High Desert Fly In returns to Winslow

Photo courtesy of the Old Trails Museum A plane outside the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport’s historic hangar during the 2014 Fly-In.

By L. Parsons

Winslow’s High Desert Fly In, slated on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15 and 16, is dedicated to the history and adventure of flight. The event is a not for profit exhibition made possible through a partnership of the City of Winslow, Wiseman Aviation, Just Cruis’n Car Club, Old Trails Museum, Winslow Chamber of Commerce, Winslow Library and the Winslow Rotary Club.

The event begins at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15, when a catered gala complete with Big Band music and a vintage candy bar kicks off in the hangar at Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport.

Tickets are required for the gala, and can be purchased at the Winslow Visitor’s Center, located at 523 W. Second St., for $25 per person.

The Fly In celebration will continue from 7 a.m. to noon on Sept. 16 on the tarmac at the airport. This is a free event and offers much for aviation enthusiasts. Pilots from all over the world come to show their planes and share stories with interested guests. Other aspects of the day include history exhibits, the annual Show and Shine Car Show by Just Cruis’n Car Club, a safety seminar for pilots, aviation talks, presentations and a pancake breakfast provided by the Rotary Club for $7 per person.

Past Fly Ins have offered plane rides for children at no cost, this year is likely to see the same. For more information, interested guests and pilots should contact Wiseman Aviation at (928) 289-2422.

Air travel in Winslow is rich in history, as a permanent exhibit at Old Trails Museum reveals. As early as 1919, stunt pilots were landing in Winslow. At that time, they were called barnstormers and Tucker Flats northwest of town was their airfield.

In May 1925, Berrigan Field, which is now part of the Winslow Airpark, was dedicated with a celebration that included a parade, banquet, a ball and an airshow. Winslow, at that point, hoped that the traffic of airmail, and scenic tours of the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley would keep the airport busy.

Charles A. Lindbergh was named as the technical chairman for Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) in 1928, and was tasked with scouting ideal locations for safe landing of passenger flights. Lindbergh chose Winslow and Kingman based on their terrain, weather and proximity to the railroad. When the airport was dedicated in 1929, more than 3,000 people attended the celebration, including Lindbergh.

The Flying Through History exhibit goes on to recount that, “in 1932, Winslow Municipal Airport saw the greatest increase in outbound passenger planes of any western TWA (Transcontinental Western Air) airport.”

By 1933, six mail or passenger planes passed through the airport daily. That number drastically changed throughout the next decade. With the onset of the Second World War, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order telling the Secretary of Commerce to, “take over civil aviation for successful prosecution of war.” In 1942, it is said that 400 military and passenger planes landed at Winslow Municipal each day, most for refueling or repair.

TWA ended its passenger service to and from Winslow in 1953 due to lack of demand. Frontier Airlines was still operating there until 1975, and the last commercial passenger flight left Winslow in 1988.

Winslow Municipal Airport was renamed Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport in 1998 as homage to the rich history it possesses. In 2007, the City of Winslow, which owns the airport, contracted Orville Wiseman of Wiseman Aviation to act as the fixed base operator to run daily operations.

Of the Winslow Airport in the Flying Through History exhibit, Wiseman said, “The Winslow Airport was probably the busiest airport in the Southwest back in the 1940s or so, all the airmail for Northern Arizona went through there…it’s probably the oldest continuous service passenger terminal in the world at this point…that’s a pretty neat little piece of history right there.”

Winslow Airport continues to be a major base for aircraft fighting wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service, medical transport companies, weather balloon studies and many recreational flyers use the airport daily.