By Doris Newman
The contributions of Wayne Collins to the Wood County Airport and the community were celebrated on May 27 as the facility was rededicated as Wood County Airport Collins Field. Those in attendance included family, state and city officials, friends and fellow aviators.
Collins, born in Mineola in 1924, was a World War II veteran, retiring as a Captain in the United States Navy. He first learned to fly at Mineola Wisener Field in the mid-1940s. Collins has flown his Bonanza around the world twice. He also created the Bonanza Formation Flying Organization that flies in parades and other celebrations.
“I’ve known Wayne for a long time,” said TxDOT Aviation Director David Fulton. “Anything positive you can say about Wayne’s contribution to this airport will be an understatement. This airport would not be here, if not for him. I’ve been in aviation at the state level in two different states for 42 years and I’ve never known anyone who did more for their local airport than Wayne Collins. He is an amazing guy.”
Fulton also said that naming Collins the first recipient of TxDOT’s “Texas Aviator of the Year” award in 2008 was an easy decision to make.
In 1978 Collins began efforts to aid local economic development by creating a general aviation airport. He persuaded the cities of Mineola and Quitman to jointly fund the facility which opened as Wood County Airport in 1983. He chaired the board until 2008 and played a vital role in the addition of a parallel taxiway and a new terminal building, installation of an automated weather system and the extension of the runway. And, thanks in large part to his hard work, the airport was named TxDOT Airport of the Year in 2010.
Former Wood County Judge Bill Alexander was also present and had worked with Collins to develop the airport.
“He is a man of great integrity that was inspired to do something and had a dream of what could be done,” Alexander said.
“I’m very humbled and honored to have the name of the airport changed to the Wood County Airport Collins Field,” said Collins.
The ceremony concluded with Collins boarding his airplane with Airport Board Co-Chairman John Wisdom to make a low pass over the airport.