Working with his father, Russell was farming crops and raising polled Hereford cattle. Without his parents' knowledge he had taken his first flight lesson in Sioux Falls, in a Luscombe. He was enthused but was unable to pass the airman’s physical. He was soon drafted for service in WWII but failed that physical as well and then bought a Harley Davidson. He courted his wife to be on the Harley Davidson as it burned less gas which was advantageous during the gas rationing. They married in 1944 and rode in 45 of the 48 states until their son Jimmy was born in 1949. They had a couple of serious accidents and Dolly suggested that Russell take another airman’s physical. He passed and soloed in three days with five hours receiving his private license a mere 20 days later. He bought a Taylorcraft and kept it on the farm in a new hangar. Their son Jimmy was born in 1949 and the airport had begun its life as well.
Quite a few friends and neighbors expressed an interest in aviation as well and Russell showed them everything he knew. They then went on to receive their pilot’s license and purchased airplanes. Dolly was one of the students and received her private license after soloing a 125 Swift. She also soloed a 145 Swift, Taylorcraft, Luscombe, Cessna 150, Tri-Pacer and a Stinson L-5. Her log book has an endorsement from the WWII Flying Ace Joe Foss, who was willing to ride with her in the Swift for a proficiency check. Russell built a three place hangar in 1953 and more students were interested in flying. Another three place hangar was built in 1956 while Russ received his instructors rating, commercial license and instrument ticket. Dolly was trained as a school teacher so it was a natural step for her to receive a ground instructor’s certificate. A new maintenance shop was built in 1958 and yet another three to four place hangar built in 1959. The business was growing fast and in 1958 the farm was put into the soil bank program and Russell and Dolly pursued the aviation business full time.
The north/south runway was hard surfaced as traffic was heavy enough to prevent good growth of grass. Russell was very busy with the flight instruction, Dolly was teaching two or three primary ground school courses each week and many students were trained during this period. Russ was also flying FAA Part 135 charter trips with one of his customers being Bishop Hoke, who blessed the quintuplets from Aberdeen. Another of his charter customers was Myron Lee and the Caddies as they flew to many of their concerts. Russ also taught Myron to fly during this time. Russell was using three Taylorcraft BC12-D’s for primary instruction, a Cessna 140 which was traded in on a new 1959 Cessna 150 for advanced and instrument training and a Tri-Pacer for charter work. The shop was used by John W VonNeida who was one of the first Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics in the state of South Dakota. The Zangger airport was the only airport in Iowa that had four runways during this time. The thought was that when a student returned from a cross-country trip he should be able to land with as little crosswind as possible. This would help guarantee the safety of the student and the aircraft. The last hangar built was a five place T-hangar built in 1968.
Ground and Flight Instruction continued during this decade and many more folks were trained by Russell and Dolly. One of the philosophies in Russ’s training was to instill sound judgment with common sense and safety in mind. With 9/27 returned to crop land, the farm was active again.
This was the decade that aviation saw a major decline in manufacturing and student starts were falling off as a result. The airport still housed seventeen airplanes or so and some activity remained but fuel sales and the general level of activity had declined. The remaining grass runways were returned to crop land leaving 17/35 as the sole remaining runway.
Russell and Dolly were renting out the farm and doing general upkeep on the airport. They had essentially retired from active flying but still had occasional students for both flight and ground training. It was at the beginning of this decade that they sold off four lots for residential development. And thus the residential airpark saw its first aviation residents. Runway 12/30 was re-established and the airport had two runways again.
The airport had been listed as a “private use” airport for many years due to a change in the setback distances for obstructions near a runway. The hangars at the north end of 17/35 were too close, by the new FAA standards, and a displaced threshold would have been necessary which would have limited the length drastically. Now, with 12/30 available again, the airport was re-instated as a “public use” airport with the sod runway being the public use runway. The property was re-zoned from agriculture to residential to support the planned continued development of Zangger Vintage Airpark.
Throughout their aviation careers they feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and work with so very many wonderful, fascinating people from every walk of life working towards the common goal of learning to fly! In following the lives and careers of former students it’s gratifying to Russell and Dolly to feel that, just maybe in some small way, they really did make a difference.