By Katherine Lymn
KILLDEER, N.D. — Dunn County’s Weydahl Field Airport has come a long way since a summer storm last year destroyed its hangar and three planes.
The runway reopened a month ago and plans are already underway for its replacement, which would be a little wider than the current one.
The airport signed the last purchase agreements this month for the land for the new runway.
“We get phone calls every week from people that want to fly in,” said Mike Schollmeyer, chairman of the Dunn County Airport Authority, “a lot of crews that want to fly in from Texas, Utah, Oklahoma.”
The business comes both from personal and corporate flights. Companies will fly in crews of eight to 12 workers to work in the Oil Patch, for example.
The $4.6 million new concrete runway will be slightly wider than the old one, at 60 feet by 4,200 feet. It also will be engineered for a longer life expectancy, with conservative estimates expecting it to last at least 30 years, Schollmeyer said.
That will mean the runway can be a landing strip for bigger planes like larger twin engines, Dunn County Airport Authority treasurer Jason Hutchinson said.
The project is in the bidding stages and once that’s complete, the construction will take about 90 days, Schollmeyer said.
In the process, crews will also lay the dirt work for the possible future expansion to 75 by 5,000 feet, Schollmeyer said. If that expansion happens, planes holding as many as 20 people could land.
“Due to the cost of cement and asphalt, it’s just too expensive” to expand that much now, he said.
“We have no idea where the oil boom is gonna take us, but right now there is very high demand to bring in crews,” Schollmeyer said.
Montana pilot Harold Matovich flies a twin-engine plane for a construction company based in Lewistown, Mont., mostly “flying the boss around” to show him gravel locations.
Before the airport reopened about a month ago, Matovich would have to fly to airports farther away. But from Weydahl Field, one dump site is very close.
The new runway will be able to land planes with up to about 10 people.
The airport has been working on the expansion for more than a year, since before a storm last summer that “put a little setback” in the plans, Hutchinson said.
That storm destroyed the airport’s hangar and damaged three planes that were inside.
The city of Killdeer once owned the airport but wasn’t using it and it fell into disrepair. The poor condition is still evident in a bad patch of runway that limits its length.
“It kinda hinders the size of plane that can land,” Hutchinson said.
Clarence Schollmeyer, Mike’s father who died in a plane crash in November 2012, saw the opportunity to reopen the airstrip as oil activity picked up.
That started with getting the airport into the county’s hands, with the authority.
“The runway was closed for 10 years and it’s not much better than it was last year,” Mike Schollmeyer said of the existing airstrip.
“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a battle wound.”