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Maddock airport wins award

By Staff | Apr 19, 2019

“We’re pretty proud of this. Number one of 89 airports. And we’re your neighbors.” — Jason Lee, president, Maddock Airport Board

An airport in tiny Maddock with plenty of fans among aviation enthusiasts recently gave the town another reason to be proud.

The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission named Maddock Airport the 2018 Airport of the Year last month at the Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium in Bismarck.

Local pilot Pat Tracy told the Tribune, “I wanted to toot our horn, because we’ve done a lot. And it got tooted, so I guess it worked.”

Tracy, who said he received his pilot’s license about three years ago, became involved with the airport “since we formed the J.T. Rice Chapter of North Dakota Pilots for Christ.” Tracy serves as the chapter’s president.

Tracy joined other local pilots to form the Maddock- based chapter about seven ago and named it to honor the memory of a young Air Force Academy grad and pilot, J.T. Rice. Rice, who was born in Rugby, grew up in Maddock. He was killed in a plane crash in 2011.

Recent improvements to the airport, such as additions to the runway, and an active community of pilots inspired Tracy to contact the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission to nominate his home airport.

“We had a couple of big projects the last couple of years,” said Maddock Airport Board President Jason Lee. “So, now we’ve got a new runway, and a new taxiway from the hangars to the runway.”

“And the state of North Dakota has grants for some of that,” Lee continued. “It’s a 50-50 grant, so there was a lot of local money that had to go into this.”

“There’s a lot of good things we’re doing out there,” Lee noted. “We introduce a lot of children to aviation, free helicopter and airplane rides, and we feed you. We have one day where we have a big celebration out there we give food, and prizes; it’s in June.”

Lee said the fly-in celebration includes more fun: “We have a golf ball drop. Anybody who shows up gets a golf ball with a number on it. And after all the food is done, and before they start giving all these airplane rides and helicopter rides, we take all those golf balls up in the helicopter, and we drop them out of the helicopter. And they’re all trying to get as close as they can to a flag on the ground. And the golf ball that gets closest to the flag, they win the prizes. And the second-closest and third-closest get prizes, too. And then, we give airplane rides and helicopter rides. There are many, many children out there, and all the rides are free. Everything is free.”

Tracy said the J.T. Rice Chapter of North Dakota Pilots for Christ sponsors the fly-in event.

Lee estimated 12-13 aircraft are based out of the Maddock Airport. “They’re airplanes and helicopters,” he said.

The airport accommodates aircraft in emergency situations, and provides a place for medical evacuations when necessary, according to Lee.

“We have had helicopters from Grand Forks, and we have places for medical helicopters to land,” Lee noted. “The busiest time of year, of course, is the crop dusting season. There are a lot of airplanes coming and going out of there.”

Lee said three of the airplanes based in Maddock are crop dusters. “The rest are for pleasure.”

“It’s just a really active airport for a town of 350 people,” Tracy agreed.

“I took up flying a few years ago because of Pilots for Christ, and I love it,” Tracy added. “We’re absolutely having a blast, and there’s a great bunch of guys out there.”

“I’m 61 years old, and I’ve never had so much fun in all my life,” Tracy said, adding with a chuckle, “Well, the wife rates above that, but other than that, I’m just enjoying it.”

Lee, who said he worked as a crop duster for 18 years before he married, flies for pleasure now when he’s not busy with his family’s buffalo ranch in Benson County.

Like most pilots in the area, Lee said he’s impressed with the Maddock Airport’s #1 rank.

“We’re pretty proud of this,” he smiled. “Number one of 89 airports. And we’re your neighbors.”

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