The Grove Regional Airport will soon get new wings with the completion of a year-long construction project that propels the community’s airport into a top-notch state-of-the-art airport in northeast Oklahoma.
“We have one of the top non-controlled airports in northeast Oklahoma,” said Marty Dyer, city council member and a 10-year veteran pilot.
A controlled airport employs air traffic controllers such as the Tulsa International Airport.
Dyer, who flies his four-seat Cessna 182 into several small airports, said the condition and upkeep of the Grove airport is better than average.
“The runway and fuel prices are by far better than others,” Dyer said.
Airplane fuel is typically $1 to $2 dollars higher than automobile fuel, he said.
From a 3,500-foot grass strip established in 1960 to an airport that covers more than 210 acres, the Grove Regional Airport outgrew its municipal airport status and is now classified as a regional airport by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.
“Since we are a regional airport that’s why we see so much money coming from outside sources,” Dyer said.
The grass strip has undergone several changes over the past five decades, including a major facelift that is expected to be completed in October that includes a 4,500-square-foot terminal and a 100,000-square foot apron.
Over the years a fuel barn, runway extension, and upgraded light fixtures were just a few of the improvements added to the airport.
The airport boasts a 5,250 x 75 ft. runway with two terminal buildings, a Fixed Base Operator, 30 private hangars and 22 t-hangars.
A t-hangar is a long building that holds individual bays for airplanes.
“I fly into numerous small airports,” said Jeannie Wheatley “I have not found another airport as nice as Grove.”
Wheatley’s first trip in a small plane was with then airport manager Bob Vernon in 1982.
“I was hooked,” Wheatley said of that first adventure.
It wasn’t until 2003 that she started lessons.
“It took me quite a few years to finish due to children, their activities, and work,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley flies a Cessna 172 housed at the Grove Regional Airport.
Fuel can be full service or self-serve seven days a week, 24-hours a day, she said.
Many airports do not have this, Wheatley said.
The quality and length of the Grove’s airport runway is user friendly for small or large airplanes and jets, she said.
“On any Saturday the airport can be like a small air show,” Wheatley said.
Lisa Jewett, Grove Municipal Airport Manager, said she is always willing and prepared to meet the pilot’s needs.
In the summer, there are between 350 to 500 people a month that utilize the airport, Jewett said.
“This doesn’t include the businesses that fly in and out,” Jewett said. “We had one jet with 14 people last week.”
The airport also sees bass anglers, who fly in to meet their drivers, when there are major fishing tournaments on Grand Lake, according to Jewett.
“Customer service is our most important goal,” she said. “In addition to our full service pumps, we have two fuel trucks to service larger aircraft on either side of the airport.”
The Grove Regional Airport is able to serve all general aviation traffic and all business jets up to 90,000 pounds. Jewett said the largest jet to land at the airport was a 70,000-pound Global Express.
“We’ve also had a Gulfstream IV (G4) on several occasions,” Jewett said.
Grove Regional Airport is critical to major employers in the city, Jewett said.
Several Grove companies have aircraft based at the Grove airport and as a retirement and tourist community, the airport is vital to those traveling to and from Grove, as well as those who own lake homes here, she said.
Grove Regional Airport is also the closest airport to the Missouri state line, so many Tyson Foods representatives fly in and out of Grove.
With the increased air traffic that brings people to Grove’s hotels and restaurants, she said.
“We serve many of the larger businesses in the industrial park, as well as the hospital,” Jewett said. “Many doctors fly in and out the airport weekly to see their patients.”
Many emergency transfer services land helicopters and planes on the runway to meet ambulances in order to transfer patients, Jewett said.
How It All Begain
It was a 55-year-old hospital connection that birthed the Grove airport, Jewett said.
“Dr. Norman Cotner had a vision for the airport,” Jewett said.
Not only was Cotner instrumental in founding INTEGRIS Grove Hospital, then called Grove General Hospital, but also building the hospital was contingent upon the community building an airport, Jewett said.
“The first airport board meeting was held in Dr. Cotner’s office,” Jewett said.
Those founders included Coy Smith, Jewel Hicks, Riley Hunt, Grayden Epperson and Owen Butler.
The only office was attached to an 8-bay T-hangar, Jewett said.
A number of famous people have flown into the Grove Regional Airport.
Former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys head football coach Barry Switzer, golfer Jack Nicklaus, musician Aaron Tipton and comedian Ron White, all have departed flights out of the Grove airport. Jewett said Roy Clark, who maintains a residence on Grand Lake, also bases his airplane in Grove.