Somerton Airport

Somerton, Arizona (54AZ)
Airport Manager
Eric Saltzer

Unicom: 123.00

(Phone) 928-580-5618
(Fax) 928-722-5724

Physical Address

3900 W US Hwy 95
Somerton, AZ, 85350

Unicom: 123.00

Airport History

Somerton Airport
A history of the airport from World War II to 1996.
By Jim Gillaspie, April 1996

THE BEGINNING

       Japan surrendered and the War in the Pacific ended, lifting the ban on civilian flying within 150 miles of the West Coast. This ban stopped all civilian flying in and around Yuma, because the prohibited area extended to a line approximately 13 miles east of Yuma. The closest functioning civilian airport to Yuma was located at Wellton.

       The end of the war promised that aviation was again available to civilians and that a great deal of money could be made teaching people to fly, especially the returning veterans who would be eligible for the GI Bill of Rights. Aircraft manufacturers were primed to build airplanes for every man, woman, and child.

       E.N. Sturdivant believed this and, as a result, announced to the world in the Saturday, August 18, 1945 issue of the Yuma Daily Sun that he would open and manage a new airport to be located east of Somerton on County 16th St. Mr. Sturdivant of Somerton was a flight instructor for the Army for nearly three years. His article stated that construction of this airport, to be located two and 1/2 miles from Somerton, would begin immediately with the erection of a hangar and construction of runways approximately 2000-feet long. In addition to flight instruction and aircraft rental, Mr. Sturdivant was established as a dealer for Piper and Fairchild aircraft. He ordered five new Piper Cubs for his operation and accepted delivery on the first aircraft on October 3, 1945. One of his first students, Mr. Jack Fritz of Yuma, also accepted delivery of a new Fairchild on that same day. Thus these were among the first aircraft to be based at Somerton Airport.



       In the May 2, 1946 issue of the Yuma Daily Sun, an ad for Sturdy's Flying School stated that the Somerton Airport was "Yuma Valley's First CAA Designated Airport." This ad, which targeted veterans, also stated that the school had been given a contract by the Veteran's Administration for flight training. This and other similar ads proved to be effective for Sturdy's because a large number of people earned their pilot's license there.

       The airport as a training facility was very successful, and was placed on the San Diego Section Charts and all subsequent Phoenix Sectional Charts.

       Two other flight training schools started operating in the Yuma area at approximately the same time as Sturdy's. Marsh Aviation built an airport east of the railroad tracks within walking distance of downtown Yuma. A second school owned and operated by Larry Spain and Archie Mellon was started at the Yuma Air Park located of South 4th Ave.


THE LATER YEARS

       Eventually Sturdy's Flying School stopped operation and other operators took over the airport. These operators were primarily oriented toward supporting agricultural efforts with flight training and aircraft maintenance a distant second. Mr Stan Lawless, the current operator, has expanded his operation to include a wide variety of aviation activities.

       In summary, this airport has seen many changes of tenants and missions. In fact, with Mr Lawless's mode of operation, it has come full circle, a grass roots airport once again, for now offers flight instruction, aircraft rental and maintenance which fill the competitive void at Yuma International.


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