Rolla National Airport
A large construction, company recently moved its headquarters to the Rolla area, and is currently leasing office space at the Ralla National Airport, at Vichy. The firm is known as Johnmeyer Construction Company, Inc., and was formerly located at St. Clair, Mo.
The owner of the firm, Hillard Johnmeyer, who uses airplanes in his business, became acquainted with the Rolla National Airport manager, Lee Maples, and has purchased two airplanes from him. Airport property would make an ideal location for his business, especially convenient since he could obtain service for his planes and have them based near his office.
Negotiations with the city were entered into, and Johnmeyer signed a contract with the city for lease of office space, space for parking his equipment when not in use, and for the use of the landing runways. His firm primarily engaged in construction of telephone lines, and underground cable work, mostly under contract with Southwestern Bell.
He currently has projects underway in the states of Indiana and Oklahoma, and at Bolivar, Mo. Thus he keeps his two Rolla-based airplanes in use keeping track of the three far-spaced jobs. Currently, the firm has between 55 and 60 men employed, but in the summer months will employ as many as 120 persons, Johnmeyer stated. In addition to his office here, he has sub-offices at Springfield, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Farmington, St. Clair, and Florrisant.
Johnmeyer and two, other key employees have rented houses on the airport property from the city, and will be moving their families here as soon as their children are out of school.
The firm started business in 1938, and among its major projects in this area was the construction of an underground communications cable between Rolla and Springfield. Constructed for Southwestern Bell, the cable connects all area towns along the route with telephone service. Prior to that project, the firm constructed a similar underground cable between Springfield and Cabool.
Although primarily doing cable construction, the now Rolla-based firm also does rock blasting, winch truck service, pipe pushing, and other related construction.
Some of the Johnmeyer personnel at the open house were, Bob Johnson, company attorney, Hillard Johnmeyer, president; Melvin Wagner, production superintendent, Philip Collins, office staff, Richard Johnmeyer, St. Clair superintendent, and Lee J. Emmons, estimator.
Mr. Phil Collins of Vichy, is in charge of inter equipment rentals and job costing. He has been with the company 2 and 1/2 years. Mrs. Betty Feeler of Vichy, has been with the company one year doing typing of proposals, filing of invoices, and general secretarial work.
Mrs. Bernadine Winkler of St. Clair, (Bernie) is Controller for Johnmeyer Construction Co., Inc. She has been with the firm for the past six years. Mrs. Winkler is in charge of accounting, which includes accounts receivable, area manager's accounts, and group insurance. Mrs. Carol Jean Heck of Belle, has been employed one year with Johnmeyer Construction Co., Inc. in the capacity of payroll clerk, and the processing of time sheets.
The airport was originally built by the United States Army Air Forces in 1942 as a sub-base for Sedalia Army Airfield during World War II. It was designated as Vichy Army Airfield, and was used by I Troop Carrier Command for training.
The Third Air Force 76th Reconnaissance Group operated L-1 Vigilant and L-4 Grasshopper light observation aircraft from the airfield in the spring of 1943 in support of Army training at Fort Leonard Wood.
The airfield was vacated by the Air Force in March 1946; however it was re-activated by the United States Navy which used it as an Outlying Field (OLF) for Naval Air Station St. Louis. When the Navy ended its use, it was deeded to the city of Rolla in 1957 and became Rolla National Airport.
On October 15, 1958 Lee Maples, a respected businessman and aviator, was hired by the City of Rolla and then Rolla Mayor Eugene Northern as the first manager of Rolla National Airport where he served the needs of the airport and local aviation community until 1967.
If anyone could tell you the history of Rolla National Airport before and after it was an abandoned U.S. military Army Airfield where World War II pilots once trained, it would have to be Lee Maples.
In fact Lee liked Rolla National Airport so much he moved into one of the abandoned Army barracks when he was hired as the airport manager. He lived there with his family until 1970. The stories that he fondly recalls during his days at the Rolla National Airport are the stuff that books and novels are written about.
A U.S. Army veteran, who served and flew planes in the Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946 (he enlisted on Oct. 15, 1943), Lee transformed Rolla National Airport from a run-down, derelict military base to a thriving airport.
Not long after his nine-year stint as the first manager at Rolla National Airport, Lee started Maples Aviation in 1967 where he was a local Cessna aircraft dealer, charter operator, and flight instructor for aviators and ROTC Flight Cadets attending Missouri S&T (then known as Missouri School of Mines).
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Lee along with Ed Schmidt, President of Baron Aviation Services, Inc., had contracts with the Forest Service to provide air tanker support for wild fire control in Missouri’s national forests using a pair of converted WW-II vintage aircraft.
It was during this time that Lee began fostering relationships and began attracting businesses such as Kingsford Charcoal, Missouri S&T (then known as Missouri School of Mines), Brewer Science and various other businesses and state agencies who needed to fly in and out of the area for business.
The impact of the early in-roads Lee made to encourage air transport and business development in and around Rolla National Airport continues to live on with more businesses and state agencies using the airport to conduct business, tour the Rolla area or just touch down long enough to have their plane refueled for the next leg of their journey.
In 1973 Lee, along with his long-time friend and business associate Ed Schmidt, started Baron Aviation Services, Inc., which is headquartered at Rolla National Airport. The privately owned company, and largest employer at Rolla National, provides contractual services for FedEx Express Services, and operates a fleet of 36 Cessna Caravans for FedEX.
Located on U.S. Highway 63 in Maries County approximately 14 miles north of Rolla. The airport is owned and operated by the City of Rolla, and features two lighted 5500' x 100' asphalt runways. The airport is served by both nonprecision VOR/DME and GPS approaches. Available services include fuel sales, hanger and tie-down rental provided by the City, as well as hangar rental and flight instruction services provided by private businesses at the site.
Home base for 52 single and multi-engine planes, it serves as an important transportation hub for many large local businesses and government organizations, including Kingsford Charcoal, Wal-Mart, Garmin International, Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, Colton's Steakhouse, Phelps County Regional Medical Center, Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), and the State of Missouri. The airport averages over 22,000 operations on a yearly basis. The airport grounds also offer substantial potential for industrial & commercial development.
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