The city commission voted in late April to rename the Mandan Municipal Airport in honor of Jim Lawler. The new name will be the Mandan Regional Airport – Lawler Field.
Jim Lawler was the face of aviation in Mandan for over 40 years, and passed away last October. When he first started working there as a young man, the Mandan Airport was simply a few dilapidated buildings and an asphalt runway. However, under his guidance, the airport grew to become a thriving hub of North Dakota general aviation.
The Mandan airfield is home to a variety of businesses, including an aerial crop-spraying company, two aircraft maintenance facilities, an aviation medical examiner’s office, and multiple flight instructors. Aircraft are housed in the five public hangars and 14 private hangars, and the runway has been upgraded to concrete with LED lights and Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI’s). Other notable additions have been an instrument approach and weather reporting station. This impressive amount of growth, all under Lawler’s direction, is the reason the airport has changed from “municipal” to “regional”.
To make the name change happen, the Mandan Airport Authority Board elected a committee. The members include R.D. Reimers, Tom Neigum, a close friend of Lawler, Sharon Lawler, his wife, and current Mandan Airport Manager Lindsay Gerhardt. Dr. Dale Klein, the former Mandan Airport Authority Chairman, was also a part of the committee and presented the proposal to the City Commission at the April meeting. “From the day it was suggested to the board, I was bound and determined to make this happen.” Gerhardt said. “Although, anyone who knew Jim knows he would have protested. It is a testament to how selfless of a man he really was. I’m so proud to have known him and to have had the honor of learning a thing or two from him, in the short time we had together before he passed. There is no one more well-deserving than Jim for this honor.”
The airport name is already updated on the Mandan City website, but the official name change could take several months after submission to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Once it is approved, online airport information resources will reflect the name change. The airport identifier will also be changed from Y19 to KJLL, which are the syllables in Lawler’s name. Gerhardt explained, “We originally wanted KJIM, but FAA rules prevent identifiers from having two of the same letters within 200 miles of each other. And with Jamestown (KJMS) so near, it was not an option.” The airport identifier will take longer than the airport name to officially change, but once that happens, local pilots will need to schedule a GPS update for their aircraft. The Mandan Airport is actively working to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Jim and Sharon Lawler