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Nebraska Department of Aeronautics
Mr. Ronnie Mitchell, Director

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rollie harr

Rolland A. Harr

Rolland (Rollie) A. Harr was born in Ainsworth, Nebraska on July 4, 1918 and was raised by his grandparents. He attended Ainsworth and Chadron elementary schools but graduated from Chadron High. He then attended three years of college at Chadron State. It was here that Rollie learned to fly in a Federal civil pilots’ course and flying became his passion. Harr finished college with an additional semester at Omaha University for secondary training and then went to Hastings College for both a flight instructor and commercial pilot’s license.

He and his wife, Faye, and their son relocated to Chadron where Rollie taught ROTC flight school. When he went to Army Flight School during WWII, he had already accumulated more hours instructing than his instructors had time in the air.

Harr’s career in Nebraska aviation included the position of Nebraska’s state pilot in the mid 1940's. He gradually became involved in the problems of the State Aeronautics Commission. He became secretary of the Aeronautics Commission in 1943, which was the forerunner of the State Department of Aeronautics. Fourteen years later, he became the head of the department. The department supervised the use of revenues from the state aviation gas tax, supervised and approved airport improvements and gave final word on all airport programs. This led to the direct operation of five former Air Force bases which Nebraska took over following WWII. Harr took an active role in a decision made by a seven-state regional Civil Aeronautics Board which boosted Nebraska air service to third in the nation. Seventeen of Nebraska’s cities had air service. This experience qualified Harr to head a newly created Airport Authority director position in Lincoln.

His beginning salary was $7,800 a year in 1959. At that time, the airport was operating out of an old office at Union Airport. Harr was instrumental in moving Lincoln’s general aviation operation to it’s present location. It was the country’s first use of a SAC military base with civilian runways. Two railroads and a highway were moved to make way for the 4000 foot runway and the general aviation terminal which opened in 1960. The Authority’s budget the first year was $90,000 but by the time Harr retired the annual budget exceeded $20 million.

During his time as director, Harr developed the industrial park, built a new terminal, had to deal with an air traffic controllers’ strike, fare differentials that drew travelers to Omaha and even took his turn on a snow plow if necessary.

After retiring in 1983, Harr remained active behind the scenes until he and his wife moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1989. Harr still lives at Sierra Winds retirement home. He is as active as his 91 years will allow.

 

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