Following WWII, a number of individuals returning from service recognized the need for a local airport. The use of the piston-driven aircraft was on the rise, and there was a demand for flight training for local people interested in aviation.
Building the Airport
Glenn Degner served in the aviation branch of the Navy and was stationed at Pensacola, Florida with pilot Tom Walsh and mechanic Joe Dulak. The three decided to establish an aviation business upon their return to Owatonna. At the same time, the Owatonna Municipal Council purchased farm land on which to build an airport.
On April 28, 1946 the airport opened temporarily at Cashman’s Field on West Bridge Street while the new site was under construction. The opening day festivities drew a crowd of approximately 500 people. Operations commenced with the first take off by Tom Walsh, Chief for Southern Minnesota Aviation Services. The plane was a Piper Cub.
The construction of the new hangar took place during 1946 and 1947 under the direction of A. J. Wacek. It called for a $65,000 hangar building and four 2,000-foot sod runways. Operations were moved to the present site on July 14, 1947. Operations under the direction of Glenn Degner continued until 1974.
On October 20, 1987 the City Council of Owatonna designated the airport as the Glenn J. Degner Airfield. Mayor George Kehoe presented the proclamation at a special dedication service held on January 1, 1988 at the airport hangar facility.
Throughout its history, the airport facility has experienced numerous improvements. The most significant changes occurred in the 1990s with a multi-year $15 million improvement project. The length of the concrete runway was increased to 5,500 feet with an instrument landing system and parallel taxiway, new hangars, a new fuel system, parking lot, maintenance building, and first-class terminal building.
The community celebrated the tremendous achievement with a grand re-opening in August 1999 with a ribbon cutting ceremony, a fly-in breakfast, and a special guest LuVerne Degner, wife of Glenn Degner. The event also commemorated the new airport name: The Owatonna Degner Regional Airport.