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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 " 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 Century


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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