Turkey Mountain Airport Welcomes Pilots to Its Community

The Missouri airpark is well known for its fly-ins and other events.

Fly-ins are largely known as one of the best ways for airports of all types to bring pilots and nonpilots together for a few hours of enjoyable camaraderie and conversation. Turkey Mountain Airport (MO00) is no stranger to fly-ins, having hosted a series of get-togethers for two decades. 

Judy Reynolds has enjoyed breaking bread with guests to her airport in Shell Knob, Missouri. Reynolds said she looks forward to these summer events, notably the fly-ins that feature a distinct menu and have been a staple of the local flying scene since they began. 

“The airport itself was really built in 1970 by the four guys that did Turkey Mountain Estates,” Reynolds said. “...I want to say there are 700 lots, and I would say that of those there are 40 full-time homes and several lake houses with many empty lots around. My husband and I got involved with the airport in 1992, when we moved down here. At the time, there was a runway, a nine-hole golf course, a clubhouse, and a swimming pool. It was my understanding that as they were selling lots that you automatically got use of all of that. Well, that didn’t bring a lot of money in, so then they began to sell things off.”

This uncertainty became an opportunity for neighborhood members to consider the airport's future and step in to keep it going. 

“I can remember my husband [Marshall] coming home and saying that the guy that bought the airport and the rest of the property can’t keep up with the mowing,” Reynolds said. “The airstrip, which is 3,950 foot long by 80 foot wide, takes quite a bit of time to mow and trim by itself, let alone a golf course. So, he wanted to sell. The first thing that my husband did was talk to the other members of the airstrip to see if they would be interested in buying this together. At first, everyone was really excited about it, and then the next thing I know, it’s down to four guys then three guys and finally two guys. In 1994, another couple and us bought it.”. 

Reynolds added that they ran the airport without incident for several years. But then in 1996, her husband had a stroke, and she had to take over their portion of the upkeep responsibilities. In 1998, he died, and five years later the other couple moved away, leaving her solely in charge.

[Courtesy: Turkey Mountain Airport]

“Before that, I debated about selling out my portion of the airport to that couple,” the energetic octogenarian said. “Because I’m not a pilot and he was. But the pilots came to me and said that it would be helpful if I stay on and run the airport, so I didn’t sell and instead took the rest of the share. So, since 2003, I’ve pretty much run the airport on my own, with help from a lot of people. I mean a lot of people—neighbors, pilots, and family. …I started having fly-ins at that time. We have six fly-ins, starting in May and ending in October.”

She added that when they purchased the airport, it was to promote and preserve aviation. It was never meant to be a money-making operation, and she can honestly say, with a laugh, that the goal has been met year over year.

“My hobby is the airstrip, but as I got older, I thought again about selling the airstrip,” Reynolds said. “Our only child, my son, is not a pilot either. He suddenly said he would come down from the Kansas City area and help us mow. I didn’t mind mowing because you can solve all of the world’s problems when you are mowing, but I didn’t know how to take care of equipment. I’ve been fortunate for those that help us out with everything. I’m just kind of a woman of leisure…”

Her favorite activities now include mingling with the dozens of folks who arrive from as far away as Texas and Minnesota for the highly anticipated fly-ins.

“You just never know how many people are going to come,” she said. “One time…we had 64 airplanes! It usually averages 15, 20, or 25 planes, and I’ve been really pleased seeing young guys who join us. I know that flying is an expensive hobby, so many times it cuts out the younger generation. But I am really pleased to see that there are lots of young guys that seem to be coming in, along with the older ones.”

All pilots know that one of the best parts about flying is the food. The crew at Turkey Mountain is well aware, knowing its grub is one of the reasons pilots come and join them time and again. 

“My favorite fly-in is the one where we have the ‘omelet in a bag,’ which I’ve always done in June, July, and August,” Reynolds said. “I do it simply because most fly-ins have pancakes, which we are doing in July. This is unique. It’s different and people get a kick out of it because they’ve never ever done it before. They want the recipe and, of course, I [joke with] them I’ll have to kill them if I give it to them because that’s a signature meal. 

“In the past, I always advertised hamburgers as ‘MO00 burgers’ and [hotdogs as] ‘MO00 dogs,’ and made them all beef. You see, when we took over the airport, the call sign was ‘40M.’ Then the FAA called me and said that they were changing the identifier to ‘MO00.’ And I said to the person that called, ‘Wait, that is moo. That sounds like a cow, and this is Turkey Mountain Airport!’ I don’t think he saw the humor.”

The well-kept grass strip isn’t just used for those coming in who laugh about the disconnect in naming convention and served fare or those looking to crack the recipe of Reynolds’ world-famous omelet recipe. It’s also heavily utilized by pilots who frequent the area for other reasons.

“I have a membership for the airstrip, No. 1,” she said. “There are a number of people that have lake homes in the Shell Knob area that fly in on a regular basis. These folks come in from all over. There are no homes on the airport property here, just hangars. I just own the airport and things on the west side of it. On the east side, it is owned by another gentleman who is putting hangars up over there. I understand that he is changing the covenants, maybe, and will include houses. They weren’t set up that way initially, but I think that he is planning to have it where people could put [in] a home if they want to.”

One could go on forever about memories from fly-ins past, and the future of the long-standing grass strip. But really the best way to learn all of this and more is directly from Reynolds, one of the country’s most beloved fly-in hosts. 

Here is Turkey Mountain Airport’s 2023 event schedule, with updates available for viewing on its Facebook page.

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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