La Crosse, Wisconsin is the site for the 60th annual Wisconsin Aviation Conference, May 11-13, 2015 at the La Crosse Radisson Hotel, located along the mighty Mississippi River. Nestled in the river valley between Wisconsin and Minnesota, La Crosse Regional Airport will host the event, which is cosponsored by the Wisconsin Airport Management Association (WAMA), Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association (WATA), and the Wisconsin Business Aviation Association (WBAA).
La Crosse and its residents have long had an association with aviation that started only eight years after the Wright brothers’ first took flight in December 1903 when area residents took their first airplane flight. In October 1911, Hugh Robinson, a regional daredevil, gave a flying demonstration to people who had gathered at the fairgrounds. Robinson returned several days later and landed a hydroplane on the Mississippi River to deliver airmail to the city.
The city’s first airport, Salzer Field, was established in 1919. The airport was located on the city’s south side on approximately 80 acres of land owned by the Salzer Seed Company. A group of local aviation enthusiasts formed the La Crosse Aero Club.
The city and the chamber of commerce had the foresight to believe that aviation would catch on and would help bring economic growth to the area.
In 1926, the city purchased the land known as Salzer Field, thus becoming the first airport in La Crosse. Shortly thereafter, Northwest Airlines began the first commercial service to La Crosse.
In 1932, the La Crosse County Board leased a field on French Island to serve as a new airport. The new two-runway field, known as Pfafflin Field, was dedicated as the new county airport on August 18, 1935. The City of La Crosse purchased Pfafflin Field in February 1946. The airport was dedicated as La Crosse Municipal Airport on March 1, 1947. Northwest Airlines began scheduled air service the same day with five daily flights.
By 1990, the airport had grown to approximately 1,380 acres including a new terminal building.
In August of 2013, the airport was renamed La Crosse Regional Airport.
Today, the airport supports approximately 19,000 operations each year. The original runway layout is still in use, but many improvements have taken place over time. Two of the runways have seen expansion to 8,742 feet and 6,050 feet. At 8,742 feet, the La Crosse airport has the third longest runway in the state of Wisconsin with Milwaukee having the longest and Madison the second longest.
The airlines process nearly 90,000 enplanements and 180,000 total passengers annually.
Colgan Air is the full-service fixed base operator located on the east side of the airport. The airport has nine commercial hangars and 64 T-hangar units, and a contract air traffic control tower. For those fly and diners, there’s a special general aviation parking area on the west side of the airport north of the airline terminal building. An airport restaurant and car rental agencies are located in the terminal building.
Clinton Torp, Airport Manager
Clinton Torp is the airport manager at La Crosse. He has over 10 years of experience in airport management, eight of which have been at La Crosse Regional Airport. Torp received his B.B.A. in Aviation Management from the University of North Dakota and his M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Torp holds a commercial pilot certificate with single and multi-engine instrument ratings and has 250 hours of flight experience. Torp is currently president of the Wisconsin Airport Management Association, treasurer for the 7 Rivers Alliance, and a certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives.