Working my way home on US 20, about 10 miles outside of Casper, Wyoming, I approached the entrance to the Natrona County International Airport. For a moment I debated making the left turn because nearly all of the airports I’d visited in the preceding several weeks were deserted, with few signs of aeronautical life. And those small town airports that advertised their empty hangars for rent as storage units were downright depressing. Still, to the side of the drive was a sign that looked like a historical plaque, so I turned. My reward was unexpected.
The history sign said the Casper Army Air Base was one of many military fields built after America’s entry into World War II. Crews started building the base, with its four mile-long runways and 400 buildings, in April 1942. The first airplane landed and commenced training operations five months later, in September 1942, Call me seriously gob smacked. Is it “progress” that there is no way either military or civilian leaders and workers of today could duplicate this feat today?
Given the decades that had passed since the war’s end and the airport’s transfer to Cody and Natrona County, I honestly did not expect to see any of those 400 buildings. And then there was an adjacent sign listed the airport’s tenants. A mix of aviation and nonaviation businesses, they ranged from FedEx, Atlantic Aviation, and the Casper College of Aviation to Conway trucking. Still, it was warm and sunny and worth a ride down the drive to put my nose through the airport operation area fence.