Illinois Grass Strip Airfield Ready for Next Generation of Owners

Shumway ‘Innernational’ Airport in Effingham has a 2,338-foot grass runway and development potential.

The airport’s hangar/shop and apartment. [Courtesy: Keith Hartman, RE/MAX Key Advantage]

Far too often we hear about airports being for sale after the fact. Most of the time, a new aviator will continue operating the airfield in its intended capacity. But other times—the runway will fade into distant memory.

Jack Poff, the founder of Shumway "Innernational" Airport (IL05) in Effingham, Illinois, hopes that the facility will still be used as an airport once it’s sold.

“Well, I sure hope we do get to sell it as an airport, because at the point it doesn’t sell that way, it’ll revert back to farm ground," Poff said. "And that would absolutely break my heart. I can tell you that I put enough work, love, and TLC into this property that I would hate to see it be anything else.” 

From the ramp during a fly-in. [Courtesy: Shumway Innernational Airport]

To understand Poff’s attachment to the airport with the 2,338-foot grass runway, you have to look back at why it was built. In 2006, the construction professional by trade decided to find a piece of land suitable for a runway, following the reentrance into aviation after a long break.

“After I got married and started raising a family, I was out of aviation for quite a while,” Poff said. “But after my son was born, he started getting interested in remote control airplanes, and we joined a club here in the area. The fellow that owned the place where we flew the remote-controlled planes decided to sell the property, and it was no longer going to be available for us to use."

Poff explained that flying remote control planes ultimately turned into flying fixed-wing aircraft again and the desire to own his own airport. That’s because the two had nowhere suitable for him and his son to fly. 

“Along the same time, I went up to EAA AirVenture [in Wisconsin] with my son, and we ended up over in the homebuilt section,” he said. “I had been out of aviation for a while, so I was asking some of the homebuilders what they would recommend, as far as planes to build. And they said, ‘definitely a Van’s.’ Within a year or so, I decided that we were going to start in on an RV-9A build.

“I bought the different kits to assemble and started working on them in my garage. It got to the point [in the build process] that I told my wife, ‘Now you’re going to have to start parking outside because I need more room to build my airplane.’ She told me that I was going to have to find somewhere else to build it. Along the same time, I was also looking for a place for the remote-control field. And then I thought, ‘Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Why not go ahead and find enough property to have a full-scale runway?’" 

Shumway Innernational Airport has a 2,338-foot-long grass runway. [Courtesy: Keith Hartman, RE/MAX Key Advantage]

Poff started talking to a local farmer who, after some persuasion, was willing to part with some of his land. But it would take several acquisitions to piece enough parcels together to create a suitable landing site. He wound up with 37.72 acres, where he built a 5,200 square-foot hangar/shop and an attached 2,344 square-foot, three-bedroom apartment.

Landing at IL05. [Courtesy: Shumway Innernational Airport]

The airfield has served its purpose well. For nearly two decades, Poff has flown an RV-9A from it, albeit a different one than he purchased shortly after his first visit to Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. He now believes that the time he spends mowing the airstrip will be better used toward finally finishing his nearly complete RV build.

“Sometime in the middle of doing all of the work last summer, I decided that I was spending an awful lot of time working on the airport and the runway,” he said. “But again, no time to spend on building the airplane, which now is going into its 20th year of construction. So, I’m getting really close, but I’m not done yet. I just want to finish it up. And frankly, after hosting fly-ins the last 15 or so years, I shouldn’t get all of the fun. Someone else should enjoy it." 

Poff said that over 350 people and 65 aircraft attended the last fly-in the airstrip hosted in 2022. It included a pulled pork luncheon cooked by his wife, Darlene. 

“Before I decided to sell the airport, I decided to improve the runway,” he said. “There were a couple of places where it was a little bit rough and there were some different things that I wanted to do. I wanted to move it 10 feet farther to the north to give it more development potential. If you’re going to develop lots, you need all the extra space that you can get. So we decided to [do that on the south side of the runway]. The airport was closed during all of 2023, and we got the grass planted at just the right time. It really looks great.

“Shumway Innernational has always been a favorite of all people that like to land on grass. I’ll say it’s their favorite place to land here in southern Illinois. And it’s even better now, in better shape than it’s ever been.”

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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