Occasionally while spending time outdoors in the Little Spokane River Valley, one might see a low flying airplane overhead. There is a good chance that it has just taken off, or is returning to the Mead Airport. This airfield has been a part of our community for decades. The following article gives a brief history of this one-of-a-kind property.
- Article by: Doug Kelly –
The Mead Flying Service (AKA The Mead Airport) was founded and developed starting in 1927 by my great grandfather, Walt Erickson. He bought two 40 acre pastures from his father-in-law during the Depression. The first buildings were a pilot’s lounge and 5 single plane hangars, built in 1935-36.
During Prohibition a local group known as the “Rumrunners” flew whiskey down from Canada. The Rumrunners flew Eagle Rock biplanes with OX-5 water cooled V-8 engines and land on the 40-acre pasture that would later become part of the 200- acre airport. The contraband would be transferred to the waiting cars of the Spokane area bootleggers. If law enforcement was laying in wait in the nearby woods and bushes, a white sheet would be placed on a car and the pilot would divert.
During World War II, General Wallace and the US Army leased the Mead Flying Service for training and to establish a civilian pilot training program. Flight training was conducted in WACO UPF-7’s and Fairchild PT-19’s. Those who completed the program became pilots in the US Army Air Corps. After the war, Walt conducted a flight training program until 1951 under the GI Bill.
In 1974, my grandfather Bud Erickson (Walt’s son) and his family took over the management duties, but Walt continued to live and work out at the airport until 1982. The runway was paved in 1977. My great grandfather passed away in 1986 and Bud became the owner of the current Mead Airport, and the surrounding land was sold by other family members. By 1991, the Mead Flying Service was reduced from its glory days of 200 acres, 30 hangers, 50 + planes, mechanical service and gas to just 50 acres and 13 hangers. Due to the selling of some of the land, the diagonal airstrip was no longer able to be used during a crosswind. In 1995, the hangers were moved to their current location and a new pilot’s lounge was built.
My grandfather Bud passed away in 2005 and his wife Pat (my grandmother), ran the Mead Airport until the spring of 2013. Today the fourth and fifth generation is running the Mead Airport. Bud’s grandson, Walt’s great-grandson, Doug Kelly and his family now manage the airport. Like the Grandfathers before him, Doug has always been fascinated by planes. He plans to keep the Mead Airport going as long as he can. Providing an affordable outlet, as Bud once said; for “just average folks” who fly for recreation.