Haxtun, Colorado Airport History

Submitted by George E. Michael, Town of Haxtun Superintendent

For centuries the romance of flying has lured men to learn to fly, to thrill to the sight of the earth below them. Many Haxtun men know this experience.

The present airport was built in 1964 through the efforts of the Sharpe Brothers, Marlow and Keith, who negotiated the purchase of 12 acres from Gade Harms, located 1 mile east and 1 mile south of Haxtun for $200 per acre. The runways, leveled and graveled, were laid out so the north-south and the east-west ran parallel to the nearby county road; thus on an emergency, a plane could land on the road. The first hangar was built in 1966. This structure has built onto by other pilots.

In 1966, local gentlemen interested in flying formed the NCO Aviation Club, Inc. Members included Marlow Sharpe, Curtis Ruch, Fred Secrist, Howard Meakins, Dennis Firme, Richard Starkebaum, Gary Fuesz, Doug Ham, Stanley Ham, Jack Dix, Dr. Bowman, and Dick Ash. They purchased a Taylor Craft, which “ground looped” one evening in a wind which registered 90 mph. It was tied down but flipped over. They purchased other planes. This corporation dissolved in March 1987.

Dan Young, a wheat farmer, learned to fly from Rex Cox in Holyoke. In 1947, Young built a runway across the road from his farm home 3 east and 1 mile south of Haxtun. He built a Quonset to use as a hangar for his two-passenger Cessna. On Sunday afternoons near-by pilots would fly in.

Pilot Harold Harms and son, Ken and Paoli and Pat Kain, Haxtun, have runways and hangars to house their planes on their farms. Years back Ray and Gordon Sipple had a runway on their farm south of Haxtun. Doyle Neiman and sons, Ed and Dee, flew from their home-located located runway south of Paoli.

Veylerd Baker became a Certified Flight Instructor in 1975-1982, and taught 15 students who earned their pilot certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Among these 15 were two women, Fay McGuire and Naida Bamford. Mr. Baker, a Certified Commercial Pilot, was also qualified to fly Chartered Flights.

The local airport has been the base for mercy flights, Veylerd Baker and Lloyd Ensminger carried blood into Haxtun for emergency illnesses. Greg Bamford, Damon Koch, and other local pilots have flown residents to visit seriously ill relatives. Gary Fuesz flew his sister, Mary Beth Hovel, her husband, Terry, and Nurse Scotch Timm to Greeley one night. Happy result of the emergency flight was named “Erin Hovel.”

Rev. Ernest Skoog, local Berean Minister, a certified flight instructor, taught a number of local men to fly.

From 1975-1985, Greg, Kent and Naida Bamford and Jerry Covey used the Haxtun International many times. Greg bagged over 2,000 hours of flying time.

Prior to the lighted runway, family members of pilots would park their motor vehicles into the wind and set their flashing lights to guide the pilots to a safe landing. The pilot would fly over their home to alert the family who would drive to the airport.

During the 1965 flood when the South Platte River Bridge washed away at Sterling, the Channel 6 TV Personnel flew to the Haxtun International Airport, as they named it, and then drove back within six miles of Sterling to perform their communication operations.

Occasionally men who have wheat combine crews in the area use the Haxtun International. Doctors fly in so they can spend the day holding clinics at the Hospital.

Rodney Rahe uses the local airport as a base for his Crop-Dusting Operation.

A group of pilots obtained grant money from the Heginbotham Trust to improve the airport with runway lights, making it much safer to land after dark. In 1986, the Town of Haxtun resurfaced the east-west runway. 

A tragic incident involved Harold Jessen and Harold Cheney who flew from this airport on May 2, 1949, to attend a Fly-In in Colorado Springs. They encountered storm conditions and crashed. Both men were killed.

In the late 1930s, Ira Bortles, who lived southwest of Haxtun, owned his own plane. He would phone Glenn Jones, the Haxtun Texaco Gas Dealer, and Glenn would load the specified number and kind gasoline on his tank truck and drive 1 east and 1 mile south of Haxtun to the landing field in Axel Johnson’s natural sod pasture where Bortles would land:  He would fill the plane’s gas tank. This land was northwest from the present airport. Other pilots used this firm sod for landing, too.

Phillips County Zoning regulations prohibit houses to be built within ˝ mile any direction from the airport as a safety factor.

Having a good safe airport near Haxtun gives residents and visitors a chance to travel quickly on business or pleasure.