The historic hangar barely escapes demolition
Renner Field’s barrel hangar was a 1934 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and it was nearly demolished. In 2006, then-Goodland City Manager Wayne Hill estimated restoration costs at $150,000 to $200,000. He said it wasn’t “historic enough” to save.
Watson Hevner’s daughters stepped in. Hevner managed the airport from 1949-66. The Hevner family lived in an addition to the hangar, which was later torn down. The women, Judi (Hevner) Vignery and Susan (Hevner) Elliott, grew up there. They campaigned to keep the hangar from destruction and were successful.
The hangar’s history
The hangar did have historic significance, not only as a WPA project but also as a World War II glider training field.
Airplanes had to stop in Goodland between Denver and Kansas City. Goodland was well positioned to take advantage. Goodland’s original airfield was built in 1926 on a field of buffalo grass. Airfield was in the northeast part of Goodland. It moved north in 1929.
The cost for the entire airfield was $42,783 with the hangar specified to be 80 feet wide and 100 feet long with an 18 foot ceiling. A large concrete “GOODLAND” sign was laid out in the concrete south of the hangar. Its letters are 36 feet high and the entire sign is 24 feet long. Airport opened Nov. 22, 1934, and was dedicated Oct. 10, 1935. Runways were surfaced with a mixture of salt, clay and sand, 125 feet wide and a foot thick.
World War II glider pilot school
In May 1942, Goodland physician Dr. M.J. Renner received a call. Please find fields for glider training, the caller asked.
William A. Ong ran Grand Central Glider Pilot School for the U.S. Army Air Forces Training Command’s 22nd Glider Training Detachment from June 8 to Aug. 29, 1942, graduating 295 students. Training then halted because of equipment shortages.
Students practiced dead-stick (no engine) landings in Piper Cubs over cow pastures. “We flew a landing pattern and on the downwind leg, the instructor would pull the throttle,” Second Lt. Sherfey T. “Tip” Randolph recalled. “It was up to the student to fly the rest of the pattern and get the plane down on the field.”
Pilots spent half a day flying and the other half in ground school. They practiced landing and other maneuvers. Runways had a line painted halfway down the field and pilots were required to stop in front of that line. Each instructor had five or six students. Between flights, the pilots found a shady place in which to lie down.
The airfield was used as an auxiliary airfield until war’s end. During wartime, the airfield had four compacted soil runways.
The airport after World War II
The airfield returned to civilian control in September 1945. One of the runways is now paved and used as the main runway. The others are still visible in aerial photography. The administration building, which held the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Service Station and the National Weather Service offices, was built in 1949. An addition was built to the north and dedicated in February 1984. The weather service office has moved to Armory Road. A glider pilot school reunion was held in conjunction with Goodland’s June 25, 1988, “Reunion Airshow ’88“. The terminal has enough room to handle commercial aviation, but has lacked any since Great Lakes Aviation pulled out (PDF) in 2000.
The hangar receives a second chance
In June 2007, John Topliff agreed to lease and restore the hangar to use. Rehabilitation began a year later. Topliff eventually bought the building and the old hangar still stands (PDF).
While visiting the airport, stop at the terminal. See the model of “America’s First Patented Helicopter”, eat at Butterfly Cafe and learn about Dr. Renner, for whom the airport was named in 1966. Tour the National Weather Service Goodland Forecast Office nearby. See a full-size replica of the helicopter at High Plains Museum. Goodland has two more New Deal public works buildings, Goodland High School and Goodland Post Office. Post office houses a New Deal Section Art painting, “Rural Free Delivery“.