dick Myers acted as master of ceremonies

Jul 24, 1962
Roger Pederson is chairman of Chamber of Commerce aviation committee

Jul 24, 1962
North Central Airlines to drop Brookings from stops on north-south route. Flights to continue into Watertown

Jul 7, 1963
Estimated 120 knot winds blew roof off terminal building. Wind instruments and antenna blew down at 110 knots. Ed Bauer on duty. [photo]

Jul 26, 1963
OE Markle, of Glasgow, Montana, was enroute from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota to Glasgow when he encountered thunderstorms near Watertown about 7pm. Unsure of his position he called Watertown FSS. Ed Bauer used VOR and landmark orientation to assist aircraft which landed safely at Watertown. (Bauer lived in Kranzburg)

Jan 19, 1965
FBOs at this time were Boyer Brothers and Lowinske Aviation

Jun 5, 1965
Western Airlines discontinued service to Huron

Apr 1967
Work begun to remodel and expand terminal building

Jun 1, 1967
DF commissioned [date questionable]

Feb 1, 1968
North Central begins scheduled jet service into Watertown

Feb 8, 1968
Terminal building remodeled and expanded

Feb 25, 1968
Open house for remodeled and expanded terminal building. There are 7 FSS specialists and 2 technicians at the facility

May 19, 1969
Ceiling light modified

Lake City Aviation (formerly Hubbard Aviation) discontinued business

Alden facsimile installed at FSS

Mar 10, 1972
FSS staff is: Chief, 6 specialists, AF unit chief and 1 ET

Mar 29, 1973
ILS commissioned

Jun 22, 1973
MALSR commissioned

Dec 12, 1973
VASI installed on runways 12, 30 and 17

Apr 16, 1974
REIL 30 installed

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The 70s, 80s, and 90s

Jun 14, 1975
Kerr-Magee Saberliner crashed during takeoff runway 17. Ingested sea gulls. [Ken Baenan on duty]

Oct 12, 1975
Alden 9721C facsimile installed

May 10, 1977
BUEC installed

Sep 1, 1978
Wind sensors relocated from roof to enter of field

May 24, 1979
REIL 12 installed

Jul 8, 1980
Remote Reading Hydrothermometer installed

Jun 1984
leased Service A equipment installed

Jul 26, 1984
Second generation VORTAC commissioned

Aug 9, 1984
Service A converted to Leased Service A Equipment

Dec 15, 1985
Republic Airlines discontinued service and replaced by Republic Express

Mar 1986
Service B converted to Leased Service A & B (LABS) equipment

Oct 1, 1986
Mesaba Airlines began service, replacing Republic Express following the merger of Republic Airlines and Northwest Airlines. After merger Northwest "assigned" the Dakotas to Mesaba and Michigan to Republic Express

Jan 7, 1988
Article on weather observations. Jim Anez in photo reading thermometers

Jul 1988
Princeton AFSS assumed control of Madison, Minnesota RCO

Jan 3, 1989
Article on weather. Tim Baker in photo looking at weather maps

Aug 12, 1994
Watertown FSS decommissioned at 10pm

Dec 31, 1996
The Watertown Municipal Airport reaches more than 10,000 enplaned passengers. Giving the airport around $500,000 in additional Airport Improvement Plan dollars.

Dec 31, 1997
The Watertown Municipal Airport comes close to breaking 10,000 enplaned passengers; however, due to the circumstances the federal government allows Watertown an additional $500,000 in AIP monies.

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The 21st


June, 2000
The Watertown Municipal Airport hires KLG to design and construct a new T-Hangar area. Different spots are considered. The hangars will be built to the north of the current hangar area.

Sep 11, 2001
3,000 people die in the largest terrorist attack on US soil. The World Trade Center towers A and B are destroyed as is part of the Pentagon. One of the aircraft used in the attack crashes in PA by the bravery of the captive passengers.

April 24, 2002
The newly formed Transportation Security Administration starts federal baggage screening at airports nation wide.

Jan 12, 2004
Erick A. Dahl becomes Airport Manager

June 16, 2004
The Codington County Search Dive Rescue Organization constructs a new facility at the airport to assist with water rescue at the airport.

Jan 1, 2005
The Federal Aviation Administration future consolidated the flight service stations under one contract with Lockhead Martin Corporation. This leaves the nearest Flight Service Station in Princeton, MN.

Jan 1, 2006
The Watertown Municipal Airport is renamed to the Watertown Regional Airport.

April 3, 2007
The runway and taxiway construction project starts. Runways will be narrowed to 100' wide and a new taxiway built parallel to Runway 17/35

August 15, 2007
LPV GPS approach procedures are added to Runways 12, 30, and 17.

Oct 25, 2007
Runway Construction project is completed.

Nov 1, 2007
New fence line project is started. current six foot fence will be removed and new 10 foot fence will be installed.

May 1, 2008
Designs start coming in for the proposed airport terminal expansion.

August 1, 2009
Designs for a new and improved Fuel Farm are developed. This project will consolidate all fueling into a central area.

August 17, 2009
Work starts on the Passenger Terminal Expansion Project

August 17, 2010
Work is completed on the new airport fuel farm

April, 2012
First meeting of the first Airport Advisory Board is held.

April 21, 2012
Work starts on the complete reconstruction of Runway 17/35. This is the first time the runway has ever been rebuilt since it was constructed in 1941.

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