Wall will celebrate airport expansion - New, extended runway and pilot controlled LED lighting

 Many of us have heard of or read about the Dust Bowl, while only a few people may be old enough to remember the Dirty Thirties. The same may be said of the Great Depression, as most adults have heard of it, but only people in their nineties or older would remember it. The depression began with the crash of the United States stock market on Oct. 29, 1929. That dramatic plummet in stock values heralded the global depression and its decade-long financial spiral. In addition to the financial hardships of that era, the Dust Bowl affected the livelihood of farm and ranch families of the American and Canadian prairies. Drought and certain farming methods factored into the devastating erosion of the once fertile plains. South Dakotan farm and ranch families felt the brunt of both hardships. 
Those hard times may have deterred spending or prevented municipalities from investing in infrastructure projects. Charles and Blanche Best and their five children moved to Wall in 1934. He served as mayor and on the town board for “several terms”. History tells us Best was a “progressive community leader”. So much so that Best and his sons, Glenn and Wendell, assisted in establishing the airport—constructing the original runway and building its first hangar. During the decade of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, the Wall community experienced a significant increase in population. The United States Census Bureau records report a 54% increase in the population of Wall from 1930 to 1940. The marked increase in population justified the need for the public-use airport. After Charles Best completed his work at the airport, Lynn Williams volunteered his time to manage it and perform upkeep on the facility.
 In 1975, the airport received certification as a Fixed Base Operation facility. That designation is “given to a commercial enterprise that has been granted the right by an airport authority to operate on that airport”. In rural areas, “it is often the town or the airport authority which provides basic services, such as fuel or parking”. The airport upgraded in 1986 and installed directional runway 12/30—a 3,499-foot hard surface runway featuring pilot-controlled lighting (PCL) for the runway. The airport continued with upgrades in 2000, adding directional runway 189/36—a 1,981-foot turf runway for crosswind takeoff or landing.
In 2018, the airport memorialized a longtime resident of Wall. The airport added Dave Hahn Field to its name to commemorate his service and devotion to the aviation community. David L. Hahn moved to Wall in 1971 to work for the Wall School District as the superintendent. He also invested in two local businesses and served as mayor of Wall for approximately 31 years. He shared his love of aviation with many aspiring pilots, helping some obtain their pilot’s license. The airport also recognized Best’s contributions to the airport and commemorated him by naming an airport access road, Charlie Best Way, after him. 
After two years of planning, Mayor Mary Williams believes a celebration is in order for the community of Wall as the airport construction project, which started in April 2023, is now complete and the airport ready for future service. The project cost approximately $5.4 million with federal funding accounting for 95% of the project. The state of South Dakota and the city of Wall funded the remainder of the costs. The Wall Municipal Airport, more commonly known in the aviation community as Federal Aviation Administration location identifier (FAA LID): 6V4, will be open for air traffic sometime in mid-January. Community leaders, building contractors, design engineers and aviation enthusiasts planned a reopening ceremony for Dec. 13 but were forced to reschedule the event. Plans for the mid-January commissioning will include multiple flyovers to be completed by a Bombardier Challenger, a business jet developed by Canadair. The flyovers allow for a visual inspection of the PCL system installed for the new runway. After passing the visual inspection, the Wall Municipal Airport will once again be ready for air traffic service.  
Western Construction Inc., Rapid City, removed the preexisting 3,499-footlong runway and paved a new 4,418-foot runway. In addition to the expanded runway length, the runway was widened from 60-feet to 75-feet. Muth Electric, Inc., Mitchell, updated the lighting system with energy efficient light emitting diode (LED) bulbs to aid pilots in nighttime landings or approaches during inclement weather conditions such as fog. The PCL systems enable pilots to “activate runway lighting for nontowered airports or towered airports with limited hours of operation”. Upon a nighttime approach, the pilot activates the lighting via an aircraft radio set to a very high frequency wave. By depressing the transmit button, the pilot activates the LED airfield lights including a precision approach path indicator, which “provides pilots with a visual indicator of their aircraft’s position”. 
When considering an aviation infrastructure project of such magnitude, the city utilized Mead & Hunt, Inc., Rapid City, to provide specialized design engineering for this multimillion-dollar project. The city seized the opportunity to expand upon the runway length and width, allowing more aviation traffic to utilize the facility. For example, agricultural pilots may now carry a greater volume of liquids, which in turn increases the weight of the plane. A greater weight requires a greater distance to obtain lift sufficient for the plane to become air born. The runway expansion allows agricultural pilots to operate more efficiently by carrying more volume, reducing the number of flights required to complete the application process. 
Additionally, the expansion affords more business class jets adequate distance or runway length to take off from the airport. Recently, the city developed the Wall Industrial Park, an 85-acre parcel of South Dakota state certified sites, ready for light industrial development. The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development “offers expanding businesses prequalified sites that are ready for development”. The industrial park offers potential businesses the opportunity to acquire property ready for development and “mitigates the risks associated with development by providing detailed information about the site including price and availability, utilities, access, and environmental assessments”. The airport offers a convenient transportation hub for potential clients to visit Wall in addition to providing existing businesses more transportation options. Another consideration for the location of potential industry is that Wall is geographically located in the center of the United States and the airport is close to Interstate 90. In addition to business or recreational travelers, the airport also provides a staging area that allows air ambulance personnel to safely transfer patients to medical facilities more capable of treating traumas and other healthcare emergencies. The airport also accommodates recreational travelers including other flight enthusiasts who utilize the airport for hot air balloon flights, model airplane clubs or ultralights. 
Carolynn Anderson manages the Wall Municipal Airport. Her telephone number is (605) 279-2663. Further information may be obtained at the city’s website at  www.wallsd.us

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
Telephone: (605) 859-2516
E Mail: ads@pioneer-review.com

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