Grass runways are heaven to pilots. There are many benefits, not the least of which are that grass is easier on equipment and can make almost any landing look perfect.
So, when fellow shortwing Piper pilot, John Moes, suggested we find a mission for a peaceful summer evening, I figured, “What the heck? Let’s find some grass!”
We found it in Dyersville.
“If you build it, they will come.” It’s definitely a great line from a great movie, but it also applies for the quiet but well-kept Dyersville Airport. (And no, we didn’t have time to play any baseball on this trip!)
Located just west of the city of Dyersville, this grass runway is like taking a step back in time. Two old hangars are home to some old but capable airplanes, and two local airmen were there to greet our arrival with open arms and free soda.
This airport is an example of something that’s being quickly lost in the grassroots aviation community. These airports are gems that are dying off and playing second fiddle to the larger, commercialized airports of larger cities. Unfortunately, they’re also where we often find some of the most passionate aviators and amazing stories.
Our destination (IA8) was about 34NM east of our home base of Independence (KIIB). It’s an easy flight along Highway 20, so if you find yourself lost, it might be time to take up golf or woodworking instead.
After a quick and smooth flight, we set up for right traffic on RWY29 at Dyersville. It’s a simple approach with no obstacles to speak of, except one on this particular night: the sun.
Our final approach had us both looking straight into the sun, but we made it work. I’m glad I was in a familiar airplane and could rely on some “feeling” of the approach, as the sun was definitely a distraction.
No worries, though. We arrived safely and found a patch of grass to let the airplanes rest. We were greeted immediately.
We spent quite a bit of time sitting and talking with the local pilots and those who care for the small airport. We learned how the city supports the airport and the relatively high amount of traffic that comes and goes from this little spot in the middle of cornfields.
But we also learned that, like many places such as this, the land is rented and the end could come at any time for this beautiful place.
After finishing our root beers, we decided we should probably beat the sunset. We had also planned a stop in Manchester (C27) as well.
We launched into the sunset and reversed course.
We had an absolute blast on this flight. From a flying standpoint, it was great.
Ultimately, the lesson I took away was that these little airports just don’t stick around that much these days. Heck, even bigger airports are struggling. They are gobbled up by cities, housing developments and any other type of “progress” someone can dream up.
Go experience one of these airports. Pilot or not, you will be welcomed, and there will usually be someone enthusiastically waiting to tell you why your local airport might just be the real “field of dreams.”
Hansen, along with his family, blogs at www.weownan airplane.com.