WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
OLD ST. GEORGE MUNICIPAL AIRPORT (SGU)
St. George, Utah
LOCATION317 S. Donlee Drive
St. George, UT 84770
On the south end of the Black Hill.
37.09° North Latitude, 113.59° West Longitude
Other WCHS photos:
WCHS-01364 Aerial photo of the old St. George Airport and the Surrounding Area
HISTORYIn the late 1920, Maurice Graham, a Western Air Express mail pilot, was forced down by low clouds, and landed his plane on a straightaway racetrack on the Black hill. He told the city fathers this would be a good place to build an airport. It has been said that an expert is a fellow from out of town, and now that the 'powers that be' received an expert's opinion they decided to build their airport on the Black hill. Mr. Graham died in January 1930 near Kanarraville, after he was forced down by a blizzard.
The present airport was begun in early 1930s with the grading of two runways. There was a windsock and a beacon light, but no reliable landing lights. At night, airplanes would circle the airfield until some one would drive upon the hill and shine their car lights down the runway.
In 1930 two local boys, Robert Pickett and Don Bleak soloed off the Black hill in an American eagle airplane. They called it the "Eagle Rock" because it flew like an Eagle and landed like a rock.
In 1937, the airport was the Department of Commerce's Site 34 along the Los Angeles - Salt Lake Airway. It consisting of a 34 acre irregularly-shaped field, containing a single 3,000 foot gravel runway.
The arrival of airmail to St. George, in 1938, was cause for celebration. The first incoming mail was presented to Postmaster Will Brooks. William Atkin, as one of the oldest citizens of the community, rode to the airport on horseback to deliver the first bag of outgoing mail.
In 1940, the main runway was blacktopped and a small hangar and terminal building constructed. The airport was dedicated on May 10, 1940.
By 1959, the paved runway and been extended to 5,100 feet.
In 1981 the city built a modern terminal building and in 1991 more than doubled it's size.
In January 1958 Bonanza Airlines began scheduled service with a 28 passenger DC-3. The service was discontinued September 24, 1960 for lack of passengers and freight.
June 19, 1972 Ralph Atkin set in motion Skywest with its first flight between St. George and Salt Lake City. The airfare was $59 for a round trip. They flew 256 passengers that year. Skywest was motivated to succeed and had faith that St. George would support the airline. After a shaky start and attempts to sell and give away the airline but with increased involvement of family members and friends a reorganization, took place. Jerry Atkin was appointed President and CEO. The rest is history. This family owned the home grown company, now a public company flies 270 airplanes to 233 cities, with 2520 daily departures.
The old St. George Municipal Airport closed on January 13, 2011 and was replaced the new St. George Municipal Airport. Landings were no longer permitted at the old airport. Pilots at the old airport were allowed to take off in their airplanes between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm until January 17. After that, departures were by permission only and the airport had to be vacated by March 9.
REFERENCESOfficial St. George Airport website
Wikipedia article about the St. George Airport
Sons of Utah Pioneers history of aviation in St. George
Paul Freeman's "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields" Website