The Zangger family airport at Larchwood became one of the oldest privately owned and operated airports in the state. Russell was born in 1922 on the family farm. His wife Marie, who was always called “Dolly”, was born in South Dakota in 1924. After marrying Russell in 1944, she taught at a one-room country school for $80 a month. Russell received $65 a month for helping his father on the farm. After Russell inherited the western portion of the Zangger half section, he established an airport.
Dolly had been interested in aviation since the age of eight. Her older brother had been the advance man for two barnstormers, one of whom gave the young girl her first flight. Dolly soloed the family 125 Swift in 1950 and received her private pilot license in November 1952. A teacher by profession, she obtained her basic ground instructor certificate in 1958 and taught ground school in the basement of their home. That certification was followed by the advanced ground instructor in 1959 and the instrument ground instructor in 1967. She taught 10-week courses and tutored persons wanting to become instructors.
At age 18, Russell Zangger was mowing hay when he decided to become a pilot. Without telling his parents, he took his first lesson at Sioux Falls in a Luscombe. After logging four hours of instruction, he found that he couldn’t pass the flight physical and stopped flying. After finally passing the physical, he bought a 1946 Taylorcraft BC12-D for $700 on February 11, 1949. The owner soloed him. On the second day of March that year, he received his private license. The following morning, he began carrying passengers from the hay field on the farm. As people in the community became interested in flying, he taught them and then flew with them to Sioux Falls, where a licensed instructor legally soloed them. At the insistence of many potential pilots, he took the written tests for the flight instructor rating and then called for an appointment for his check ride. The examiner suggested that he obtain five hours of dual from a certified instructor. The check ride was passed. In the spring of 1958, he obtained his instrument rating and a year later his instrument instructor rating. He never charged extra for instruction in one of his aircraft, feeling that it was assurance that his rental aircraft would return intact.
Russell and Dolly Zangger have owned, financed and operated Zangger Airfield on the family farm in Larchwood, Iowa since 1949. The airport boasts two runways, and is the first airpark in Iowa featuring homes with direct private hangar access to the runways. Russell, born in Larchwood on February 22, 1922, received his Private Pilot’s Certificate in 20 days from start to finish. In 1953, he received his Flight Instructor rating and began giving lessons. Since he only had a private pilot’s license and not a commercial license, he was unable to charge for lessons he gave. Born in South Dakota on August 26, 1924, Marie (Dolly) was the first female in Iowa to make her initial solo flight in a 125 Swift after receiving only 6 hours of dual instruction. In 1958 she opened and operated the first aviation ground school in northwest Iowa not associated with a college, at the couple’s home. Between the two of them they have trained nearly 3000 students. Russell and Dolly became members of the Civil Air Patrol in the 50s. They received the Meritorious Service Award and medals from the United States Air Force for 2,500 hours of active duty at their Ground Observer Post. The Zanggers have the unique distinction of being the first couple to be inducted into The Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame in Greenfield, Iowa.