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Was there ever an airplane landing strip in Seagate?

Ben Steelman

Yes, Seagate had its own landing strips — the Carolina Skyways air field, also known as Peiffer Field, which was active immediately after World War II.

Actually, plans for the field were announced as early as November 1944 by three Wilmington businessmen: J.P. Wilson (who acted as president), John Colucci jr. and William D. Cover. The trio bought a 40-acre tract from G.H. Rogers, five miles out of town “on the new Wrightsville Highway,” near the present-day intersection of Oleander Drive and Greenville Sound.

According to stories in the Wilmington Morning Star, the men hired Z.A. Sneeden to grade two grass-covered runways, one 1,800 feet long and the other 2,000 feet long, and each 150 feet wide. The enterprise — formally incorporated as Carolina Skyways in April 1945  — planned to offer flight instruction and aircraft charters and rentals as soon as wartime restrictions were lifted.

By October 1945, another Morning Star story suggested that as many as 150 students were taking lessons through Carolina Skyways. The company had four aircraft on the premises, including a Waco biplane, two Aeroncas and a Piper Cub. Carolina Skyways was apparently also acting as Aeronca’s local sales representative.

In April 1946, Fred Braun, Carolina Skyways’ chief flight instructor, was named the area’s flight examiner for the Civil Aviation Authority, the predecessor to the modern FAA.

A change of ownership took place in July 1946, when Carolina Skyways was taken over by brothers John Rehder, as maintenance supervisor, and Burk Rehder, a war veteran and a former instructor at Wilmington’s Pennington flying school, as chief instructor.

The story in the Star, announcing the new lineup, noted that the Rehders had recently had the landing strips mowed, suggesting that they had passed through a period of neglect. The two landing strips, which crossed each other, were now listed as 1,800 and 1,600 feet long and 100 feet wide. A photo accompanying the news story showed the Rehder brothers posed in the cockpit of an Army transport plane which was now part of the Carolina Skyways fleet.

A 1947 photo spread in the Morning Star showed a Wilmington Aero Club event at Peiffer Field, with local pilots taking off to land on a beach near Rich’s Inlet.

A July 29, 1948, story in the Morning Star noted that Peiffer Field had been closed after vandals dug holes in the landing strips. References to the airfield and Carolina Skyways seem to drop from news clippings after that. Burk Rehder was later noted as working for Carl Dunn as an instructor at Wilmington Airpark, another local airstrip once located in the general vicinity of Independence Mall.

User-contributed question by:
Michael Ward
Michael Ward

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One Response to “ Was there ever an airplane landing strip in Seagate?”

  1. On May 27, 2011 at 11:26 am Janet Allen Padrick wrote:

    I remember this field was in operation when I was a young girl living at Seagate. If I remember correctly a plane took off and crashed into a 2-story home across which belonged to a family named Hinnant. A young boy named Johnny Hinnant lived in Seagate and I believe he lived in the home that was struck by the plane. Tell me I am not dreaming.

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