July 2018

260 261 STILLWATER REGIONAL AIRPORT FRONT DOOR TO THE COMMUNITY, GATEWAY TO THE WORLD Regional Airport I n the early 1920s, the locals of Stillwater, Oklahoma, would pay a small fee to ride in the barnstorming airplanes that utilized the pas- tures around town as their takeoff and landing strips. By the end of the decade, though, the town had its own real airport, after it received approv- al to purchase 239 acres of land north of town. Named Searcy Field, in honor of its first manager, George Searcy, a grocery store owner and local aviation enthusiast who was killed in a plane crash in the Lake of the Ozarks, the airport in- cluded a half-mile grass strip, a steel hangar, and a 10×10 wooden-framed office. By the mid 1930s, Searcy Field, led by J. Alvin Guthrie, a former barnstormer, was providing flight instruction for new pilots who also received college credit from nearby Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (OAMC) for their pursuits. By 1940, with improvements to the airport, the city, led by Mayor M.J. Bradley, Guthrie, and the college, led by President Henry G. Bennett, anoth- er aviation enthusiast and a big proponent of air travel, proposed to the federal government that the airport become a primary pilot training school and serve as a feeder program for Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas. In 1941, Guthrie’s program became a second- ary course for civilian pilots, sponsored by the Civil Aeronautics Administration.With World War II raging worldwide, Bennett offered the use of Searcy Field to the armed forces, and military pilot training commenced. The small program AT A GLANCE STILLWATER REGIONAL AIRPORT WHAT: A public use, city-owned airport WHERE: Payne County, Oklahoma, three miles northwest of the city of Stillwater WEBSITE: www.flystillwaterok.com