Air Craft and Air Ports in Cowley County


Mary Lucille Neuman published a history of Strother Field in the Traveler April 30, 1975.

Fred Tupper, the first Airport manager, who served for twenty-five years and retired in July of 1992, wrote a history of the field which was published in the book entitled ACowley County Heritage.@

Mr. Tupper was succeeded, as Airport manager, by Mrs. Joe (Donna) Avery of Arkansas City.

After World War 1 there was a flurry of excitement over flying by such local enthusiasts as Walter Beech, Pete Hill, and Cecil Lucas. A self-taught aeronautical engineer, Irl Beach (no relation to Walter Beach) designed a number of planes and had his own airport and hangar in the late 20s. By the 30s, many more Ark Cityans had joined in the aerial fun, including Roy Hume, Clyde Dorrance, Claude "Red" Derry, Earl Haines, and Reede Farrell.

There were several air strips, located north, south, and west of Arkansas City, but no municipal facility.

Winfield, though, in 1938, had authorized a municipal airport south of Highland Cemetery so that students taking ground school classes at Southwestern College, under the Civil Aeronautics Authority, could qualify for private pilots licenses. In 1939 the city erected a large metal hangar. The framework was of welded pipe and the covering was sheet metal. The cost was $2,750 and included rental on the field for one year with an option for renewal of the rental contract. It included an office for the pilots and students, and a sanitary unit. The hanger was put into use November 1, 1939. Students were being trained by Bill Carpenter.

Jim Smyer and his brother, Tom Smyer, who became manager of the Ponca City airport in 1940, were two of the foremost promoters of private piloting in the late 30s and 40s. Jim Smyer and J. C. Forburger had been instructors at the Lloyd Pickett-Earl Haines airport south of town until they opened their own flying service on the Baird air strip on west Highway 166.They were there two years before Strother became available, at which time they severed their partnership and Smyer began his family's longtime association with Strother Field.

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