By Naomi Hatch–
Following Taylor’s heritage of hard work and service to each other and the community, in the early 1970s a group of men decided that the town needed an airport.
Just south of Paper Mill Road a gravel strip served as an airstrip in the 1940s and ‘50s, but it deteriorated and that land was developed. Snowflake had also had a gravel strip north of town, but it, too, had deteriorated.
Lloyd Capps, who was the county road foreman and had an enthusiasm for flying, was talking with others at the local cafe and decided it was time to build a new air strip. They took that idea to the town council, which was in support, thinking that an airport would help with the economic development of the town,
The biggest hurdle to overcome was obtaining the land, but once again Taylor residents came through. Terrence “Shorty” Reidhead donated the land and Roy Palmer gave up his grazing rights to several acres for the runway. The first step, and probably the most difficult, was accomplished.
The project couldn’t have been completed without volunteers. Reidhead and Shel Hatch provided equipment, materials and manpower. Palmer donated gravel from his pit and Hatch paved the runway.
The airport was dedicated in May 1976 and an air show followed, attracting a very large crowd. The second year there was an accident in which one of the pilots was killed, putting an end to the air shows.
C.H. Packer, who served 14 years on the Taylor Town Council and had a great interest in the airport, was assigned by Mayor Roy Palmer to serve as the airport commissioner. He recalls Paul Harvey reporting that you can build an airport without any federal or government money, referring to the Taylor Airport.
“The first time they got government money was to put an asphalt coating on the runway,” said Packer. “Since then, millions and millions in federal money has gone to improve the airport.”
Leon and Sunny Perry managed the Taylor airport for close to 30 years, making many improvements, including building a hangar, and putting in a fuel tank and pump. Ray Webber was a mechanic at the airport, and continued to provide services after the Perrys retired.
Packer noted that the four original hangers were built by those who owned planes and they did all the work, including laying asphalt, for a 10-year lease.
Packer was involved in getting many Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants during that time worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He explained that the federal government pays for 95% of an FAA grant project, while the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the town each paid 2½ percent.
Town Finance Director Gus Lundberg said that the most recent FAA project was a complete overlay of the 7,000’ runway that cost $1.6 million and was totally funded with stimulus funds through the FAA.
The project prior to the runway overlay was to put in a new Automated Weather Observation Station that reports temperature and wind. The equipment at the Taylor airport was outdated, so for an approximate $4,000 cost to the town, they were able to put in a $148,000 weather station.
In the past five years five new hangers have been built and an FAA grant built an apron, which will become an entrance to an area where two new hangers could be built.
“Currently we are in the process of having an environmental assessment,” said Lundberg. “This is required so we can carry out the next several projects that we have in our plan.”
Lundberg explained that they will be breaking ground in new areas, expanding the current layout. Fuel tanks will need to be relocated in order to expand the plane tie down area.
The FAA is currently reviewing the plan, but should wrap it up in the next few months, according to Lundberg. This project is also being done with an FAA grant.
Photo by Naomi Hatch
Planes are tied down at the Taylor Airport, which was built by local residents who donated the land, time and materials. It was dedicated in May 1976, and since that time the town has upgraded it with the help of Federal Aviation Administration grants.