History of the Airport
The airstrip was built by the United States Army Air Force about 1942, and was known as the Lahontan Airstrip. It was an emergency landing airfield for military aircraft on training flights. In 1945, Hale Bennett, a World War II bomber pilot, was forced to land on the airfield when an accident closed Reno-Stead Airport. Although the airport was shut down after the war, Bennett remembered the desert airstrip.
More than 40 years later, Hale Bennett and his wife Kay, both private pilots, rediscovered the abandoned airfield. Although the runway was crumbling and full of weeds after so many years, they recognized the value of the open approach and level land. Together they have built an airport to be proud of. Hale passed on March 9, 2014 – he was 93 years old.
Article from Nevada Appeal, March 15, 2013, by Sally Roberts
At an age when many Americans are relaxing in retirement Hale and Kay Bennett decided to open an airport. “It isn’t just kids who do things like that” said Hale, who just turned 93, about the visionary project.
The couple met while serving on the Carson-Tahoe Hospital (now Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center) board of directors. Kay was a nursing supervisor at the hospital and member of the Carson City Board of Supervisors. She was appointed to represent the city on the hospital board. Hale, retired director of the State Division of Data Processing, was chairman of the board. They celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2013. Together, they worked toward improving the community.
In 1989, they heard about an economic development project in Fallon and decided to drive east on U.S. 50 to take a look. Kay Bennett said that Hale turned off U.S. 50 and down a rough road. A new pilot at the time, Kay gradually realized that they were on an old runway. Hale informed me that he had landed a B-29 on this strip. That was during World War II, during which Hale was a bomber pilot with the 553rd Squadron. He flew 68 combat missions over Europe, including two on D-Day. After the war, he helped train pilots.
In 1945, he was bound for Reno Stead Airport in a B-29 with a crew he was training, but an accident had closed that airport. He was diverted to the Lahontan Airstrip, as it was known then. Fast forward 44 years, and “There was nothing here except a runway that had almost evaporated” Hale said. They both recognized the potential buried under the weeds, and the Silver Springs Airport took root. “What we both saw right away was the open approach”, Kay Bennett said. “So much level land here. We could see a tremendous asset”.
“We were pilots,” Hale said. “We both love to fly. One way or another we were going to fly when we retired. I had acquired a nice airplane. We enjoy flying to new places and thought this was a good place for an airport.” The timing was right. The people who controlled the property wanted to get rid of it. The Bennett’s took over the lease, transferred the land back to Lyon County and negotiated a new 50 year lease that includes development of the land surrounding the runways and taxi ways. In return, the Bennett’s operate, maintain and insure the airport.
Kay Bennett, now 82, admitted that starting an airport was a daunting task, but together they brought political strength, creativity and knowledge to the project.