May 14, 2012

A North Dakota airport that had fallen into disrepair may soon spring back to life, thanks to a resurgent industry and renewed interest from the community.

Located north of Killdeer, Weydahl Field (9Y1) has been essentially closed for about two years due to deteriorating conditions and a lack of city support for maintaining the facility. In that time, however, new oil exploration in the Bakken formation has driven a statewide economic boom, bringing new growth to the western half of the state. The boom has spurred smaller communities like Killdeer to improve their infrastructure to support the needs of the oil industry.

Kyle Wanner, aviation planner with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, noted that Killdeer has the unique opportunity to capitalize on the existing airfield. “Where else do you have an airport where an oil boom is occurring right next to it?” he asked. “This is an opportunity to re-plan the entire airport, a new and better airport, to adjust to the oil traffic while also allowing for additional business development.”

On May 7, the Killdeer City Commission met to discuss the formation of a dedicated aviation authority to oversee the rebirth of Weydahl Field. Clarence Schollmeyer, owner and president of Schollmeyer Engineering and a leading advocate to rebuild the airport, said that progress was made at that meeting, but there’s still some work to be done.

“We almost reached the point of forming an airport authority, but one of the commissioners suggested that the city should reach out to the (Dunn) County Commission first about forming a joint authority,” Schollmeyer said. “That reduces the risk to the town itself. They won’t meet for another week or two, but between now and then I’ll be meeting with each [county] commissioner personally to bring them up to speed on what we hope to accomplish, and to get their feelings on it.”

State officials are ready to move forward once the community formalizes its plans. Wanner said the renovation of Weydahl Field would include the relocation and expansion of the existing runway to create additional space for aviation-related businesses to build facilities along State Highway 22. Those businesses would then lease the land back from the airport, generating additional revenue for the city.

Schollmeyer noted that he and other supporters have also built a compelling case for community investment in the airport. “I’m working with the gentleman who designed the longest runway at Denver International Airport,” he said, on plans for a new 5,000-foot by 75-foot runway. “And we already have companies lined up and ready to build on the airport property. One national chain is ready to come up and sign a lease for several lots to build a hotel on.”

Other businesses that have expressed interest in building on the field, Schollmeyer added, include a local aviation support and pipeline patrol company, as well as a highway travel center and restaurant.

“Airports are good for communities,” he concluded. “Now, it’s all a matter of educating people and the powers-that-be about how this airport will contribute to the area.”