Will Big Oil bring back an airport?

May 4, 2012

Revitalizing a dormant general aviation airport doesn’t happen every day, but a surge in oil industry activity in North Dakota has raised that hope in one community—and pilots can help make it happen.

On May 7, the city commission of Killdeer, N.D. opened discussions of how to renew operations at the city’s Weydahl Field, possibly sharing the costs of such a project with Dunn County, where Killdeer is located..

The city has also been presented with plans from three developers who want to buy the property for other uses, a city employee told AOPA.

The western North Dakota airport sits at an elevation of 2,256 feet, with a 4,200-foot runway. It is the only airport in the county, said Bryan Budds, AOPA Great Lakes regional manager.

With oil exploration “exploding” in western North Dakota’s Bakken Oil Field, aviation is seen playing a growing supporting role, potentially creating new demand at airports and aviation-related businesses, he said.

Against that backdrop, AOPA, local airport advocates, and the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission have been working to demonstrate to Killdeer city officials the positive economic impact of a thriving airport.

The city commission’s action May 7 was “a positive step showing the city’s willingness to keep the airport functional,” Budds said.

If the city can address concerns about its potential share of costs to revitalize the airport, which it describes as closed on the municipal website, the next step would be to establish an airport management team.

“The airport is in a holding pattern without an airport authority,” Budds said. “A fixed-base operator, maintenance facilities, charter service, and the adjacent industrial park are all ready to spur business at the airport and bring jobs to the city. But none of this will happen until the authority is created.”

With management in place, the airport would be able to apply for state grants covering up to 90 percent of its infrastructure development, he said.

Budds urged pilots to contact city officials and support the initiative discussed by the commission by email or by calling 701/764-5295.