Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:

Western Minnesota

© 2002, © 2017 by Paul Freeman. Revised 1/29/17.

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Dawson Mills Airport / Dawson Municipal Airport (revised 11/29/13) - Original Litchfield Municipal (revised 6/11/14)

(Original) Willmar Municipal Airport / Rice Field (revised 1/29/17)

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Willmar Municipal Airport (original location) / Rice Field (KILL), Willmar, MN

45.116, -95.088 (West of Minneapolis, MN)

A 9/17/43 aerial view looking north at the Willmar Municipal Airport from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).



According to the City of Willmar website, work on the original Willmar Municipal Airport started in 1934

as part of President Roosevelt’s "New Deal" Program.

The airport originally served as an emergency landing field for scheduled airline service,

along a route between the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to Watertown then on to the Black Hills.



A need for airport management was answered in 1945 by John & Mary Jane Rice,

whose Willmar Air Service operated for over 50 years.



The earliest photo which has been located of the original Willmar Municipal Airport

was a 9/17/43 aerial view from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).

It depicted the field as an open grass area.



The 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock) described the Willmar Municipal Airport

as a 178 acre irregularly-shaped property containing 3 sod runways, the longest being a 2,760' east/west strip.

The field was said to have one 100' x 98' concrete block hangar.

Willmar Municipal Airport was described as being owned & operated by the City of Willmar,

and to be used as CAA Intermediate Field, Site #16.



A circa 1940s photo of several monoplanes in front of & inside a hangar at the original Willmar Municipal Airport.



A 5/4/57 USGS aerial photo depicted Willmar Airport as having 3 unpaved runways.



A closeup from the 5/4/57 USGS aerial photo showing 3 single-engine planes on the ramp next to the hangar on the east side of Willmar Airport.



The earliest topo map depiction which has been located of Willmar Airport was on the 1958 USGS topo map.

It depicted Willmar Airport as having a single paved northwest/southeast runway, 3 unpaved runways,

and a paved taxiway leading to a ramp on the southeast side with 2 buildings.



The 1984 USGS topo map depicted Willmar Municipal Airport as having 3 runways.



A 1/27/84 airport directory (courtesy of John Kielhofer) depicted Willmar Rice Field as having a 5,700' paved Runway 10/28 & a 3,565' turf Runway 18/36.

A parallel taxiway led to a ramp on the east side with numerous small hangars.



In later years, the Willmar Airport served a bursting industrial park adjacent to the east side of the airport property.

However, it would appear that the growth of this industrial park eventually became the reason for the replacement of the airport.



The 1994 USGS topo map depicted Willmar Airport as having a 5,700' asphalt northwest/southeast runway with a parallel taxiway & and a 3,500' crosswind grass runway.

A ramp on the southeast side had several buildings.



In 1995, a joint airport-planning group conducting several studies

and recommended replacing the original Willmar Airport by constructing a new facility 2 miles to the west.



Tony LaPatka reported, “Willmar Airport... I flew from both the old airport & the new airport.

The reasons for moving the site of the airport 2 miles west were 2-fold:

The main reason was because there wasn't adequate clear area at the approach end of the runways to install an Instrument Landing System.

The second reason was that the industrial park had grown up around the airport & there wasn't room to build additional hangars.”



A 6/1/03 aerial view looking west at the original Willmar Municipal Airport depicted several aircraft on the ramp.



A circa 2000s photo looking northwest at a Cessna Citation & Hawker jet on the ramp in front of the Willmar hangar.



A circa 2000-2006 aerial view looking north at the original Willmar Municipal Airport ramp,

with a large number of Mooney aircraft on the ramp.



The new Willmar Municipal Airport - John L. Rice Field officially opened on 9/5/06,

at which point the original Willmar Municipal Airport was presumably closed.

The specific reason for the replacement of the original airport has not been determined,

but it is odd that the airport was replaced by a new airport with a shorter runway – only 5,500'.



A 6/3/09 aerial view of the site of the original Willmar Municipal Airport,

showing the new road which cuts through the east side of the property.

The majority of the paved runway & taxiway remained intact, as well as the ramp & hangar.



Tony LaPatka reported in 2015, “I live approximately 1/2 mile north of the old airport.

During the past 2 years they have completely redeveloped the old airport west of Kandiyohi County Road #5, which is the road that bisected the runway.

The 2 original hangars remain but are being used by a structural steel company as a warehouse.

The original ramp area is intact but in very poor condition.”



A 7/26/16 aerial view by Tim Wallace looking west/southwest at the remains of the original Willmar Municipal Airport,

with the new Willmar Airport (KBDH) in the background.”



Thanks to Rich Pennock for pointing out this airfield.

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(Original) Litchfield Municipal Airport (Y69), Litchfield, MN

45.14, -94.52 (West of Minneapolis, MN)

A 10/28/53 USGS aerial photo of Litchfield Airport.



This small general aviation airport was located adjacent to the County Fairgrounds.



Litchfield Municipal Airport was evidently established at some point between 1945-53,

as it was not yet depicted at all on the June 1944 Twin Cities Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy)

or listed among active airfields in the Haire Publishing Company's 1945 Airport Directory(according to Chris Kennedy).



The earliest depiction which has been located of Litchfield Airport was a 10/28/53 USGS aerial photo.

It depicted Litchfield as having a single unpaved northwest/southeast runway,

with a small Quonset hut on the west side.



The earliest aeronautical chart depiction which has been located of Litchfield Airport

was on the April 1956 Twin Cities Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).

It depicted Litchfield as having a 2,800' unpaved runway.



The 1962 AOPA Airport Directory described Litchfield as having a 2,800' turf runway.



The earliest topo map depiction which has been located of Litchfield Airport was on the 1968 USGS topo map.

It depicted Litchfield Airport as having a single unpaved northwest/southeast runway,

and a ramp on the west side with several small buildings.



The original Litchfield Municipal Airport,

as depicted on the May 1989 Approach Procedures (courtesy of Timothy Aanerud).



The original Litchfield Municipal Airport was closed

when it was replaced by the larger & more modern new Litchfield Municipal Airport

(a few miles to the southeast) in 1989.



As of the 1991 USGS aerial photo, the Litchfield Municipal Airport consisted of a single 3,900' paved runway, a taxiway & a small group of hangars.



A circa 2008 aerial view looking south along the northern half of the Litchfield runway pavement.

The southern half had been removed at some point between 1991-2008.



A circa 2008 aerial view looking west at 2 former Litchfield hangars on the west side of the property.



Thanks to Timothy Aanerud for pointing out this airfield.

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Dawson Mills Airport / Dawson Municipal Airport (72D), Dawson, MN

44.925, -96.02 (West of Minneapolis, MN)

Dawson Mills Airport, as depicted on a 5/2/80 USGS aerial view.



No airfield was depicted at this location on the 1968 USGS topo map.



This general aviation airport opened in September 1977,

according to the files at the MNDOT Office of Aeronautics (according to Wayne Petersen).



However, no airport at Dawson was yet depicted

on the February 1978 Twin Cities Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy).



The earliest directory listing of the Dawson Airport which has been located

was in the "Undiagrammed - Low Use" section of the 1980 Flight Guide (according to Chris Kennedy).

It described the Dawson "Mills" Airport as having a 3,700' hard surface Runway 16/34.



The earliest depiction of the Dawson Airport which has been located was on a 5/2/80 USGS aerial view.

It depicted the field as having a single paved northwest/southeast runway.



Dawson Mills Airport, as depicted on the 1981 USGS topo map.



The "Undiagrammed - Low Use" section of the 1987 Flight Guide (according to Chris Kennedy)

described the Dawson Municipal Airport as having the same runway configuration.



Dawson Memorial Airport was still listed as an active airfield

in the 1989 North Central Airport/Facility Directory.



According to Jon Melby (via Timothy Aanerud), the Dawson Airport

"belonged to 'Land O Lakes' food company for a while, then the feed mill.

They didn't want to maintain it, so it was abandoned."



Dawson Airport was closed on October 30, 1990,

according to the files at the MNDOT Office of Aeronautics (according to Wayne Petersen).



As of the 1991 USGS aerial photo, the airfield still remained intact.

It consisted of a single 3,700' asphalt Runway 16/34, a taxiway & a single small hangar.



Dawson was depicted as a closed airfield on the February 1995 Twin Cities Sectional Chart (courtesy of Timothy Aanerud).



Dawson was still depicted as an abandoned airfield on 2003 aeronautical charts.



A 6/3/09 aerial view looking south along the runway at Dawson showed the airport remained basically intact.



Thanks to Timothy Aanerud for pointing out this airfield.



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