South Dakota

Clyde Ice, Aviator and Inventor

Even as a small boy, growing up in the Dakota Territory, Clyde knew he was going to fly one day. In 1919 at the age of 30, he bought his first plane. It was a Standard Curtis Trainer, a World War I surplus plane. Without ever having flown or worked on a plane before in his life, he repaired the Trainer's three damaged wings and learned to fly it through experimentation and a lot of good luck. He started out as a barnstormer to make money. Over time he bought, repaired and either sold or kept multiple planes for his use.

First in South Dakota to Use Aerial Application of Insecticides for Crop Protection

1937-Ice started aerial application of insecticides for crop protection. He was the first one to do it in this part of the country then. The Belle Fourche Irrigation Project wanted to distribute an insecticide over a sugar beet field but the ground was too muddy for a truck to do it. So Clyde got to thinking and rigged up a hopper with a piece of grain spout attached and tied it to the side of the plane. Inside he had a guy pour the insecticide dust in a funnel with a gallon measure so as to regulate the application rate. It worked fine and was the start of aerial applications for the region. He continued to spray fields until he was 83 years old.

Aviator Clyde Ice
Aviator Clyde Ice in front of tri-motor in 1929
Clyde Ice
Clyde Ice at 70 in 1959. Ice died in 1992. He was 103 years old.


Aviation Firsts Logo

First Ski Plane Built and Used in South Dakota

1927-Clyde was always trying to improve upon his planes to make them more useful for his various needs. In 1927, a couple of ranchers were stranded in Rapid City due to a sudden spring snowstorm that came through the area. As a result, they had hundreds of head of cattle and calves out in the fields and unprotected. Desperate to get back, they asked Clyde to fly them home. Since the snow was so deep and impossible to land on with tires, he designed and built skis for his plane made out of cypress wood and strips of galvanized metal. Although the first ski plane was built and used in the Alaska region in the early 1920s, the news hadn't yet reached South Dakota so Clyde was essentially the first pilot to have them in the region. Later in life he helped a company in Minneapolis, MN design retractable skis so that planes could land in either dry or snowy conditions.

Source: "Sky Trails - The Life of Clyde W. Ice" by Rhonda Coy Sedgwick. Summarized by Jennifer Clements, South Dakota Office of Aeronautics