Thomas County Airport in Thedford Celebrating Recent Renovation

Thomas County Airport in Thedford Celebrating Recent Renovation
Members of the TCAA board present when Congressman Adrian Smith saw the renovated airport firsthand. (L-R) Herb Hall, Jack Johnston, Congressman Smith, Pastor Ron Masten, Tim Maseberg. Absent member was Roy Licking. They are in the new $1.5 million hanger that was built in 2020. Photo: Terri Licking

THEDFORD–The Thomas County Airport in Thedford is one of a select few Nebraska airports to receive millions of dollars in federal grants through the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP) in orer to replace the runway, increase the taxiway, and complete additional renovations.

The airport in Thedford is the aviation hub of the sandhills and is one of the only airports in about a 65-mile radius.

The Thomas County Airport Authority (TCAA) board would like to educate the public that the airport at Thedford is a true economic blessing, now more so than ever after the recent renovation.

The TCAA members include Tim Maseberg, Herb Hall, Roy Licking, Pastor Ron Masten, and Jack Johnston–President of Thomas County Airport Authority and Thedford Airport Manager.

A special lunch and program is scheduled for Friday, October 1 to celebrate the major completion, funded via federal grants in the amount of $4.365 million.

The new concrete tarmac is doubled in size from the old one. Shown is the orginal hanger built in 1998. This renovation was the first major one since then. Photo: Terri Licking.

The multi-million-dollar grant money came not from the taxpayers, but from the fuel tax on the special fuel that airplanes require. It started when President Trump designated $1 billion for the renovation of rural airports. Each state was awarded an allotment and Nebraska received $9 million.

In his press release in 2019, Governor Ricketts stated there had been more than 30 airports apply for funding, only 3 were accepted. The other two airports were Red Cloud and Gordon, with Thedford receiving almost half of the funds.

“We truly believe we were awarded for our due diligence in applying,” stated Ron Masten. “We went to the hearing in force, a physical presence. We had great photos to show them our dilemma taken by Jack [Johnston]. We are central and remote. People do not realize how busy this airport is. Jack counted one day 81 planes landing, of course the professional golf courses at Mullen makes for a large part of the numbers as planes come in and drop off golfers several times a day,” Masten explained.

“The TCAA would have loved to expand the runway from its current 4400 feet to the FAA designated 5000 needed for large jets, but expansion to that degree was not allowed, so to compensate, they did allow ‘teacup turn arounds’ on each end, Johnston continued.

“I showed them photos of how dangerous our taxiway was when corporate jets landed, the 16 inches of leeway they had before they dropped off in the sand. They allowed us to widen it from 25 ft to 35 ft.,” Johnston said.

The longest running board member, Tim Maseberg, told Terri Licking, “The land where the airport is now, was a school section land we purchased that took a lot of clean-up from us. The government gave us an enticement of $500,000 if we could make an airport here happen – which we did.”

Maseberg’s enthusiasm for an airport near the village is in honor of his late father who was a WWII bomber pilot.

The airport was built south of town, north of the weather doppler that resembles a large white golf ball. In fact, the golf course leases some of the airport land. There was a fly-in at the dedication of the airport in the summer of 1998. It was a timely occurrence, as in March 1999, a two-day fire occurred that between Mullen and Thedford, burned over 70,000 acres. Without the airport and the ability of planes and helicopters to land, refuel and fill their water tanks, the devastation would have been much worse. Governor Johanns used it when he came and surveyed the damage.

Paulsen’s of Cozad was the contractor for the renovation. Asphalt was the foundation when the airport was built. Paulsen’s removed all asphalt, piled the grindings up and the county and village are using them for their road repairs.

“They built two roads with the grindings, that once their projects are done, they remove, but we told them to leave them, so our roads into the airport are better than the sand and gravel one we had coming from the cemetery. There now is a road from US 83 as well,” stated Johnston.

The TCAA is inviting all who had a part in renovating the airport, building the new hangar that was erected last year, and anyone interested in seeing the new offerings. One can fly in, or drive, but all are encouraged to come see this updated economic treasure in the heart of the Sandhills.

Friday, October 1: Lunch at 12 p.m. Dedication ceremony at 1:00 p.m.

Directions – Coming from town, turn south at Ewoldt’s Grocery, follow the signs. If coming from North Platte, turn west.

Other Improvements:

New LED runway and beacon lights – they use a fraction of electricity the old ones did. The runway lights are set at 10%, but pilots can increase the lumens from their planes as they approach if needed.

New security cameras – which are linked to all TCAA board members’ phones.

Both types of fuels airplanes require – 100 LL and Jet Air; self-serve pumps. This allows planes and pilots to remain in town, using the motels and restaurants and other businesses, thus adding to the economy of the community; or leave in a fraction of the time required at larger airports.

Another $250,000 grant was obtained earlier this year for a long-range plan of continued improvements at the airport. (Click here to view the July 16 story.)

For more information or to RSVP for October 1 – contact Jack Johnston – 308-645-9016.
TCAA website –

Click here for a feature story about the Thomas County Airport from Business View Magazine.

The new runway lights and beacon at the Thomas County Airport south of Thedford are LED lights that use a fraction of the electricity. Pilots can increase the lumens on the runway from their planes as they approach if needed. Photo: Terri Licking
The 2 types of fuel needed for airplanes – self-serve credit card pumps. Sandhill Oil of Thedford is the provider of fuel, thus enhancing their business as well. Photo: Terri Licking.
One of the machines used for the renovated runway. Paulsen’s of Cozad was the contractor. Photo: Terri Licking