Louisiana Man Attempts to Revive a Family Aviation Tradition

McCutcheon Field Airport hasn’t had an aircraft associated with it in 30 years, but 20-something Ryan McCutcheon is trying to change that.

To look at this grass airstrip in East Central Louisiana, you wouldn’t know it was much at all, but Ryan McCutcheon is trying to change that. 

This piece of property has been passed down through generations of the McCutcheon family Several members of the family have learned to fly there. The runway, notated on sectionals as LA83, was the vision of Sidney McCutcheon, a Louisiana native farmer, rancher, and businessman. 

Ryan, Sidney’s great grandson, who plans to soon begin flight training, has recently taken an increased interest in the legacy flying field known as McCutcheon Field Airport.

“My great grandfather built this 2,300-foot airstrip in the late ’40s for my grandpa and great aunt,” Ryan said. “Over the years, many people, including my dad, have flown from this airstrip, and hopefully I myself will one day soon as well. 

“We’ve spent the last few months getting it back in shape and have plans for some bigger projects this spring.”

A look at the early construction of the airport in the 1940s. [Courtesy: McCutcheon family]

Ryan’s grandfather, Toler, and his sister, Mary Jo, were the first pilots in the McCutcheon family. Both became pilots around the same time that their father carved out a suitable landing site on family property he had owned for around a decade at the time. 

“The original tract of land the airstrip is on was around 750 acres. Today, the land is divided up between a few family members totaling around 500 acres,” Ryan said.

Legend says it took quite an effort to make sure that Sidney’s children (and now, great-grandchildren) had a convenient place to fly from. 

“From what I have been told, the airstrip took two years to complete and required a lot of dirt work to be done,” Ryan said. “I was always told that they pushed two big hills together to create the airstrip, so the construction must have begun around 1947 and the field was completed and [became] FAA official in August of 1950.”

The airstrip’s hangar, and a Piper Pacer once based at the airstrip. [Courtesy: McCutcheon Family]

Since its completion 72 years ago, the airfield has stayed in the family. Throughout this timeframe, the busiest times were the ’50s and ’60s, when “…there were many fly-ins hosted there.” 

These gatherings of family and friends at the runway boasted a number of aircraft, including some based at McCutcheon Field. 

“The first aircraft based at the strip was a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser. Soon after the airstrip’s completion, a Cessna 170 was purchased and then a Piper Pacer and finally the last aircraft based at the airstrip was a Cessna 172.”

There hasn’t been an airplane based at the field since 1990. But Ryan and his father Jeffery have talked about changing that. 

In preparation for another airplane to be added to the ranks that have called McCutcheon Field home, they’ve considered the runway’s future. These discussions have turned to recent heavy landscaping work undertaken on the property.

A Cessna 172, the last aircraft based at the airstrip, taxis down the runway. [Courtesy: McCutcheon family]

“Recently, we had the tree line cut back on both sides of the airstrip and cleared trees on the south approach,” Ryan said. “We are going to be doing some surface maintenance this spring trying to smooth the runway out and overseed some different grass.” 

It’s 95 feet wide and there are approaches from both ends of the private, north/south runway. There’s a discrepancy between the published airstrip distance and its actual available length, advised Ryan. 

“The runway has never had any extensions, it was originally measured as 2,100 feet, but later was measured with better technology as being 2,300 feet.” 

And with acres to spare on either end of the current landing strip, there is the potential to expand. 

“We have tossed around the idea of lengthening the runway some and trying to push it to between 2,500 feet and 2,700 feet, but that is really just for the hell of it. We have no plans to own a plane that would require that length of runway.” 

Currently, the father-son duo is considering Cessna 170s and Piper Pacers. Ryan explained why these two models are front runners. 

“[We are] wanting a plane that can do STOL flying but also can cross country too,” Ryan said.

And with the hope of keeping the field operational well into the future, continued upkeep is at the top of the family’s mind. 

“Maintenance will be cutting the grass weekly during the spring and summer and small dirt-work projects here and there every couple of years.”


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