• Cumberland Airport Has New Name

    Posted on August 29th, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    Four years ago, nearly to the day, we wrote regarding a suggestion to rename the Waukesha Airport. The suggestion came from the editorial staff of the Waukesha Freeman newspaper. Our article, What’s In a Name, discussed Wisconsin’s airports, their names, and how or why that name was chosen. We disagreed with the suggestion to change Waukesha’s and the change didn’t come about.

    Fast forward to late August 2013 when WAHF member/supporter Brad Volker, Rice Lake, shared an article from the Cumberland Advocate. The article details the histories of two airport benefactors whose work will be acknowledged as the City of Cumberland changes the airport’s name from Cumberland Municipal Airport (KUBE) to Toftness/Erickson Field. We thank the Cumberland Advocate for providing permission to reprint their article. We also recognize the article’s author John Ostrem, a member of the Cumberland Airport Commission.

    Commission to name Airfield after local aviators

    Toftness / Erickson Field
    Aviation pioneers Irving Nordeen “IN” Toftness and Willard “Bud” Erickson will have the Cumberland Airfield named in their honor at the Fly-In pancake breakfast held during the Rutabaga Festival, Sunday August 25 at 10:30 AM. Mayor Tom Mysicka will officiate at the ceremony honoring each of these pilots that started the Cumberland Airport in June of 1946. Today the Airport with its 4,000’ hard surface runway, arrival and departure building, 17 hangars with 21 aircraft represents a nearly $10 million replacement cost and serves 11,000 landings/takeoffs each year.


    Local chiropractor “IN” Toftness moved to Cumberland in 1932 fresh from Chiropractic College in Davenport, Iowa. He became interested in aviation taking flying lessons in 1939. His wife Louise followed earning her pilots license which was extremely unusual for a woman in those early years of aviation. They had no children and flying became their “only hobby“ according to Dr. Tom Toftness of Cumberland. IN and Louise flew their small planes to the four corners of the United States whenever they had time off from the clinical practice.


    Toftness saw the need for an airport and in 1946, together with CJ and Linda Burton purchased 40 acres of farm land at the current airport site to create their own field. The original airport had several small “T-Hangars,” where airplanes were kept and serviced. Records indicate mechanic Ray Peterson had several small training planes operating on the field. Peterson is the uncle of current Airport Manager Al Seierstad.


    Throughout his flying career IN Toftness owned five different Cessna airplanes and gave rides to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and residents of Cumberland. Many tell of their first rides and citizens remember Toftness flying low over town late at night to signal people to take cars to the airport to light the runway.


    In addition to the original 40 acres of land, Toftness and Louise made a significant gift in excess of $200,000 for constructing a hard surface runway. Federal funds were available but without the generous gift from their Living Trust, the Cumberland Airport would have remained a grass cow pasture.


    Our second aviation pioneer is Willard “Bud” Erickson who also dedicated his life to the Cumberland Airport. Erickson was a highly decorated Navy fighter pilot with service in WWII and the Korean War. Following the 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing, Erickson declined a deferment for farming and went to Navy Flight School to follow his dream of flight. Erickson flew 14,400 hours in Navy airplanes and achieved the rank of Lt. Commander. Erickson and wife Doris returned to Cumberland following the Korean War and Bud flew for the Department of Natural Resources as a fire watch spotter and enforced game laws.


    Erickson spent countless hours working with Federal officials to get navigation beacons and lights at the airport and could always be found on the mower and snow blower taking care of the runway. Erickson saw the need to build a longer hard-surface runway to accommodate larger planes so he and Doris generously traded land from their home farm with a local farmer to create the runway.


    The longer runway allowed the State of Wisconsin to designate Cumberland as the loading site for aircraft taking hearing impaired school-age children to a residential school in Delevan. State planes would load students every Sunday afternoon and return on Friday evenings throughout the school year.


    Over the years there have been many businesses at the airport including a travel agency, charter flight service, aircraft and instrument repair facilities, and Romeo Aviation Flight Training School. The airport is used by local businesses including 3M, Seneca Foods, engineering companies, SW Bell Communications, and when the weather is below minimums helicopters from the hospital use the radio beacons to land.


    Both Toftness and Erickson families had aviation as part of their heritage. Mark Erickson is a pilot, Max Erickson is a commercial pilot for UPS flying an AirBus 300 and several of the Toftness relatives are pilots and commercial pilots.


    We have come long way from the early years of Cumberland’s grass strip in a “cow pasture” to the high tech airport with GPS navigation, weather forecasting, and communications systems.


    IN Toftness, whose passion for aviation was matched by his world class respected chiropractic procedures and responsible for starting the airport. Lt Commander “Bud” Erickson, a frightfully young patriotic farm boy launched from aircraft carriers in two wars defending American freedoms, whose leadership and dedication to safety was responsible for so many improvements that we take for granted today. Mayor Mysicka said, “We are very lucky to have such an excellent airport as a community asset and we have these pioneers to thank. It is a great honor for our City to name our field after them.

    Changing an airport’s name to recognize the passion and dedication of two local aviators and sharing their history makes sense. It is a change we can support. Congratulations Cumberland on your “new” airport.