By Barry Amundson
March 14, 2022, 08:07 PM

It’s now officially Florence Klingensmith Field in Moorhead

The Moorhead Municipal Airport was renamed in a vote by City Council on Monday night.

A person walking next to a plane

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Moorhead’s Florence Klingensmith, shown here in this historical photo from the early part of the last century, has had the city’s airport renamed in honor. ~ Minnesota Historical Society

MOORHEAD — It’s official.

The Moorhead Municipal Airport is also now known as Florence Klingensmith Field, in recognition of the pioneer aviator born in 1904 in Oakport Township and raised in Moorhead who was famous for her stunts and air races against male pilots.

The City Council unanimously approved the renaming after the leader in the renaming movement, Marisa Bengtson-Loerzel, said the move was more than just honoring Klingensmith, who died at 28 when the aircraft she was flying malfunctioned 

The Moorhead woman said the recognition was also about celebrating the city’s history, igniting more interest in the airport, hopefully inspiring more people to follow their dreams and educating people about one of the city’s heroes. Bengston-Loerzel said the cost for the renaming would be minimal as they will simply put up a new sign at the airport. She added, though, that she hoped they could in the future get a historical display about Klingensmith installed at the airport.

Klingensmith, whose maiden name was Gunderson, started her aviation career after watching Charles Lindbergh land at Hector Air Field in Fargo in 1927. In 1928, she experienced her first skydive and by 1929 had become the first licensed female pilot in North Dakota.

She was also a charter member of The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots who promoted the advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and mutual support.

Her story was shared in a New York Times best-seller, “Fly Girls,” whose author Keith O’Brien had a chapter about Klingensmith . In the book it focused on the prejudice, tragedy and hope of the five pilots he featured as they were blocked from being accepted as pilots and flying in races because they were women.

Bengston-Loerzel said she has become friends with O’Brien and that he was here when the mural at Ace Hardware on Main Street was dedicated.

Council member Deb White said the move to rename the airport was overdue and she had been surprised in the past that more hadn’t been done to recognize one of Moorhead’s own.

Council member Heather Nesemeier added that the timing was good as Bengston-Loerzel noted that this was Women’s History Month and that Women of Aviation Worldwide Week just ended.

The city’s Airport Committee had last October unanimously approved the renaming but also wanted public input.

Community Development Director Kristie Leshovsky said the response was overwhelmingly positive from residents with the Federal Aviation Administration and Minnesota Department of Transportation notified of the plan without any comments or concerns.