Airport of the Month: Glenwood
Winter flying up here in the north country can be a challenge. It was even more interesting back in the "good old days" when engine preheating was accomplished using everything from "torpedo heaters" with flexible duct work, to charcoal grills and trouble lights.
To hold in the heat, cowling was covered with old quilts, blankets, tarps, and moving mats. These days you just plug in the engine heater and soon it's warm enough to fire right up. Fitted cowl covers go on in minutes thanks to the miracle of Velcro. When it comes to pre-heating airplane engines, nobody wants to do it the "old fashion way".
All this convenience is mainly thanks to the ingenuity of Peter Tanis. Tanis was a mechanic, flight instructor, teacher, missionary pilot and inventor. While instructing at a technical school in Iowa, he developed a unique engine heating system that he patented. In 1977 Tanis moved to the Glenwood to manufacture his heaters and be the Fixed Base Operator at the municipal airport. Tanis Aircraft is still at Glenwood and still has the gold standard for engine pre-heating systems. Their product line now includes engine covers and ground heating systems for aircraft interiors all of which make for easier flying in cold weather. Peter Tanis was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 2011.
Aviation was first reported at the Glenwood Airport by the local paper in 1926 when Lloyd Owen was taking flying lessons there. That would make it one of the oldest general aviation facilities in Minnesota still operating at the original location. By 1929, the Glenwood Flying Club had been formed with 16 members and Glenwood Air Service, Inc. was in operation. The 160 acre facility was purchased by the city in 1940 and in 1950 the first public improvements were made at a cost of $24,095. In the early 1970's a runway was paved. Later an additional 160 acres were purchased and the paved runway was extended.
Peter Tanis picked a good airport for his business. Like the Tanis heater, today's Glenwood Municipal Airport is the gold standard. It's a rural general aviation facility with two long runways and excellent facilities. Runway 15/33 is 4500 feet long, paved and lighted, and equipped with Precision Approach Path Indicators or PAPI. There are GPS and VOR approaches. For anybody that still has the equipment and knows how to use it, a Non-Direction Beacon (NDB) is on the field. For the tail dragger crowd, there's a 2800 foot long, 200 foot wide turf crosswind runway. A nice arrival/departure area is available with flight planning and a meeting room in the building that shares space with the Tanis offices. Some good hangar space is available for based aircraft and there's a larger ramp for transient parking.
Glenwood seems to attract aviation entrepreneurs. Next time you're flying on the airlines, pay attention to the carts and conveyors that are used to load your baggage. They might have been made in Glenwood by WASP, Inc. a company that also manufactures tow bars for large airplanes, cargo dollies, and munitions trailers for the Air Force. Local pilot and retired game warden Jerry Matison resurrected and for eight years operated the company that manufactured the "Avid Flyer" kit plane. Jerry learned to fly in a J-3 Cub in 1973 and is now the unofficial historian for the Glenwood Airport.
Early settlers in the area discovered a wooded glen on the northeastern shore of Lake Minnewaska that made a sharp contrast with the surrounding prairie. That's how the town got its name. Minnewaska is known for great fishing, boating and other water sports. Glenwood is the home of LPGA champion Cindy Rarick and the area appropriately has some terrific golf courses. "Waterama", Glenwood's annual celebration, is on the last weekend in July. It features lots of food, parades on both land and water, a water show, fireworks, and all kinds of other entertainment.
When you arrive at Glenwood you'll find self-service fuel and of course there's plug-ins for your engine heater in the winter. The city has a courtesy car available at the airport. It should be a fun visit.