AOPA is seeking support from South Dakota pilots as the state considers closing a small airport nestled within the Black Hills.
Custer State Park Airport is a small field. It features no fuel, no based aircraft, and no hangars. And the single 4,000-foot runway is deteriorating—due for a full reconstruction.
Due to the deterioration and minimal use—records show that just 50 transient aircraft stopped at the field in 2022—the state is considering closure of the airport and is seeking public comment on that action.
AOPA believes the value and potential of this airport can be expanded if the field is given the proper attention and consideration. Advocacy experts from AOPA will be submitting comments to the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Commission (GFP) to make recommendations that fit the character of this field and are encouraging pilots and AOPA members to do the same.
AOPA will be asking the GFP to remove the deteriorated pavement and turn the landing surface into turf, which will make it more sustainable for maintenance and attractive to investment. A turf runway is easier to maintain, accessible by nearly all light general aviation aircraft, and attractive to backcountry flying enthusiasts.
Additionally, AOPA will be recommending the GFP invite organizations like the Recreational Aviation Foundation to invest in the airfield. The RAF has an invaluable volunteer network, and the organization’s grant program has a high success rate of turning minimally used or forgotten airstrips into high-value destinations for pilots. For an airport with backcountry potential, like Custer State Park Airport, investing in airport infrastructure such as pilot shelters, campsites, and transportation could bring in a lot more pilots for recreational use. AOPA is working with RAF state liaisons in South Dakota for insight into the airport, and facilitating communications between the RAF and state officials.
Any pilot or airport advocate who wishes to submit comments with the GFP must do so by the public comment period deadline on September 29.