Brown County, South Dakota, enjoys a rich aviation history. According to Brown County history, the first municipal airport in the state was established in 1921 on 100 acres of land on the Tri-State Fairgrounds north of Aberdeen. This airport had two runways, each 2,500 feet in length, and provided hangars, fueling and repair services.
Aviation activity in the area continued to grow and prosper. Brown County history reports that Security Skycraft Corporation began offering scheduled air transport in 1921 at $0.50 per mile with five planes operating. In 1923, Aberdeen hosted the first fly-in event in South Dakota. In 1927, Dakota Airplane Company moved to Aberdeen to manufacture aircraft propellers.
In 1930, the region’s interest in airline transportation grew rapidly with Mamer Air Transport’s certification by the U.S. Department of Commerce to fly a Minneapolis-Spokane route. In response, Aberdeen voters approved a $20,000 bond issue for the purchase of 160 acres of land at the present airport. Funds were also allocated for the graveling of runways and construction of a steel hangar. This new site was believed more suitable for airline services than the fairgrounds site.
Originally named Aberdeen Municipal Airport, the name was changed to Saunders Field in 1946. This change was made to honor Brigadier General Laverne “Blondie” Saunders, a WWII hero from Aberdeen. In 1979, the name of the airport was changed to the Aberdeen Regional Airport in order to closely identify with the airport’s role of serving the populations of northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota. The name Saunders Field was retained in reference to the airport’s airfield area. The terminal was also renamed the Aviation War Memorial Building.