The early history of the airport or flying field for McPherson dates back to perhaps about the time of the close of the first World War. There were plans for air passenger service talked about, but probably passenger rides, stunt flying, etc., was about as far as it went. Various pastures and fields in the immediate vicinity were rented and used for landing strips; Darrah's pasture northwest of town, Sam Field's pasture south of town, the field just south of the McPherson Cemetery, The Darrah pasture in what is now the Prairie Gardens field in the present city limits, the McClain pasture in what is now the West Industrial Park on West First Street, even a strip in what is now the Big Basin west of McPherson. Most of the above efforts were promoted by flying enthusiasts, and a small group of McPherson businessmen who were interested in flying was able to talk the City Commission into spending some city funds to rent a pasture for an airport. When the oil and gas boom came in the late 1920s, pressures were exerted to have a flying field so that airplanes belonging to the larger oil companies would have a place to land.
In 1940, the aviation enthusiasts were able to persuade the City Commission to bring the matter of a proposed $25,000 (1.5% interest-10 year-dated 01/15/1941) General Obligation Bond issue to purchase land and develop an airport to the voters of the city at the General Election on 11/05/1940. A quarter section of land, four miles north and one-half mile east of McPherson was purchased and frame hangars erected and an Airport Manager hired. The airport went into operation on 01/01/1942. The City continued to operate this airport until some years after World War II.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wm. H. Janssen, who had moved to McPherson, built and developed his own airport. It was named Janssen Skytel. This airport was located on the northeast part of what is presently the McPherson Airport. It was apparently decided that the airport north of the city was too far from town, so the City Commission negotiated a deal with Janssen to purchase the Janssen Skytel (53.45 acres) for $62,000. A new bond issued 11/02/1948 was approved by the McPherson voters, the proceeds of which, together with the proceeds of the land and buildings of the old airport north of McPherson were used to buy out Janssen. The amount of the bond issue was $25,000 (1.75% interest- 10 years) with the bonus dated 11/01/1951, and they were approved on 11/02/1948.
The old airfield and hangars sold for $32,000 in 1949. A small Federal Grant was also secured. The City continued to operate the airport by leasing it out to a manager who paid a small rent and in turn received the income from the operation of the airport and the gasoline service station. In 1964, the McPherson Chamber of Commerce began to promote Commissioners whereby in exchange for about $200,000 in tax funds to be levied over a three or four year period, the County was to be deeded an undivided one-half interest in the airport land and buildings. A maintenance and operation fund was set up on the City books, in which the County and the City contributed 50-50 to operate the airport, and the funds for the Improvement and Development Fund Tax Levy of the County were used to secure Federal Matching Funds for further acquisition of land and for improvement of the runways, etc. The Federal Grants, comprising a total of almost $170,000, were incorporated into three projects in 1965, 1967 and 1970. Phase #1-$56.500, Phase #2-$47,000, and Phase #3-$59,600; for a total of $163,100.
In 1964, a Joint Advisory Board was appointed by the County and the City Commissioners, to assist in the operation and development of the airport. The County and City Engineers were also given instrumental parts in the operation and the planning and development of the airport.
Over the years, the City and the County have been able to secure additional hangars for rental to plane owners, and also to promote additional improvements. In 1964, the City entered into a Lease-Rental Agreement with Alon, Inc. to purchase acreage on the east edge of the airport for a new airplane factory to be built with the proceeds of two Industrial Development Revenue Bond Issues totaling $135,000, payable over a period of 15 Years. In 1967, Alon sold out to Mooney Aircraft, Inc. which soon took bankruptcy. The N.C.R.A. Refinery was persuaded to take over the lease and to use the building for office space in 1968. The bonds were paid off on 09/01/1979 and the N.C.R.A. secured the title to the land and building.
Locations of McPherson Airport - Per City Commission Minutes
1920s - During the term of Mayor C.K. Hawley- the Sam Fields pasture south of McPherson was used as a landing field. Among those involved were: George L. Allison; Bernard "Barney" Harms, President to McPherson Chamber of Commerce; Ed Holswarth, R.I. Depot Agent; Dr. H.G. Rolf, Osteopath; Frank Ream, Poeler Merc. Co.; A.W.Bremyer, Pioneer Savings and Loan; E.A Wall, W.R. Mill, and Rex Curtis.
05/24/1928 - Frank Regier, W.J Krehbiel, Ed Holswarth, Simon Strouse, and Barney Harms appeared before the City Commission regarding the need for a flying field for McPherson. Various propositions and locations were discussed. The City Clerk was instructed to write the cities of Great Bend and Winfield for ideas on the proposition.
05/28/1928 - There were no definite proposals. Andy Darrah was included in the group.
10/08/1928 - The McPherson Flying Club came in to see the City Commission and to request an Airport. They requested that the city rent land north of the city for a flying field. The group included George L. Allison, Ralph Johnson, Joe Hesston, and Dr. Rolf.
03/14/1930 - A Glider Club is being organized in McPherson.
06/20/1930 - The McPherson Airport is being plowed up. The McPherson City Commission did not see fit to renew the lease on the land. Oil company planes can no longer land in McPherson.
12/15/1930 - The McClain land has been leased for a City Airport. (land on west of First Street- north of street.)
05/19/1938 - The first Air Mail Demonstration Flight from McPherson Airport took place- Special Airmail Stamp and cancellation. Advs on envelope- mention of agriculture, oil and gas, industry and education.