The Northwest Arkansas from which Louise Thaden emerged is a far cry from what it is today. Gone are the small, muddy communities, replaced by the glass and steel of one of the most robust areas in the entire country. Thaden Field has evolved right along with the area to provide a vital service to the rapidly growing populace.
“Flying is becoming a lifestyle in Northwest Arkansas and specifically at the Bentonville Airport, Thaden Field,” said Chad Cox, president/director of aviation for Summit Aviation/Runway Group there. “Over the last eight years, we have placed focus on where we would like to see aviation grow and are starting to see the fruits of this work.
“Many Americans think of aviation in terms of utility. The expectation of adventure and fun is often missed due to the grind of commercial travel and commercial airports. By contrast, we see Thaden Field as a jump off point for adventure.”
Over the years, the organization has introduced many innovations in programs and services from a flight school to a flying club to an in-airport diner dubbed Louise facing the runway. Cox said improvements have only been limited by the boundaries of regulatory approval.
“There isn’t any one limiting factor for growth and developments,” he said. “But when you are doing something that is different than how things are normally done, the process tends to take a little longer, and the burden of educating the regulators falls on us.
“That said, although many of our objectives have taken longer to implement than we wanted, the FAA, our partners at the city and other organizations have always worked together to find a way forward.”
The diversity of services has enabled the airport to withstand the challenges of 2020 better than other stand-alone aviation entities, as the waiting list for the pilot’s school and increased fuel revenues of the FBO (fixed-base operator) attest. And that, Cox insists, bodes very well for the future.
“We are set up well today at Thaden Field to serve the customers from the moment they pull up to the front door,” he said. “In the coming year, our runway gets longer and wider, more hangars will be built, and the focus on customer service will continue to be refined. Our passion is finding ways to better serve the flying community.”