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New owners, same feel for Galt Airport

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 4:27 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 4:51 p.m. CDT
Caption
(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Claude and Diane Sonday of Bull Valley bought Galt Airport at a foreclosure auction and have been making improvements including sealing and marking the 2,800-foot runway, taxiway and hanger aprons.
Caption
(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
A student and pilot roll down the newly sealed and painted 2,800-foot runway at Galt Airport in Greenwood. Claude and Diane Sonday of Bull Valley bought the airport at a foreclosure auction earlier this year.
Caption
(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Galt Airport manager Justin Cleland (left) and owner Claude Sonday park a 1942 Boeing Stearman in one of the hangers at the airport.
Caption
(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Galt Airport Director of Aircraft maintenance Brian Spiro returns from a hanger after checking on an equipment order for a customer.

WONDER LAKE – The smell of asphalt and the glitter of freshly-painted stripes greet visitors to Galt Airport under new owners Claude and Diane Sonday.

But the Sondays stress it will be the same small community airport with the same community feel that its regulars know and love, with the same name it’s had since Arthur Galt built it in 1950, although regulars affectionately call it by its FAA designation of 10C, or “One Zero Charlie.”

The Sondays, of Bull Valley, became the official owners July 12 after buying the airport and the 172 acres it sits on in a foreclosure auction.

The semi-retired couple that had owned the Harley-Davidson stores in Woodstock and McHenry didn’t have owning an airport on their bucket list, as Diane Sonday said, but as regulars since 1981, they couldn’t imagine a new owner unfamiliar with the small airport changing its feel or driving away the tight-knit community that uses it.

“It’s just a nice family-type airport because of the people here, and because they enjoy themselves, It’s their hobby,” said Claude Sonday, who took his first flying lesson in 1963.

But that’s not to say the Sondays aren’t looking to expand business once they finish maintenance deferred during the foreclosure.

They have increased the fleet for flying lessons from one plane to three, and are looking to purchase up to five more, Claude Sonday said. He hopes the aviation fuel station will be upgraded to self-service this fall, and that they will one day expand into selling used airplanes.

Expansion while maintaining the airport’s community feel sounds good to Justin Cleland, airport manager and co-owner of JB Aviation Management. His business partner, Brian Spiro, is aircraft maintenance director for the airport.

The two-man business has operated the airport since 2006 and kept it up and running through the foreclosure. It boasts 98 hangars and two runways – a 2,800-foot paved east-west runway and a 2,200-foot grass north-south runway.

Their worries about who, if anyone, would end up owning the airport, and what would happen to the community of Galt aviators have been assuaged by the Sondays’ purchase, Cleland said.

“It’s amazing how close-knit this community is,” Cleland said.

The property also includes a guest cabin, campground and stocked fishing pond for the hangar’s tenants.

“The people here are one of the main reasons we bought this,” Diane Sonday said during a Tuesday tour. “They take care of everything like it’s theirs.”

That community includes a chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and routinely hosts children’s aviation groups such as the Civil Air Patrol, the Young Eagles and scouting groups seeking merit badges.

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Galt Airport What: A small family airport that offers flying lessons, airplane rental, fuel and maintenance and hangar space rental. Where: 5112 Greenwood Road, Wonder Lake Contact: Call 815-648-2433 or visit www.galtairport.com

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