Monday, February 02, 2015

Welcoming a new era in aviation: Dennis F. Cantrell Field Airport (KCWS), Conway, Arkansas

The last plane flew out of the old Dennis F. Cantrell Field on Saturday, decommissioning the old airport.

William Otto piloted the Cessna 180 that had belonged to his grandfather, Dennis Cantrell, and had been at the airport since 1957. Passengers on the flight were Otto’s mother, Pat, and brother, Bryant.

“Fortunately we get to be the last ones to fly out of here, and that will start a new era at the new airport,” William Otto said.

Pat Otto and Bryant Otto were also honored as the first to touch down at the new airport when it opened in September. William Otto was unable to attend with them as he had work obligations.

The old airport was named after Cantrell in the late 1970s after he had managed it for many years. Pat Otto said she practically grew up at the airport, as did her sons.

“My mom and dad had the airport all those years. The three of us were here seven days a week. That was before cell phones or even pay phones, really. You had to be here.”

According to the Log Cabin Democrat archives, Cantrell leased the municipal airport from the city in 1947 and maintained that agreement with the city until 1986.

William Otto said, “After his retirement, he maintained a hangar and had a presence on the field until 2001.”

Cantrell died in 2002 at the age of 94.

His three descendants who participated in the ceremonial decommissioning flight discussed the role of flight in their lives. William Otto pilots a corporate jet as his profession. Bryant Otto sells aviation fuel for Satterfield Oil and flies around the country to see his customers. Pat Otto enjoyed the fact that everyone in her family — her mother, Marjory; her father; her two sons; herself and her husband, Bill, all learned to fly. She noted that she and her two sons were all taught by Cantrell himself.

Pat Otto said her father wanted the airport to be the best it could be, and making it so was his way of promoting the community.

“He played a huge role in Faulkner County and the state. His forte was maintenance. He wanted it to be as updated as it could be so businesses would come and locate here,” she said.

William Otto added, “He was a big fan of promoting Faulkner County.”

The family said they were moved that the city of Conway named the new airport Dennis F. Cantrell Field, even though Dennis Cantrell was not directly involved in its formation.

“The three of us are very humbled that they carried the name forward,” Pat Otto said. “My dad was very much involved in the formation of the first airport, and we can leave this and help open the new one.”

William Otto added, “For everybody who has put their time and efforts in promoting aviation, this officially opens a new chapter in aviation.”

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