The name Royce K. Knight doesn't stand alone as that of the pilot any more. Now there is a "Royce K. Knight Airport" in Page.
Knight, who helped pioneer aviation before, during and after construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona and along the Utah-Arizona border, was recently honored with a plaque and at special dedication ceremonies of the airport that will bear his name.Knight, one of the area's first pilot, was not only instrumental in building and operating the former Page Airport but was also instrumental in the founding and development of the city itself.
In a proclamation signed by Page Mayor Gary Scaramazzo, Knight was cited for contributing to the development and growth of Page, for spearheading expansion of air services and for "the foresight to come to this area before it began to develop."
After a stint as a flight operator in Cedar City, Knight and his wife, Dora, established an operation for a short time in Kanab in the 1950s. That was when the Bureau of Reclamation first located offices there in preparation for the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.
Then came the final move for the Knights. "We even moved to Page in an airplane," Dora commented.
Royce, who at 80 is now hampered by health problems and no longer flies, piloted mail from Kanab and shuttled workers and materials across the deep gorge during the early construction phases of the dam. These short "hops" saved a 150-mile drive that would otherwise have been necessary by way of Lee's Ferry.
But one of his proudest accomplishments is fostering the development of the community, where dam workers, and later permanent residents, found a good place to raise families. Knight has been an ardent booster of the community and the area, having served terms as president of the Chamber of Commerce. He has helped develop the airport and the Page golf course, promote tour groups to the area, was the first chairman of the city's advisory council and was instrumental in keeping a radio and newspaper viable in Page. He gave "The Lake Powell Chronicle" its name in 1965.
Knight always has been proud of southern Utah, northern Arizona and Lake Powell - the "Jewel of the Colorado." This writer, a former pilot who worked with and for the Knights during the construction of Glen Canyon Dam and filed weekly news stories with the Deseret News during the construction, recalls Knight's remarks about the beauty of Lake Powell. "There's two ways to see it," he often echoed, emphasizing "from the water and from the air."
"Royce loved to fly," Dora said. "He quit an excellent job as superintendent of iron mining with U.S. Steel in the Cedar City area to go into flying. He flew for years in the Cedar City and Kanab areas before coming here. He lived, breathed and slept airplanes."
She said moving to Page was a real challenge, adding "but we were ready for it." They were awarded a contract in 1958 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help develop the new airport and establish a flight operation in Page, first using a small trailer for an office.
"Royce was airport manager and in this capacity worked very closely with the bureau in building the airport," Dora recalls. "To him it was a real opportunity to be part of this great project and a part of the building of this beautiful area." He worked closely with the Bureau and the Federal Aviation Administration as well as local, state and federal aviation officials, often without being paid for the long hours.
Through it all, he and his wife founded their business at Page, which involved delivering milk and mail by air to locations on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Utah and Arizona, flying people to special work sites up and down the Colorado River, multitudes of scenic flights, as well as general charter service, aircraft mechanical maintenance for other flight operators and even finding the time for some student instruction. Dora often worked in the office scheduling flights and doing the necessary paperwork, sometimes even gassing airplanes.
The airport at Page has been a great asset to both Utah and Arizona. It was built along with the city of Page in the 1950s when the dam was built.
"We worked very hard to make a beautiful airport, one of the best in flight operations, and in trying to help in any way possible to make Page a beautiful and prosperous community," Dora said.
The Knights sold their operation to SkyWest in 1974 and retired. But the hectic '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s in aviation and the building of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell always will remain sweet in their memories.