Henry W. Wulf was born on January 10, 1924 at Falls City, Nebraska . He attended several rural grade schools and graduated in 1942 from Falls City High School. After graduation, he worked as an auto mechanic until being drafted in 1943 to the U.S. Navy. After several internal combustion engine schools, Henry was joined by several other specialists to operate a squadron of Aircraft Rescue Boats (ARB’s) intended to be used to rescue pilots and crews from aircraft downed at sea. He was discharged from the Navy in December 1945.
After returning home, Henry helped with the sale and disposition of many horses and mules during the closing of Ft. Robinson, Nebraska in 1946-47. It is now operated by the Game and Parks Department of Nebraska as an historical site used for camping and recreation.
After receiving a BS in civil engineering from the University of Nebraska in 1957, Henry was tested and passed the registration requirements for a Professional Engineer.
From the fall of 1951 to March 1960, Henry was employed by HWS Engineering and assigned to projects of planning, surveys, pre-construction conferences and project observation on villages, cities, counties and private utility projects that needed upgrading. This wide variety of projects served him well on the planning and construction of water, sanitary sewer systems, storm sewers, electrical distribution systems and electrical vaults on airports. He did preliminary surveys on the extension and renovation of runways and facilities on the Lincoln Airport conversion from a military airport to public airport. He also served on the survey crew for the United States Air Force and proposed sites to be used for hardened, below ground missile silos in southeast Nebraska. This work required a more exact level of surveys for the siting of Atlas missile facilities in Nebraska.
In March of 1960, Henry started to work for the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics and in 1965 became Assistant Airport Engineer. In March of 1982, he was elevated to the position of State Airport Engineer.
During his years at NDA, Henry helped to revise the statewide zoning handbook for public airports to control the height of structures in the vicinity of an airport. He also assisted the Lancaster County Planning and Zoning Board in creating regulations to control the height of structures and the use of land in and around the approaches and land immediately next to a general aviation airport that is registered by the Lancaster County Board and NDA. Henry pushed all airports to update their height restriction zoning and by the time of Henry’s retirement 75% of Nebraska airports were thus zoned.
Henry always thought of how aviation facilities could be improved. He worked with airport sponsors and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop new runways, extend runways and construct hangars. He planned trips to visit airports all over Nebraska. At each location, he would meet with Airport Authority Boards, City Managers, Mayors or anyone interested in developing the airport. He explained how federal funds could be obtained and what obligations would be incurred.
Henry participated in the site selections for new airports and coordinated funding. Several new airports as well as new runways were built across the State because of Henry’s tenacity in making things happen. He envisioned a State Airport System which had an airport in every county and within thirty minutes driving time.
In 1985, the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) program was started, which Henry developed. Nebraska was the second state to do this. He understood that if maintenance was not performed, there were not enough funds to reconstruct pavement. He made sure that everyone in NDA’s engineering department understood the importance of this and that repairs were a priority. Because of Henry’s urging a state team was started to assist airports with maintenance and crack filling.
The Seal Coat program evolved at this same time. Under this program, the airport hired NDA as their engineer (free of charge) to seal coat asphalt pavements. All Airports were grouped into one bid, so prices were lower. NDA paid 75% of the construction costs and 100% of the engineering costs. This led to improved pavements and longer pavement life, which reduced the need for overlays and reconstruction.
State owned AWOS (automated weather observation systems) were installed as a result of Henry’s efforts. NDA received a FAA grant, which was unique at the time. Seven were installed in 1990, shortly after Henry’s retirement.
Henry envisioned that every airport in the state would have an instrument approach. He insisted that zoning regulations be developed for the most critical instrument approaches to all runways. Twenty years after Henry’s vision, the FAA has developed a satellite navigation system which can bring instrument approaches to every airport in the state that has clear approaches which meet the instrument criteria. Due to his efforts in airport zoning, many of Nebraska’s airports have clear approaches.
Henry was instrumental in developing (with National Geodetic Survey & Nebraska Department of Roads) geodetic control in the airport vicinity consisting of permanent survey marks accurately connected to the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS). This control and the NSRS connection assures accurate relativity between surveyed points on the airport and between these points and other surveyed points in the National Airspace System (NAS). These survey points are Permanent Airport Control Station (PACS) and Secondary Airport Control Station (SACS). Some of the points have local relevance because they were named for local pilots & airport officials.
Henry was State Airport Engineer 24/7 until he retired in March of 1990. During 1960 to 1990 there were 272 state grant projects, 214 hangar loans and 320 federal grants at 73 Nebraska airports. Without Henry’s visions and tenacity, the airports in Nebraska would not be what they are today.
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