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Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport
Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport Mitchell Field
The original airfield was established in 1920 as Hamilton Airport by local business owner and aviator, Thomas F. Hamilton. Milwaukee County purchased the land on October 19, 1926 and renamed the airport Milwaukee County Airport. The first airport terminal there, the Hirschbuehl Farmhouse, opened in July 1927. That month, Northwest Airlines, Inc., began air service from Milwaukee to Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In August 1927, world-renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh visited the Milwaukee airport. Kohler Aviation Corporation began providing passenger service across Lake Michigan on August 31, 1929.
During the late depression years (1938-July 1940), a new two-story passenger terminal building was constructed by the Works Progress Administration. On March 17, 1941 the airport was renamed General Mitchell Field after Milwaukee native and air power advocate Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell. On January 4, 1945, Mitchell Field was leased to the War Department for use as a World War II prisoner-of-war camp. Over 3,000 prisoners and 250 enlisted men stayed at the work camp. Escaped German prisoners were often surprised to find a large German American population just beyond the fence.
The present terminal opened on July 20, 1955 and was designed by Leigh Fisher and Associates. It was renovated and expanded in 1985, designed by Miller, Meier, Kenyon, Cooper Architects and Planners Inc. The "hammerhead" section of the D concourse was added in 1990.
In February 2019, the airport was renamed from "General Mitchell International Airport" to "Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport," a rebranding meant to highlight the airport's location; the old name is still used by the FAA and US government.
Mitchell International expanded the runway safety area at the end of the runways after an accident on January 21, 2007, when Northwest Airlines Flight 1726 skidded off the runway following an aborted takeoff. According to the FAA, most airports are encouraged to have a runway safety area no shorter than 1,000 feet (305 m), though many airports do not. Construction of the runway safety areas began at the end of summer 2009 and was completed in fall 2012.
There was also a "Master Plan" idea to increase the terminal area by stretching the existing terminal (in some cases, to almost double the size) or begin construction of a separate terminal. Nearly all cases would involve major reconstruction on the airport itself, and would have a huge impact on the airport's traffic. These plans were, however, drafted before Mitchell saw a significant reduction in carriers and flights. More recently, in 2012, there were discussions of closing one concourse as a cost-cutting move.
The approved 2018 Milwaukee County Budget contains initial funding for replacement of the now-closed Concourse E with a new International Terminal. It will replace the current International Arrivals Terminal (IAT) which has limited capacity and is not connected to the main terminal building. The new terminal is planned to open in 2020 after the demolition of Concourse E is completed. During October 2018, airport and Milwaukee County officials set a timeline for design, construction and completion of the new International terminal. Pre-design work and bidding concluded in November 2018, with construction set to begin in early 2021 and likely concluding in mid-2022. In May 2020, Milwaukee County announced that the start of the project would be postponed; a new start date is yet to be determined.
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport has one terminal with two concourses and 38 gates. All international arrivals lacking border pre-clearance must pass through the International Arrivals Building.
The terminal houses the Mitchell Gallery of Flight (a non-profit museum) and a USO room on the concession level, along with the usual retail outlets, including a small food court and a branch of Renaissance Books which is believed to be the world's first used book store in an airport. There are play areas for children throughout the facility. An observation lot along the northern edge of the airport is open to the public and tower communications are rebroadcast using a low-power FM transmitter for visitors to tune in on their car radios. There is also a new lot on 6th Street, with a Wisconsin historical marker giving the airport's history.
In April 2017, all airlines housed in Concourse E began moving to Concourse C. This would allow the airport to remodel the concourse and move International Arrivals processing into the terminal. Following redevelopment of Concourse E, the current International Arrivals Building just north of the main terminals will close.
The Milwaukee Airport Rail Station provides service to Milwaukee as well as Chicago.
Milwaukee County Transit System The Green Line MetroExpress offers service to downtown and north shore suburbs. Regular Route 80 also serves the Airport (from Oak Creek to downtown and north side).
Amtrak has a Thruway Bus Service that calls at Mitchell International serving Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, and Green Bay. Its main purpose is to allow passengers from those cities to connect with Amtrak trains in downtown Milwaukee. However it offers service to/from Mitchell as a convenience to passengers - obviating the need for a 10-minute train ride and associated transfers.
Wisconsin Coach Lines, as Airport Express, operates frequently to O'Hare Airport (ORD) in Chicago and from Waukesha, Milwaukee (Downtown and the Amtrak/Greyhound Station), Racine and Kenosha.
The airport also hosts the General Mitchell Air National Guard Base on the eastern area of the airport property, home to the 128th Air Refueling Wing (128 ARW), an Air Mobility Command (AMC)-gained unit of the Wisconsin Air National Guard flying the KC-135R Stratotanker. The wing performs both Federal and State missions and consists of approximately 1000 Air National Guard personnel, both full-time Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) and Air Reserve Technicians (ART), as well as traditional part-time guardsmen, available for worldwide deployment in support of Air Mobility Command and combatant commander tasking. The wing also maintains a KC-135 flight simulator, providing training proficiency for its own crews, as well as other KC-135 flight crews in other air refueling wings and air mobility wings in the Regular U.S. Air Force, the Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard.
Prior to 2007, a second military installation on the southwestern portion of the airport property was known as "General Mitchell Air Reserve Station" and was home to the 440th Airlift Wing (440 AW), an Air Mobility Command (AMC)-gained unit of the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) flying the C-130H Hercules. While based at General Mitchell ARS, the 440 AW numbered in excess of 1500 full-time AGR, ART and part-time traditional reservists. Pursuant to 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) action, the 440 AW relocated to Pope AFB, North Carolina, in 2007 and the former AFRC facilities were turned over to the Air National Guard, resulting in the installation's renaming.
On December 17, 1954, a Miller Brewing Company plane, a converted twin-engine Lockheed Ventura bound for Winnipeg on a Friday evening, had trouble with both engines and crashed shortly after takeoff from Mitchell Field. All four on board were killed, which included company president Fred Miller and his oldest son, 20-year-old Fred, Jr., and the two company pilots, brothers Joseph and Paul Laird.
On August 4, 1968, a Convair CV-580, flying as North Central Airlines flight 261, collided in mid-air with a privately owned Cessna 150. The Cessna cabin remained attached to the Convair's forward baggage compartment. The Convair made a safe emergency landing at Milwaukee. The three Cessna occupants were killed. The Cessna was on a VFR flight from Lombard, Illinois to Sheboygan County Memorial Airport in Sheboygan Falls. It was determined that the inability of the Convair 580 flight crew to detect the Cessna 150 visually in sufficient time to take evasive action, despite having been provided with three radar traffic advisories, caused the crash. Visual detection capabilities were reduced by the heavy accumulation of insect smears on the windows of the Convair. Visibility was further reduced by haze, smoke and sunglare, and by the inconspicuous colour and lack of relative motion of the Cessna.
On January 23, 2007, two Freight Runners Express cargo planes collided and burned on a taxiway. Both pilots were able to escape without injury. The planes were a Cessna 402 and a Beech 99. An NTSB investigation determined both pilots and air traffic control were at fault for the accident.
On June 4, 2007, a Cessna Citation II crashed after reporting a runaway trim tab. The pilot issued a distress signal within five minutes after taking off. The plane then crashed into Lake Michigan two miles (3 km) off shore. The plane was carrying an organ transplant team from the University of Michigan back to Willow Run Airport. There was a crew of two and four passengers aboard. All six died.
On September 12, 2008, at 7:13 PM, a Cirrus SR22 heading from Milwaukee bound for Lakeland Airport in Vilas County crashed half of a mile southwest of the airport. All three people on board died.
^Naczek, Margaret. "Mitchell airport reports 96% drop in passengers in April". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved 2020. The airport recently reported that as a result of the drastic passenger traffic declines, it had to postpone the start of its E Concourse construction, which would transform the concourse into an international terminal.