History of Rawlins Flight Service

Last updated 01/29/11

Submitted by Casper AFSS, Wyoming. 
Marilyn Maines (retired 2001) is author of the following history.  She spent many hours researching data at the local Casper library.  Marilyn,  thank you for caring.

Rawlins FSS (RWL), Wyoming

History Page

Facility Photos



Rawlins FSS made its closing broadcast at 10 pm on September 27, 1991.  Opening originally at Sinclair, Wyoming, as part of the transcontinental air mail route, the station moved to Rawlins Municipal Airport in 1949 and occupied two "S" type forest service buildings called "watch houses" that had been joined together.  The FSS remained in this building until it closed.

Rawlins Airport was built in 1934 by WPA labor and Beacon 29 was located at the airport.  Beacon 29 meant the beacon was located 290 miles fro Salt Lake City on Green Airway #3.  The sequences of the beacon's flashed gave this information to pilots flying over the filed.  In this early period of aviation, aircraft radios were unknown and the flashing beacons and earlier beacon fires were their only navigation and communication aids.  Mr. Ben Ashlock was the airways maintenance man in the early days at Rawlins and maintained all the GARBO (green, amber, red, blue, and other color) beacons so they would flash the correct information to pilots.

Rawlins FSS's 24-hour operation ended the summer of 1982 due to a staffing shortage, but part-time operation continued as aviation traffic declined with the decline of the energy boom in Wyoming.  During the energy boom, gas and oil production, coal mines in the Hanna area, and the refinery at Sinclair brought daily executive jets to Rawlins.  A large fixed base operation and the thriving Rawlins Flying Club provided training and charter flights needing the services of Rawlins FSS.

Two navigation aids monitored by Rawlins FSS were Sinclair NDB which was part of the old low frequency airway, and Cherokee VORTAC which was located at the site of an earlier light beacon on the 1920's beacon airway across southern Wyoming.  A third aid, Rawlins VOR/DME, was purchased and installed by the City of Rawlins in 1983.  Just prior to the VOR/DME installation, the main runway was lengthened from 5,000 to 7,000 feet and a crosswind runway was built and paved.

During the 50th anniversary of Air Mail Service, pilots reenacted the mail flights.  Personnel at Rawlins FSS provided services similar to those offered by personnel of the Beacon stations.  During its 42-year history, Rawlins FSS played host to pilots of NORDO (no radio) aircraft and aircraft with mechanical problems.  Movie actor William Hurt and astronaut Gordon Cooper both received weather briefings from Rawlins FSS specialists.  The singing group the Bee Gees were stranded in Rawlins when their bus broke-down and chartered an airplane to get them to a concert on time.

Rawlins FSS had its share of trainees who received early FSS training and experience, and then moved on to management positions in the FAA.  One trainee arrived in 1952, checked out as a specialist and stayed until he retired 39 years later.  From the first Field Station Manager, Mr. Charles W. McIntosh, to the last Manager, Mr. Tom Rorabaugh, Rawlins FSS was vital to the safety of flight along a major east-west route across America.

Can you help?  We want to build a Flight Service historical page.  Do you have access to any old photos related to Flight Service buildings, equipment, personnel, history, or other related historical data?


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