Winsted Municipal Airport

In November 2012, aspiring young pilots began meeting in Marty Ziermann’s hangar at the Winsted Municipal Airport Saturday mornings, assembling an RV-12 experimental light sport aircraft.

“It’s kind of a dream I had to help the youth get involved in aviation,” Marty said in February 2013.

The free class is just one example of many activities that have taken place at the Winsted airport.

The airport became city property in 1962. In late 2011, construction began on a 1,100-square-foot airport arrival/departure building, which replaced a 700-square-foot terminal from the 1980s. In June 2012, the building was dedicated in honor of Winsted resident Russ Paschke.

Paschke, 87, passed away about six months later, in December 2012. A plaque in Paschke’s name is on display at the arrival/departure building, serving as a reminder of the countless hours Paschke spent maintaining the airport and keeping it safe for others.

Paschke was involved with the airport for 35 years, and served as airport commission chair since 1988. He was also the airport manager, monitoring and conducting maintenance at the facility, and calling in the status of the runway.

In the winter, when the runway was closed because of a heavy snowfall, Paschke was the one who would walk out to the field through the snowdrifts to turn off the runway lights, letting pilots know the runway was closed.

“He has been out there fixing the runway lights when the bulbs were burned out or the gophers chewed the wires off. Many springs, he spent hours on the tractor pulling the roller back and forth on the runway to smooth out the surface,” former airport commissioner Dave Millerbernd said during an airport open house in 2009.

Capital improvements

Maintenance and improvements needed to keep the airport a viable asset to the city and its hangar owners has been done through annual capital improvement projects, with the majority of the costs paid for through federal funding.

Improvement projects, along with future development of the airport, are considered each year. Recommendations and priorities of various upgrades are made by the airport commission, with final approval given by the Winsted City Council.

Business is taking off

• Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified flight instructor Darrin Mason offers pilot training through MasonAir. The flight school offers instruction to become a private pilot or sport pilot, as well as training in tail wheel endorsement, flight review, instrument proficiency check, and instrument rating.

• Westside Skydivers owner Joe Johnson began his skydiving business in Winsted in spring 2010. It is the only skydiving center in the country to offer customers a choice in altitude, with jumps from 13,000, 18,000 or 24,000 feet. Johnson opened a second location (in Houston, TX) in November 2012.