“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it...” ― Wilferd Peterson
“I turned left onto a half-mile final for a south landing. There it was, five thousand feet of new concrete; an airport thirty years in the making, carved out of farmland in rural Kansas. My Kansas. My roots.
My spirit welled up as I made my final traffic call, “Rooks County Regional Airport traffic, Aircoupe three zero five two golf, on short final for runway one-eight. “
The little red coupe seemed to perk up as I trimmed her to follow the visual glide path to a flawless, slightly cross-wind landing. I could almost hear Daddy smile from that great cloud of witnesses as we taxied off the runway onto the ramp toward the waiting crowd.
I had been following the progress of the new Rooks County Regional Airport (KRKS) after learning plans were back underway for an all weather airport near my hometown. When I was invited to the dedication by a former classmate, I knew I had to fly the Aircoupe back “home”.
Where The Dream Began
Perhaps I should start further back. I am not sure when Daddy became enamored with aviation. He was a self-taught mechanic on all vehicles and machines, like many of his time. Most training came through necessity, keeping whatever piece of machinery required to deal with daily life, in good working order.
Yet, Dad had a knack. He just seemed to know how to get things to work. He could not explain it, nor could he articulate the math, science, engineering or physics behind it, he just figured it out. I suspect the knowing came from years of experience both good and bad. As Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
The Pull Of A Dream
It started with ground based vehicles, but at some point airplanes got into the mix. The nearest transport airport was 20 miles away in the next county south, so it was not as if we saw planes flying overhead every day. Yet as a child, I recall vague references to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Oshkosh, and Dad deciding to build an EAA biplane.
He did begin building the biplane and made good progress, but sometime around 1963 a pretty red 1961 Forney Aircoupe arrived at the new Plainville, KS airpark and the bi-plane took a back seat. Daddy was not yet a pilot, but had been seriously bit by the flying bug.
Airplanes require runways. There were six to ten guys who gathered at the local grass strip in support of each other’s passion for flying. They worked together on their aircraft, learned from each other, dreamed, laughed and (although details are fuzzy to protect the guilty) exercised a bit of that “bad judgment”.
A Dream Fades
In the late 1960s into the early 70s, Dad became involved in local government, both as councilman and later as mayor. Activity at the airpark came and went. One major issue plagued its use: water. The field was well drained and a perfectly fine grass strip, yet rain, snow, ice and other kinds of moisture hampered consistent use.
In fact, there were no all weather airports in all of Rooks County. In 1978 he and several others began to work on a plan to correct this. The vision was modest: simply black top the airpark runway. Plans and proposals were made with rationale far beyond just a few guys with a hobby.
As mayor, he could see the benefits for the entire area:
- It would serve as an extension of main street for business,
- provide access for medical flights
- along with other emergency needs.
Perceptions, costs, and local politics got in the way and plans ended up on the shelf. The time was not yet.
Dream In Transition
Daddy ‘s piloting days began to wane but his vision for an all-weather airport lingered. OVer the years, Daddy and I had several conversations about the FAA airport trust fund available for communities developing local airports. I know he made inquiries attempting to get the project moving again, but his health was failing and retirement was approaching.
Daddy died in early spring of 2000. As far as I know, He was not aware of the revived plans underway for the airport. Yet the seeds of the vision and dream were growing. I was told by a fellow councilman that at some point they pulled the notebooks off the shelf as a restarting point.
As I followed the ramp attendant’s signals and parked the plane, local photographers and journalists approached. I unfolded, stood up and stepped out onto her wing to deplane.
It was quite surreal, as I introduced myself and the red Aircoupe to her admirers. People were excited and gracious as the recognition of Paul Hancock’s plane grew. Pictures were taken, statements made and I took my place among the crowd.
Reality Grander Than The Dream
That day I witnessed:
- first landing and take-off of a jet aircraft in Rooks County
- my former classmates who had resurrected and persevered with this vision, now rightfully enjoying the fruits of their labors.
- a new beginning.
I am grateful for all who endured.
Daddy had seen this day and yet never dreamed it would be this grand. A dream is a seed, containing the entire DNA of that which is needed for a mature harvest. In most cases the seed bears little resemblance to what that seed will become.
As I lifted off the new pavement in the center of Rooks County to head south and home, this came to me;
The passing of time does not make the reality of a dream any less sweet. Realizing there are times it takes more than one lifetime to see a dream come to fruition.
Are there generational dreams you have witnessed? I would enjoy hearing your story! Please share in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to subscribe!