VERDE HERITAGE 1971: SEDONA AIRPORT FLIES HIGH

"By Elizabeth Rigby, Sedona Editor."

"In 1952, what is now the rapidly expanding Sedona Airport was only a gleam in the eyes of two enthusiastic and dedicated airmen, Joe Moser, then chairman of the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Chamber of Commerce's airport committee, and Ray Steele, one of its most active members."

"Those who were here will recall that it was those two who supplied the push that turned into a reality what seemed at times an impossible dream."

"After persuasively enlisting the support of the local citizenry, Moser and Steele followed through on the necessary preliminary steps. Getting the C.A.A to survey the area and recommend a site (the wide, flat mesa known as Table Mountain was named as the only suitable location). Obtaining a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. And finally securing a building permit in the name of the Chamber of Commerce."

"Then, because there were no funds available to get the operation off the ground, the two put up their own money to guarantee payment on the job of clearing a 3,700-foot runway and cutting a road up the mountain to the top, 500 feet above Highway 89A."

"Once this much had been accomplished --- and it didn't happen overnight -- the project could be turned over to Yavapai and Coconino counties. The counties, once the nucleus of an airport was in existence, became eligible for state and federal funds to assist with improvements."

"The airport, such as it was, opened for business September 22, 1955. The road to the top was unpaved. The runway was of red clay. But it was a start, and planes could fly."

"Improvements came gradually."

"The first lighting and rotating beacon went in in 1956. In that same year the first hangar was built. It was to be the only one until June, 1971."

"In time, both the runway and the road up the mountain were paved. A pay phone and sanitary facilities were installed. In 1968, in accordance with the original master plan, the runway was lengthened to its present 5,180 feet."

"In the early 1960's the Forest Service had deeded the airport to Yavapai County on the condition that it be used only for an airport and related facilities."

"As use of the port grew, however, operating it became something of a headache for the supervisors who now had sole responsibility for what had originally been a bi-county project."

"In 1953, a citizens' advisory board was formed and over the years a number of different operators worked under lease from the county. But not until this year was a permanent and workable organization devised."

"Three years ago, John Carruthers, a semi-retired electrical and administrative engineer, and his wife Penny, both enthusiastic fliers, moved to Sedona from Florida."

"Discovering that they could not hangar their plane at the Sedona Airport, Carruthers decided to do something about it. He found that there were a number of other families in the same boat, so he enlisted their aid."

"'What happened next grew out of an actual need,' he says today."

"After months of work, on July 31, 1970, the Sedona-Oak Creek Airport Authority was incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the state of Arizona. Carruthers was president, Harner Selvidge, president, and Doug Perkins, secretary-treasurer. Board members were Hal Maloney, Bob Foley, Dr. Oliver G. Hundelt, Art Bermingham, and Leonard Kilgore, who has since resigned because he has moved his base of business operations to Tuba City."

"On January 1, 1971, the S.O.C.A.A. took over the operation and control of the airport under a 25-year lease from Yavapai County. Members of the authority are all local citizens with a strong interest in working toward the improvement of the facility, Carruthers says."

"The authority had hoped to hire a fixed base operator (F.B.O.) but was unsuccessful in finding anyone qualified and willing to accept the job. So on March 1, of this year, Carruthers resigned as president of the authority and assumed the position of F.B.O. as a volunteer.

"It is a big job and growing."

"Important was the building of a 10-plane all-metal hangar facility, completed in June. It is 343 feet long, 37 feet wide and cost $40,000. It was paid for by the present users, each of whom advanced 10 years' rent in order to make the building possible. In time, the title to it will revert to the county."

"'We now consistently tie down 20 aircraft, most locally owned,' Carruthers says. 'As of now, there are, on the average, 30 daily takeoffs and 30 daily landings.'"

"Carruthers is assisted in the operation by a staff of four knowledgeable retirees, Al Roberts, Bob Every, Jim Tyson, and Cliff Roberts. They keep the port operating 10 hours a day, 7 days a week."

"The port is now selling over 100,000 gallons of gasoline a year. The authority has a 10-year contract with Texaco, which in turn has assisted with some of the major improvements."

"The authority encourages fly-ins. Many come from the west coast, from San Francisco to San Diego. One expected in September will involve 25 planes and 200 people, with some driving to attend, Carruthers says."

"In January, the Arizona Chapter of the Flying Farmers will hold its annual convention in Sedona."

"Rental car services are available at the airport, and many of the motels provide pickup service. Sightseeing tours are offered by Don Pratt and Tex Dallas. Doug Perkins and Robert Jackson, a qualified instructor, offers lessons in flying."

"Next 'on the agenda' is the construction of a metal-building maintenance center on the site of the original hangar, which is scheduled for 'destruct.'"

"Picnic facilities at the port are planned, as is a reception center, with snack bar and lounge. Future buildings, including the reception center, will follow a western architectural motif. The reception center will house numerous Old West antiques loaned by local citizens."

"The Sedona Airport has passed through many vicissitudes, some of which have not been detailed here; but there can be no doubt that today it is on the way up, up and away."

(The Verde Independent; Cottonwood; Thursday, July 29, 1971; page 19.)

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