Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport
|Operator||Milwaukee County Airport Department|
|Location||5300 South Howell Avenue|
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
|Hub for||Freight Runners Express|
|Elevation AMSL||729 ft / 222 m|
FAA airport diagram
Location of airport in Wisconsin, United States
MKE (the United States)
Source: Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (IATA: MKE, ICAO: KMKE, FAA LID: MKE) is a civil-military airport 5 nautical miles (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) south of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. It is included in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2021–2025, in which it is categorized as a medium-hub primary commercial service facility. Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport covers 2,180 acres (880 ha) and has five asphalt and concrete runways.
The airport is named in honor of United States Army General Billy Mitchell, who was raised in Milwaukee and is often regarded as the father of the United States Air Force. Along with being the primary airport for Milwaukee, Mitchell International is also used by travelers throughout Southern and Eastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. Since March 1941, the airport's weather station has been used as the official point for Milwaukee weather observations and records by the National Weather Service, whose area office is located in Sullivan.
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.
On June 19, 1986, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors renamed the airport General Mitchell International Airport. The airport was formerly a hub for AirTran Airways, Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines. The airport is owned and operated by Milwaukee County, but some Milwaukee business leaders and politicians have advocated privatization or leasing it to a third party for financial reasons.
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 was 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 with the COVID-19 pandemic severely reducing the airport's operations and de facto ending international service temporarily, 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. Inside the security perimeter is a large clay "peace mural" from Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg in Russia. Created by Soviet citizens, it was exchanged for an equivalent clay mural made by Americans. The Milwaukee mural was covered up during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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.
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport is accessible from I-41/I-94 and WIS 38 via WIS 119.
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.
|Air Canada Express||Toronto–Pearson (resumes July 1, 2022)|||
|American Airlines||Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix–Sky Harbor|||
|American Eagle|| Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia|
|Delta Air Lines||Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Salt Lake City|||
|Delta Connection||Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Salt Lake City|||
|Frontier Airlines|| Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Tampa|
Seasonal: Fort Myers
|JetBlue||Boston, New York–JFK|||
|Southwest Airlines|| Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas–Love, Denver, Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington–National|
Seasonal: Cancún, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Miami, Sarasota
|Spirit Airlines|| Cancún, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles (resumes August 11, 2022), Orlando, Tampa|
Seasonal: Fort Myers, Myrtle Beach, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
|Sun Country Airlines||Seasonal: Cancún, Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix–Sky Harbor|||
|United Express||Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark|||
|AirNet Express||Chicago–Midway, Green Bay, St. Paul–Downtown|
|DHL Aviation||Cincinnati, Winnipeg|
|FedEx Express||Appleton, Chicago–O'Hare, Indianapolis, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul|
|FedEx Feeder||Chicago–Midway, Escanaba, Houghton, Iron Mountain, Marquette, Rhinelander|
|Freight Runners Express||Appleton, Green Bay, Madison, Middleton, Mineral Point, Mosinee, Oshkosh, Peoria, Rhinelander, Rochester (MN), Sheboygan County Memorial Airport, West Chicago, Wisconsin Dells|
|Martinaire||Iron Mountain, Ironwood|
|Pro Aire Cargo||Rhinelander|
|Royal Air Freight||Pontiac|
|UPS Airlines|| Louisville|
Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul
|1||Atlanta, Georgia||276,750||Delta, Southwest|
|2||Denver, Colorado||216,890||Frontier, Southwest, United|
|3||Orlando, Florida||193,930||Frontier, Southwest, Spirit|
|4||Phoenix, Arizona||189,430||American, Southwest, Spirit|
|5||Las Vegas, Nevada||180,800||Frontier, Southwest, Spirit|
|6||Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois||144,710||American, United|
|7||Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota||121,370||Delta, Sun Country|
|8||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||106,140||American|
|9||Fort Myers, Florida||102,540||Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, United|
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.
United Airlines and Air Canada, both of which currently operate from Concourse E, will move to Concourse C