Garberville airport past and present

GARBERVILLE >> While collecting history of aviation in Southern Humboldt I learned it was Leo Etter back in the '60s who wrote the original Wind Sock column about local aviation for the local newspaper of the time for those who remember Leo. Before and after the WWII local men like the late Leo Etter, Des Swithenbank, and the recently late Bill Madsen came back either as military trained pilots like Des Swithenbank. Or they were certified by a bloke named Red out of Red Bluff like Leo Etter and Bill Madsen did.

Around 1936 Red was the only CFI- Certified Flight Instructor in Northern California at the time. It was Bill Madsen who first landed on Dyerville Loop Road up on Pratt Mountain in the 1930s. This was no easy maneuver on a limited roadway with an excessive crosswind.

Bill grew up and worked the Frank Hurlbut Ranch that was previously the Tuttle Range on the southeast side of Dean Creek watershed and used the dirt road as his airfield on the ranch.

The early days of the Garberville airport where it is now on Sprowel Creek Road started when Lloyd Swanson allowed Humboldt County to snag his property immediately after WWII to put in a 1,200 foot dirt strip. Prior to that the landing of aircraft after WWI was facilitated where the Benbow Golf Course is now. Pilots taxied right up to the Benbow Inn doors as the highway wasn't there.

Then the airfield moved close to the river bar where the Mitchell Ranch at the end of Kimtu Road is now. You can still see part of the outline of the runway in the landscape as you approach the current airfield from the south.

Today the Garberville airport is 3,000 feet long and takes up twice the area of its original tarmac.

Do you know some history of local aviation? Share it with us all!

Dave Sky is a local pilot and aircraft mechanic and has resurrected this column to be published in the Redwood Times.