By Randy Grubbs
Charles T. Reeder was a major influence in the history and growth of the Twin Falls Airport. Born in Appleton City, Missouri, Mr. Reeder had a natural knack for machinery, especially cars and motorcycles. One day when he was a teenager a barnstormer came to town. As he circled overhead a wind driven siren on the airplane made lots of noise. When he landed in a nearby field everyone in town went to see the plane. Mr. Reeder spent the next couple of days cleaning oil off of the plane and was rewarded with his first airplane ride. His love for aviation started that day and would continue for the rest of his life.
In the late 30’s, two of Mr. Reeder’s brothers moved to the Wood River Valley. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Reeder got on his Harley and joined them. He got a job at Sawtooth Motors in Hailey, where he pumped gas and worked as a mechanic. When Sun Valley opened up he moved there and worked as a bus driver and mechanic.
Mr. Reeder would ride his Harley to Twin Falls to take flying lessons in a Piper J2 Cub with a 55-hp engine. He would later come to Twin Falls in his new Ford Roadster. Mr. Reeder traded the car for his first airplane, a Piper J2 Cub, and he and his two brothers and a cousin built his first hangar north of Ketchum. The property at the time was owned by the Lane family and Mr. Reeder was the only one that they ever let build there.
In 1941 Mr. Reeder married Ione Jarvis. He had to borrow a car from his roommate to go on a honeymoon because he only owned a Harley and an airplane at the time. Soon after the wedding he and his bride moved to Twin Falls and started Reeder Flying Service. The company offered flight training and aircraft rental and the city also hired Mr. Reeder as the airport manager.
April 9, 1942 was a very special day for Mr. Reeder: he earned his Instructor Pilot rating and his first son; Charles (Dick) was born. On Aug. 2, 1944 his second son John was born. The business was growing, too. Mr. Reeder added aircraft maintenance, fuel sales and charter service, and the company became a Cessna Aircraft dealer.
During this period it was very difficult to share his aviation-business ambitions with bankers, so times were very difficult. Mrs. Reeder was very important to the success of the business because she would get up every morning at 3 a.m. and bake pies to sell to local restaurants (Depot Grill, The Bowling Alley, Curry Store and Café). This helped support the family so Mr. Reeder could continue to invest in the business.
In 1946 his first daughter Mary was born and Mr. Reeder became one of the first members of the local Civil Air Patrol Wing. At the end of World War II the GI bill gave veterans the opportunity to learn to fly and many of them earned commercial and instructor ratings. This was a big boom for Reeder Flying Service; Mr. Reeder continued to buy more airplanes and continued to work very hard to make the business a success. During this same period crop-dusting came to the valley. Mr. Reeder got involved in this part of aviation right away and the business continued to expand.
On Sep. 22, 1952 his second daughter Barbara was born, and on Apr. 16, 1956 his last child a son Robert was born (now a Captain for America West Airlines).
In 1957 a lot of people thought Mr. Reeder had lost his mind because he bought four old WWII Torpedo Bombers. People couldn¹t imagine what he would do with them, but Mr. Reeder had an idea. He brought them home, mounted tanks in the bottom of them, and started large-scale spray operations for the BLM and Department of Agriculture. Those first 4 aircraft soon grew to a fleet of 10, the largest fleet in the United States. The aircraft were used all over the United States and eastern Canada spraying rangeland and forests. A few years later Mr. Reeder started using the fleet to fight fires, replacing the spray tanks with interchangeable fire retardant tanks. The fleet fought fires all over the western US. Eventually Mr. Reeder found an even larger airplane suitable for fire fighting, the B-26 Bomber, and incorporated four of those aircraft into the fleet.
In 1960 Mr. Reeder bought his first helicopter. Over the next few years that one helicopter grew into a fleet of 13. These helicopters did all kinds of work, including fire fighting, hauling people and supplies to offshore oilrigs, power line patrol, and scenic flights. They operated all over the Western US and Gulf of Mexico.
In 1983 Mr. Reeder sold the business to John and Dick. John is the President and Dick is the Vice President and chief pilot. After his retirement Mr. Reeder continued to visit the airport. You could see in his face that he was very proud of his two sons in the way the company was being run and the new directions the company was going. During his retirement Mr. Reeder restored a 1933 Model 45 Harley Davidson motorcycle and a 1923 Dodge Touring Sedan. These vehicles won several awards in competitions, and they are both on display today at the airshow.
Mr. Reeder left a lasting impression on the aviation community and the Magic Valley. His aircraft innovations led the way in many fields; he and his company helped thousands of Magic Valley residents earn their pilots licenses.
Randy Grubbs is the Line Service Manager for Reeder Flying Service. Our thanks to John Reeder for providing the background information for this tribute.
Charles T Reeder
Reeder Flying Service