Thedford, Nebraska airport refresh
Thedford – Locals know of its presence in the hills south of the village of Thedford, in the center of the state, but visitors traveling on Nebraska Highway 2 (Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway) east to west, do not even know it exists. The airport at Thedford is a true economic blessing, now more so than ever after the renovation that occurred this spring.
The TCAA, members include Tim Maseberg, Herb Hall, Roy Licking, Pastor Ron Masten and Jack Johnston, who is the designated general manager of the airport. On Oct. 1, they celebrated the major completion that the federal government funded in the amount of $4,365 million.
Airport history – This final location of the airport at Thedford is the third airport. The first was near the location of the city lagoon, the second was east of town, south of the tracks across from Dollar General. Tim Maseberg, the member who has been on the board the longest, gave a little history. “The land where the airport is now, was a school section land we purchased that took a lot of clean-up from us. The government gave us an enticement of $500,000 if we could make an airport here happen – which we did. Maseberg’s enthusiasm for an airport near the village is in honor of his late father who was a WWII bomber pilot.
The airport was built south of town, north of the weather doppler that resembles a large white golf ball. In fact, the golf course leases some of the airport land. There was a fly-in at the dedication of the airport in the summer of 1998. It was a timely occurrence, as in March 1999, a two-day fire occurred that between Mullen and Thedford, burned over 70,000 acres. Without the airport and the ability of planes and helicopters to land, refuel and fill their water tanks, the devastation would have been much worse. Governor Johannes used it when he came and surveyed the damage.
The multi-million-dollar grant money for the new airport came not from the taxpayers, but from the fuel tax on the special fuel airplanes require. It started when President Trump designated $1 billion for the renovation of rural airports. Each state was awarded an allotment – Nebraska received $9 million. In his press release in 2019, Governor Ricketts stated there had been 33 airports apply for funding, only 3 were accepted. The other two airports were Red Cloud and Gordon, with Thedford receiving almost half of the funds. “We truly believe we were awarded for our due diligence in applying,” stated Masten. “We went to the hearing in force, a physical presence. We had great photos to show them our dilemma taken by Jack. We are central and remote. People do not realize how busy this airport is. Jack counted one day 81 planes landing, of course the professional golf courses at Mullen makes for a large part of the numbers as planes come in and drop off golfers several times a day,” he explained.
“The TCAA would have loved to expand the runway from its current 4400 feet to the FAA designated 5000 needed for large jets, but expansion to that degree was not allowed, so to compensate, they did allow ‘teacup turn arounds’ on each end. “I showed them photos of how dangerous our taxiway was when corporate jets landed, the 16 inches of leeway they had before they dropped off in the sand. They allowed us to widen it from 25 feet to 35 feet.,” Johnston said.
The contractor was Paulsens of Cozad. Asphalt was the foundation when the airport was built. Paulsens removed all asphalt, piled the grindings up and the county and village are using them for their road repairs. “They built 2 roads with the grindings, that once their projects are done, they remove, but we told them to leave them, so our roads into the airport are better than the sand and gravel one we had coming from the cemetery. There now is a road from U.S. 83 as well”, stated Johnston.
Other improvements include
* New LED runway and beacon lights – they use a fraction of electricity the old ones did. The runway lights are set at 10 percent, but pilots can increase the lumens from their planes as they approach if need be.
* New security cameras – which are linked to all TCAA board members’ phones.
* Both types of fuels airplanes require – 100 LL and Jet Air; self-serve pumps. This allows planes and pilots to remain in town, using the motels and restaurants and other businesses, thus adding to the economy of the community; or leave in a fraction of the time required at larger airports.
* Another $250,000 grant was obtained earlier this year for a long-range plan of continued improvements at the airport.
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