Ft. Wayne's air trade alliance

Ft. Wayne's air trade alliance Indiana airport overcomes setbacks and repositions itself in the process By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director April 2002 Skip Miller, A.A.E., executive director of airports WAYNE, IN - C.T...


Ft. Wayne's air trade alliance

Indiana airport overcomes setbacks and repositions itself in the process

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

April 2002


Skip Miller, A.A.E., executive director of airports

WAYNE, IN - C.T. 'Skip' Miller is bullish about the growth opportunities of this city in Northeast Indiana. As the community's airport director, he could justifiably be skeptical, having had one major cargo carrier depart and the current one in bankruptcy protection. Yet, Miller's optimism reflects that of Ft. Wayne, where old industry has left and new come along. Today, an economic development initiative has the airport and local agencies working in concert to create an Air Trade Center, with the necessary infrastructure now firmly in place.


Ft. Wayne is already a transportation hub without considering the airport, serving as a vibrant trucking center on the crossroads of Interstate 69 and U.S. Highway 30. Historically, it served as a center of movement, situated at the meeting point of the Maumee, St. Mary's, and St. Joseph rivers. It also witnessed the launching of such products as the washing machine, baking powder, the hand-held calculator, juke boxes, refrigerators, parking meters, and the National Basketball Association.




The airfield was constructed in 1941 by the U.S. military in just three months, opening on December 6. After the war, the city of Ft. Wayne took over the field and named it Paul Baer Municipal Air-port, after a World War I aviator.

In 1985, the Ft. Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority took over control of the airport, which was renamed Ft. Wayne International in 1991.

The creation of the independent authority, says Miller, served as the catalyst for reconstructing what had become a tired airport, and led to a new focus on the airport as an economic development tool. From that point, the two objectives - airport revitalization and growth - began to come together.

The Burlington Experience
The first cog in the new economic development wheel was the addition of Burlington Air Express (today BAX Global), a ground-based carrier which simultaneously launched air service with the base at Ft. Wayne. While that led to the beginning of significant infrastructure investment, most notably a 12,000-ft., Category 2 ILS runway system, it was a deal that Miller says was destined to fail from the outset, and several years later Burlington pulled out and relocated to Toledo (OH) Express Airport.

"It was a classic example of a business deal put together by people who didn't understand the relationship of an airport to its airport operators and tenants," comments Miller. "The people who were actually running the airport didn't negotiate the agreement with Burlington; that was left to the economic development people with the city. And Burlington had never operated an airline before and they didn't understand the classic airport-tenant relationships, either. Conse-quently, a deal was formed that no one could live with."



Despite the setback, explains Miller, the deal eventually brought much of the overall goal to fruition. The infrastructure plans intended to keep Burlington were eventually completed and in time lured Dallas-based Kitty Hawk, Inc., which operates its domestic cargo hub here, serving some 40 cities from Ft. Wayne.

This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend