(Editorial Note: Part 166 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: Images of America, Preston, compiled and written by Necia P. Seamons; The Preston Airport, Larsen-Sant Public Library Historical Collections, Franklin County Citizen, 1934)
With a vision of the future, the civic leaders of Preston, ID, in 1933, began investigating the possibilities of having an airport. The impact of the so-called ‘Gasoline Age’ was evident on the roads of Franklin County. Blacksmith shops still in existence now offered services for both horses and automobiles as the development of the gasoline engine influenced the population of the entire world.
World War I had the effect of shrinking the world in many ways and one was the use of aircraft. There was a yen for closing distances in a short period of time. The first transcontinental air-mail route had come into being between New York to San Francisco in 1920. Charles A. Lindbergh had made his historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Although the accident rate from air travel was high in its fledgling years, the fatality rate on the highways of the nation was even higher. Forward-thinking Americans were considering what this sprouting of wings might mean to them, individually and in groups.
Many local leaders showed an interest in having an airport. One strong point was that Preston was located on the normal route of traffic between the cities of Salt Lake City and Pocatello and other points north. A parcel of land was located and investigated, found to have the needed requirements.
Building of the airport commenced under the leadership of Mayor Lorenzo Hansen. “Financing came from the city of Preston matching money with the federal government, and the labor came from the WPA project.”
“Men used teams and wagons to cut two runways. It was the first all-direction airport in Cache Valley and could be used in any wind condition. The runways were covered with shale when it was finished.” Shale consists of small flat stones and it made an excellent surface for both take-off and landing. The ground on which Preston’s airport was built was deeded to the city on December 13, 1933, according the city’s records.
By February of 1934 men had organized a group entitled “Preston Flying Club” with its membership temporarily limited to 15 members. At that time there were 10 members. Each member that signed up was to contribute $100 by April 15 toward the purchase of a “club ship that would be used for training and general club purposes.” That amount may have sounded pretty expensive but it included the opportunity of taking flying instruction. The article in the Franklin County Citizen stated that the average cost per hour in flying schools was $15 and that “it usually took about 10 hours for a person to learn to pilot a plane.” The flying club would hire a qualified instructor to teach the lessons, however they needed five more members to come up with the funds for the project. Any reader interested was advised to get in touch with Cy Greaves or Dr. A. R. Cutler.
Cy Greaves (Banker Cyrus LeRoy Greaves) was given credit for locating the site for the airport. While moving sand in the field the WPA workers uncovered Indian artifacts: a fire ring and a stone mallet. Those working on developing the airport felt that if both the settlers and the Indian tribes of the past had used this site it was an indication of its suitability for the task at hand.