It was a beautiful, sunny day at the airport as the day began with a pancake breakfast. The theme was World War II. There were vehicles and displays of aircraft on hand with many interesting items for both children and adults. There was also anticipation in the air for the guests who would soon arrive. Once breakfast was complete there was a flag ceremony conducted by the American Legion.
At one end of the field were replicas of planes used in the past. These ranged from small flying models with about a two foot wingspan to a model nearly large enough to ride with a wingspan of about four feet. These flying models whetted the appetite for the real planes about to arrive.
Soon those attending heard the buzz of propellers in the background. Two planes were seen in the distance. As they flew over the airport, those below had the sense of what it would have felt like to see these planes as they headed for Europe or the Pacific many years ago. It brought to mind memories of parents who flew in World War II or served in other part of the service. One of the two planes headed off to another location, and the second circled to land and taxi.
As the pilot landed, his first words were, “It’s cold up there!” It was a reminder of the open cockpit and the freezing temperatures in which they had been flying. The pilot was from Heber and was a part of the Commemorative Air Force. This group keeps the memories of older aircraft alive by maintaining the aircraft in flying condition, visiting events like the one here in Morgan and offering those attending a first hand view of the aircraft. They also offer the opportunity to ride in the historic planes. The plane that visited Morgan was a Steerman AT-17. It was a trainer used to prepare pilots who would soon enter combat. It was beautifully maintained and glowed silver in the morning light.
The airport event was designed to honor those who had served in World War II and provide county residents both a look at some of the aircraft and other vehicles of the period. The day was also designed to provide residents a look at one of Morgan County’s best kept secrets, its airport.
The Morgan County Airport began in the 1950’s as a gravel landing strip built by the Wilkinson Construction Company on land set aside by Harry Wilkinson. It was later donated to Morgan County, paved, and has served the flying public, the forest service, and as a reliever to Ogden’s airport during foggy weather as part of the National Transportation System. With its proximity to nearby mountain ranges, the airport has long served as a base for glider and soaring operations. It has also provided a challenging training base for new pilots and a center of innovation for various aviation-related enterprises over the years. The runway is 3900’ long by 50’ wide and can accommodate most small general-aviation aircraft during daylight hours in good visibility. 52 aircraft are currently based there.
Over the last decade the County acquired additional acreage on the east side of the airport and concluded a lengthy planning process that produced an airport master plan, an airport ordinance, an airport overlay zone, the re-appointment of an advisory board, and the employment of a part-time airport manager, Joe Garfield. The master plan contemplates safe aviation-related activities and commerce by offering additional hangar and commercial building pads, further enhancing the revenue-generating ability of the airport. The planning process and master plan also enabled the airport to become more competitive in obtaining grants from the State of Utah to help fund maintenance and improvements.
31 new hangar pads were planned and about half were leased during the last three years in two phases. 7 hangars are occupied. The remaining pads are now available to lease in a final phase to include sizes 60x60, 50x50, and 40x50. Once complete, the hangar expansion will provide safe harbor for 50-80 additional aircraft with lease revenues and property taxes all flowing to the County.
The hanger infrastructure at the airport includes fire protection, culinary water, sewer, power, and natural gas is complete. The County requires reimbursement for the infrastructure depending on the size of the hangar pad of $3500-$6400. The first 2 years of the 30 year lease, $600-$1080, must be prepaid. The airport is one of the few revenue producing entities operated by the county. The county projects that revenues from the airport in 2011 will be just under $60,000 including hanger leases and a payment from a lease to the US Forest Service. The cost to operate the airport is only just over $20,000. The airport, therefore, contributes nearly $40,000 to the county operations on an annual basis.
Those interested in leasing a hanger should contact Joe Garfield (Airport Manager) 801-791-6769, Joel LaBorde (Advisory Board Chair) 801-829-8989. They may also pick up an application at the Morgan County Clerk’s Office.
The event hosted by the airport made for an enjoyable day with many activities that captured the imagination and reminded us of days gone by. It also provided a glimpse into the present and future of the airport as it grows to provide services to county residents. The sun shining reflected a bright future for the Morgan County Airport.