General Mitchell International Airport

General Mitchell International Airport
General Mitchell International Airport
GMIA Logo.svg
MKE is located in Wisconsin
Location of the Airport in Wisconsin
Airport type Public
Owner/Operator Milwaukee County
Location Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 723 ft / 220 m
Coordinates 42°56′50″N 087°53′48″W / 42.94722°N 87.89667°W / 42.94722; -87.89667
Direction Length Surface
ft m
01L/19R 9,690 to be 10,690 2,954 Asphalt/Concrete
01R/19L 4,183 1,275 Asphalt/Concrete
07L/25R 4,801 1,463 Asphalt/Concrete
07R/25L 8,012 to be 9,012 2,442 Asphalt/Concrete
13/31 5,868 1,789 Asphalt/Concrete
Statistics (2010)
Aircraft operations 187,554
Passengers 9,848,377
Sources: airport web site[1] and FAA[2]

General Mitchell International Airport (IATA: MKEICAO: KMKEFAA LID: MKE) is a county-owned public airport located five miles (8 km) south of the central business district of Milwaukee, a city in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, United States.[2]

It is named after United States Army Air Service General Billy Mitchell, who was raised in Milwaukee and is often regarded as the father of the United States Air Force. The airport is a hub for AirTran Airways[3] and Frontier Airlines. Along with being the primary airport for Milwaukee, Mitchell International has sometimes been described as Chicago's third airport, as many Chicago travelers use it as an alternative to Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway.[4] It is also used by travellers throughout Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. An Amtrak railway station opened at the airport in 2005. The station is served by the Hiawatha Service line running between Chicago and Milwaukee several times daily.



The original airfield was established in 1920 as Hamilton Airport by business owner Thomas Hamilton. Milwaukee County purchased the land on October 19, 1926, for the Milwaukee County Airport. Kohler Aviation Corporation began providing passenger service across Lake Michigan on August 31, 1929. A passenger terminal was later constructed in 1940, and on March 17, 1941, the airport was renamed General Mitchell Field after Milwaukee's military airpower advocate, Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell.[5] 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 and Polish population just beyond the fence.[6] The present terminal opened in 1955 and was expanded significantly between 1984 and 1990. On June 19, 1986, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors officially renamed Mitchell Field to General Mitchell International Airport.[5]

The airport is still owned and operated by Milwaukee County; however, some Milwaukee business leaders and politicians have advocated privatization or leasing Mitchell Field to a third party for financial reasons.[7]

Awards and recognition

In October 2008, a Condé Nast Traveler poll ranked Milwaukee County’s General Mitchell International Airport fourth in the nation using categories of Location and Access, Design, Customs and Baggage, Perceived Safety and Security, as well as Food, Shops and Amenities.[citation needed]

Facilities and operations

General Mitchell International Airport covers an area of 2,180 acres (880 ha) which contains five asphalt and concrete paved runways ranging in length from 4,183 to 9,690 ft (1,463 to 2,954 m). The 07R/25L runway has an overpass with Wisconsin State Trunk Highway 38 (Howell Avenue locally) running underneath. For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2005, the airport had 219,114 aircraft operations, an average of 600 per day: 56% air taxi, 32% scheduled commercial, 10% general aviation and 1% military.[2] The main building houses the Mitchell Gallery of Flight, a non-profit museum on the concession level; 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.[8] 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. A Wisconsin historical marker documenting the airport's history is also located there.[9]

Frontier Airlines maintains a local office on the airport property.[10]

A Midwest Express Dornier 328JET on the tarmac in front of the airport's 200-foot-high (61 m) control tower


U.S. Department of Transportation data for 2nd Quarter 2010 (most recent) show that the average airfare out of Milwaukee dropped lower than the average at 93 other U.S. airports. Mitchell's average fare was $93 less than O'Hare's, $78 less than the nation's average and $10 less than Midway's. Out of the nation's top 100 airports, Mitchell was one of only three at which average 2nd Quarter airfares were lower in 2010 than in 2009.

Airports Council International reported that during the 2nd Quarter 2010, Mitchell was the third fastest-growing airport in the world, exceeded only by airports in Istanbul, Turkey and Moscow, Russia. Mitchell was the only U.S. airport among the top 30 fastest growing airports worldwide.[11]

The airport is owned and operated by Milwaukee County. Mitchell's 10 airlines offer over 200 daily departures. Over 50 airports are served nonstop or direct from Mitchell International. It is the largest airport in Wisconsin. The airport terminal is open 24 hours a day.[12]


Mitchell International is expanding the runway safety area on their runways after an accident on January 21, 2007, when Northwest Airlines Flight 1726 skidded off the runway after aborting takeoff. According to the FAA, most airports are encouraged to have a runway safety area no shorter than 1,000 feet (305 m), although many airports do not meet this requirement.

Construction to provide this runway safety area began at the end of the summer of 2009. Current plans call for the completion by the summer of 2011. Work is being done to the west of the airport (6th Street) to move the road to allow enough room. Work is also being done to the south of the airport. College Avenue will be rebuilt to travel through a tunnel to allow a runway safety area over the road. This is similar to work already in place to the west on Howell Avenue.

There is also a "Master Plan" idea to significantly increase terminal area by either stretching the existing terminal (in some cases, to almost double the size) or begin construction of an entirely separate terminal. Nearly all cases will involve major reconstruction on the airport itself, and will have a huge impact on the airport's future traffic.[13]

According to the Fall 2007 Newsletter, the proposed Concourses F and G would be built just below the Concourse E stem.[14] Concourse F is proposed to be built by 2012, and have a total of 7 gates; while Concourse G is proposed to be completed by 2021, adding an additional 12 gates, including international arrivals. [15]

Airlines and destinations

Map of non-stop destinations, as of summer 2011
Interior of main terminal

General Mitchell International Airport has 48 gates and 40 jetbridges on 3 concourses in one terminal. All international arrivals lacking border preclearance must pass through the International Arrivals Building.

AirTran Airways is the largest carrier at the airport. Frontier Airlines and Delta Air Lines also have sizable presences.

Airlines Destinations Concourse
Air Canada Express operated by Jazz Air Toronto-Pearson C
AirTran Airways Akron/Canton, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Des Moines, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St Paul, New York LaGuardia, Orlando, San Francisco, Sarasota/Bradenton, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Washington-National
Seasonal: Cancún, New Orleans, Phoenix
American Eagle Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth C
AmericanConnection operated by Chautauqua Airlines Chicago-O'Hare C
Continental Express operated by ExpressJet Airlines Cleveland, Houston-Intercontinental, Newark E
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Seasonal: Cancún
Delta Connection operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines Detroit, Memphis E
Delta Connection operated by Comair Detroit E
Delta Connection operated by Pinnacle Airlines Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Detroit, Memphis, New York-JFK [begins June 7, 2012] E
Delta Connection operated by SkyWest Airlines Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Detroit, Memphis E
Frontier Airlines Denver, Las Vegas, New York-LaGuardia, Phoenix, Washington-National
Seasonal: Cancún
Frontier Airlines operated by Chautauqua Airlines Columbus (OH), Flint, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Ironwood [ends March 8, 2012], Manistee [ends March 8, 2012], Nashville, Newark, Omaha, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh [ends January 3, 2012], Rhinelander[16]
Seasonal: Branson (MO)
Frontier Airlines operated by Republic Airlines Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Kansas City, Orlando, San Antonio [ends November 29]
Seasonal: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, San Diego, Tampa, Seattle/Tacoma
Southwest Airlines Baltimore, Denver, Fort Lauderdale [begins January 7], Kansas City, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, St. Louis
Seasonal: Tampa
United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines Chicago-O'Hare, Denver C
United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines Cleveland, Houston-Intercontinental E
US Airways Phoenix C
US Airways Express operated by Air Wisconsin Charlotte, Philadelphia C
US Airways Express operated by PSA Airlines Charlotte C

Top destinations

Busiest Domestic Routes from Milwaukee (August 2010 - July 2011) [17]
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 Flag of Minnesota.svg Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota 411,000 AirTran, Delta
2 Flag of Georgia (U.S. state).svg Atlanta, Georgia 399,000 AirTran, Delta
3 Flag of Colorado.svg Denver, Colorado 285,000 AirTran, Frontier, United
4 Flag of New York.svg New York (LaGuardia), New York 259,000 AirTran, Frontier
5 Flag of Nevada.svg Las Vegas, Nevada 245,000 AirTran, Frontier, Southwest
6 Flag of Florida.svg Orlando, Florida 223,000 AirTran, Frontier, Southwest
7 Flag of Arizona.svg Phoenix, Arizona 217,000 AirTran, Frontier, Southwest, US Airways
8 Flag of Virginia.svg Washington (National), D.C. 193,000 AirTran, Frontier
9 Flag of Texas.svg Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 189,000 American, Frontier
10 Flag of Massachusetts.svg Boston, Massachusetts 176,000 AirTran, Frontier

Cargo carriers

Airlines Destinations
AirNet Systems Chicago-Midway, Green Bay, St. Paul-Downtown Airport
Berry Aviation Chicago-Executive Airport
CSA Air Marquette, Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Rhinelander
FedEx Express Indianapolis, Memphis, Minneapolis
Flight Line Chicago-Midway
Freight Runners Express Appleton, Bloomington-Normal, Dillon, Green Bay, Lake Delton, Madison, Marinette, Menomonie, Rhinelander, Stevens Point, Wausau, Rochester (MN)
Kalitta Air Kenosha
Martinaire Iron Mountain, Ironwood
Royal Air Freight Pontiac
UPS Airlines Louisville

Military presence

The airport also hosts the General Mitchell Air National Guard Base, 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 profciency 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, the military installation was known as General Mitchell Air Reserve Station and was also 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 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005 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.

Ground transportation

The Milwaukee Airport Rail Station provides service to Milwaukee as well as Chicago.
  • Badger Coach has frequent trips between Mitchell Airport, Downtown Milwaukee, Madison, Johnson Creek, and Goerkes Corners.[18]
  • Airport Connection has routes from the Airport to the Amtrak Station, the Milwaukee Airport Rail Station (MKA), parking lots, Sheboygan, and the Fox Valley Area.[19]
  • Milwaukee County Transit System Route 80 serves the Airport with a $2.25 fare to anywhere in the county.[20]
  • Amtrak has a station 3/4 of a mile from the airport and uses the Hiawatha Service.[21] Free shuttle buses go between the train station and the baggage claim.
  • Wisconsin Coach Lines as Airport Express operates frequently to O'Hare Airport (ORD), Midway Airport (MDW) and General Mitchell Airport (MKE) from Waukesha, Milwaukee(Downtown Amtrak/Greyhound Station), Racine, and Kenosha.[22]

Incidents and accidents

  • 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 3 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 September 6, 1985, Midwest Express Flight 105, Midwest's first and only fatal accident, crashed upon takeoff from Milwaukee. One of the airline's Douglas DC-9s crashed while taking off, bound for Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. According to NTSB reports, the crash was caused by improper pilot reaction when the plane’s right engine failed due to stress corrosion cracking. The improper flight control inputs caused an uncommanded roll and accelerated stall. The 31 people on board died.[23]
  • 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.[28] An NTSB investigation determined both pilots and air traffic control were at fault for the accident.[29]
  • On June 4, 2007, a Cessna Citation II crashed on take off after reporting a runaway trim tab. The pilot issued a distress signal within five minutes after taking off from KMKE. 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 November 13, 2007, a Midwest Connect flight from Milwaukee bound for Dayton was in a near-miss situation with a United Express jet heading to Chicago O'Hare International Airport from Greensboro while flying over northern Indiana. Air traffic controllers with Chicago Center directed the Midwest Connect flight to begin its descent while traveling head-on towards the United Express CRJ a few thousand feet below. The planes came as close as 1.3 miles (2.1 km) apart horizontally and 600 feet (183 m) vertically.[30] The Midwest Connect Dornier 328JET was just above the United Express aircraft and descending while they were closing in on each other. An audible TCAS alarm in the Midwest Connect cockpit alerted the pilots of the proximity, allowing them to pull up in time.
  • On September 12, 2008, at 7:13 PM, a Cirrus SR22 heading from Milwaukee bound for Lakeland Airport in Vilas County crashed a half a mile southwest of the Airport. All three people on board died.[32]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ General Mitchell International Airport, official web site
  2. ^ a b c FAA Airport Master Record for MKE (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2007-12-20
  3. ^ "It's official: AirTran makes Milwaukee a second hub". USA Today. 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  4. ^ "Mitchell Offers Delay-Weary Chicago Travelers Timely Alternative". Mitchell Memo. Mitchell International Airport. September 2004. 
  5. ^ a b "Historic Markers - General Mitchell Field WI221". Milwaukee County Historical Society. 1978. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2006-10-04. 
  6. ^ Cowley, Betty (2002). Stalag Wisconsin: Inside WW II prisoner-of-war camps. Oregon, Wisconsin: Badger Books. ISBN 187856983X. OCLC 48998212. 
  7. ^ Kirchen, Rich (September 21, 2008). "Lubar: Sell airport to eliminate Milwaukee County deficit - The Business Journal of Milwaukee:". Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  8. ^ "The Challenge of Airport Bookselling", Publishers Weekly, July 13, 1984
  9. ^ "State Historical marker #221". Wisconsin History. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  10. ^ "Fact Sheet." Frontier Airlines. Retrieved on March 27, 2011. "General Mitchell International Airport 555 Air Cargo Way Milwaukee, WI 53207"
  11. ^ "County Executive Holloway Announces A Record Number Of November Passengers". General Mitchell International Airport. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  12. ^ "Mitchell Airport Stats". General Mitchell International Airport. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  13. ^ "Master Plan Update" (PDF). General Mitchell International Airport. 2006-07-28. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^,%20WI:%20General%20Mitchell%20Field&carrier=FACTS
  18. ^ "Wisconsin Bus Charters". Badger Coaches. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  19. ^ "MKE Airport Connection". Airport Connection. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  20. ^ "Bus route 80". MCTS. Archived from the original on March 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  21. ^ "Milwaukee Airport Station". Wisconsin Department Of Transportation (WDOT). Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  22. ^ "Wisconsin Coach service". Coach USA. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  23. ^ "Midwest Express Airlines Flight 105". National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  24. ^ "'Scared to death'". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  25. ^ Mark Johnson, Meg Kissinger (22 January 2007). "'Scared to death' : Pilot aborts takeoff as engine fails; no serious injuries reported". Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Journal-Sentinel. 
  26. ^ Larry Sandler (22 January 2007). "Safety won't come easy - 3 Mitchell runways don't meet federal standards, but compliance by 2015 means navigating multiple obstacles". Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Journal-Sentinel.  (republished by Hall & Associates)
  27. ^ USA Today. 2007-01-21. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  28. ^ "Cargo Planes Collide, Burn at Milwaukee Airport". Fox News. January 24, 2007.,2933,246619,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "FAA: Error Nearly Led to Jets Colliding". Associated Press. 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2008-02-11. [dead link]
  31. ^ [1][dead link]
  32. ^ "Three People Killed In Plane Crash - Milwaukee News Story - WISN Milwaukee". Retrieved 2008-10-09. 

External links

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