Airport History

From humble beginnings in the 1920s, Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI) has become an East Coast transportation hub. Situated at the heart of the Triad economy, it is a major economic driver, a partner with local businesses and the source for convenient travel wherever people want to go.

1920s

1927 – Eight miles west of Greensboro, the airport began as a pasture labeled by noted racing pilot Captain Roscoe Turner as “the best landing field in the South.” The Tri-City Airport’s Lindley Field formally opened May 28. In July, the first passenger flew from the airport in a chartered plane to New York City.

1928 – Lindley Field became a stop on the eastern mail route. Pitcairn Aviation, the government’s airmail carrier, made the first delivery of air mail in North Carolina on May 1 at 8:15 p.m. Pilot Sid Malloy landed with two incoming bags of mail and took on three sacks of mail for his next stop, Atlanta.

1930s

Pitcairn Aviation became Eastern Air Transport and launches North Carolina’s first passenger service from the Triad. In 1935 Lindley Field was closed by order of the U.S. Department of Commerce because of two near crashes. It reopened in 1937 with two new paved 2,500-foot runways and a passenger terminal.

1940s

1941 – The Greensboro-High Point Airport Authority was created by the North Carolina General Assembly to own, operate and manage the airport in Guilford County.

April 22, 1942 – the airport authority held its inaugural meeting. Greensboro department store executive Joseph T. Martin was elected the authority’s first chairman. High Point resident R.T. Amos became vice chairman and Caesar Cone of Greensboro began a 26-year career as secretary.

In the 1940s, the U.S. Army Air Corps assumed control of the airport for the duration of World War II. The airport was a hub for the Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD), a refueling station, and a training site for fighter and bomber pilots. The Army built a second steel hangar and a control tower.

1950s

1950s – A decade of growth and planning set the precedent for strategic development of the regional airport. Significantly, the authority purchased more than 900 acres of land around the airport to save it from other development. Runways were again lengthened to accommodate newer aircraft, a new air traffic control tower was constructed, and an instrument landing system was installed. In 1958 a new 34,000-square-foot terminal opened, featuring aircraft gates, and a restaurant, bank, operations office and counters for tickets and rental cars.

1960s

1967 – The airport hired Roger Sekadlo, a savvy planner and administrator, as its first executive director. Sekadlo would hold this post for 20 years. Under his guidance, the airport authority adopted a dramatic $63 million master plan. This package of dramatic changes required the relocation of the entire airport facility to the northwest area of the airport’s property, as well as runway improvements, design of a new terminal and expanded general aviation and cargo areas.

1970s

1970s – The airport gained greater prominence on the East Coast, offering passenger service from Delta, Piedmont, United and Eastern airlines. Cargo carriers, including the postal service, textile manufacturers, and Federal Express – a new overnight letter and package delivery service – were shipping tons of freight each year. General aviation also expands, with Air Service investing in a new 10-acre site and the arrival of newcomer Atlantic Aero.

1972 – Ten years after joining the airport authority, Stanley Frank was elected chairman, a position he would occupy for 19 years. Frank had quickly become a presence at the airport after moving to Greensboro in 1936, logging thousands of miles as a private pilot. His vision of the airport and its role in the Triad economy would drive the airport’s growth and planning for nearly three decades.

1980s

1982 – Exponential growth was becoming familiar to the airport. That year saw the opening of a new passenger terminal – the heart of today’s terminal. The airport’s main runway also was extended to 10,000 feet, making it the longest in the state. Piedmont Airlines, the largest carrier serving the Triad, constructed a major maintenance facility. 

1983 –  Marriott opened a $16 million, 300-room hotel on the airport property.

1990s

1990 – TIMCO Aviation Services opens its world headquarters at PTI. Over the following two decades, the company would grow into one of the world’s largest independent aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul providers. TIMCO supports leading global airlines, governments and aircraft leasing companies with comprehensive, individually tailored aircraft care services. The company employs nearly 3,000 people in facilities at a number of airports across the country.

1993 – The airport authority appointed Edward A. “Ted” Johnson Executive Director of PTI. First hired by the airport in 1968, Johnson held a number of posts, including director of development. Johnson knew the airport and its carriers and partners like no one else. On his watch, PTI saw dramatic change in air service and investment at the airport. Possibly Johnson’s most important contribution was the successful recruitment of the FedEx mid-Atlantic sorting facility to PTI, which included the construction of a third runway at the airport. Combined, these two accomplishments positioned PTI as the catalyst for regional growth.

1994 – Cessna Aircraft Company, later referred to as Textron Aviation, held the grand opening of their Greensboro Citation Service Center at Piedmont Triad International Airport. The company offers airframe and engine maintenance, inspection and repair capabilities, as well as full avionics troubleshooting, repair and modification capabilities.

1998 – FedEx Corporation announces its intentions to build a mid-Atlantic hub at PTI, one of only five FedEx hubs in the country. In addition to the hub, the project would include the construction of a parallel, 9,000-foot runway, the construction of new roads around the airport, and the construction of a new cloverleaf airport entrance. The total cost of these improvements was nearly $500 million.

2000s

2000 – PTI continues to play a central role in regional growth. Guilford Technical Community College Aviation Center at PTI expanded its training program for airline mechanics, boosted with a $250,000 gift from Tom Davis.

2005 – Comair selected PTI for its southeastern maintenance facility location, which opened in 2006.

2006 – The airport opens an expansion to the North Concourse, which adds another 40,000 square feet to the terminal and brings the number of gates to 25. The airport also opens a 43,000 square-foot expansion to the main terminal to accommodate security gates at the north and south concourses.

2007 – Honda Aircraft Company selects PTI as its global headquarters. In subsequent years, Honda Aircraft Company would expand the campus to include administrative offices, its research and development center, its manufacturing center and the site of a major repair and maintenance facility. The company employs 1,000 people at these facilities on the airport campus.

Allegiant Airlines begins low-fare service to Florida destinations, eventually establishing itself at the airport for its low-fare service.

2008  Cessna announces completion of its service center expansion at PTI, one of the company’s busiest centers, adding more than 69,000 square feet of ramp space bringing the total ramp space to more than 137,300 square feet.

2008    GTCC expands its aviation school presence with the construction of a $7.5 million, 41,000 square foot classroom building near the airport campus and by adding an aviation manufacturing degree program.

2009 – FedEx opens its mid-Atlantic Hub at the airport, establishing PTI as a key link in the company’s national overnight delivery system. The FedEx mid-Atlantic Hub, located on a 175-acre site at the airport, consists of seven buildings, a fuel farm and an aircraft ramp with eleven gates. The 475,000-square-foot sort building is the center point of the facility and is designed to handle 24,000 packages per hour with provisions in place to expand to 48,000 in the future.

2010s

2010 – The airport opens a 9,000-foot parallel runway, which allows simultaneous aircraft takeoffs and landings at the airport for the first time, and opens new opportunities for airside development at the airport.

Ted Johnson retires after 17 years as the airport’s executive director and a career at the airport that started in 1968. Kevin Baker is tapped to succeed Johnson as executive director.

The airport unveils an ambitious master plan update that includes new facilities, such as an improved control tower, and establishes the airport as a key aerospace center on the East Coast. The master plan reveals a vision to connect the airport to the existing property by constructing a taxiway bridge over I-73 and for expanding the airport’s reach by acquiring property northwest of the airport.

2011 – The airport begins a major interior renovation project to provide passengers with a superior airport experience. The renovation includes the installation of free wireless internet and charging stations for passenger devices, and numerous interactive kiosks guiding passengers to ground transportation and nearby accommodations and restaurants.

2013 Honda Aircraft Company opens a 90,000 square-foot customer service center at PTI, which will serve as the corporate base for Honda Aircraft Company’s customer service organization. It includes a service parts warehouse for parts distribution and a maintenance hangar.

2016 After an extensive certification process, Honda Aircraft Company begins manufacture of the HondaJet at its PTI facility. The light business jet soon becomes a top seller in its class.

2017 The North Carolina Department of Transportation completes work on a nine-mile stretch of I-73 that runs through airport property and includes a taxiway bridge that will connect the existing airport property to approximately 800 acres of airport property on the opposite side of the interstate. This property will be prepared for economic development and is dubbed by economic developers as the “airport megasite.”

2018 – Spirit Airlines announces new service at PTI. The low-cost carrier provides affordable nonstop flights to Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale.

2018 HAECO completes work on a 250,000 square foot hanger at PTI. The company’s fifth hanger at PTI is the largest maintenance space within the HAECO Americas portfolio. At full capacity, the hangar will employ an additional 500 workers.

2019 The FAA breaks ground on a new, 180-foot air traffic control tower to replace the current tower, which has been in service since 1974. The new, $61 million tower is expected to be commissioned in 2022.

2020s

2020 – Honda Aircraft Company begins operations at its newly opened Wing Production and Service Parts Facility, located at the company’s world headquarters at PTI. The new 83,100 square-foot facility is the latest addition to the 133-acre Honda Aircraft Company campus, and represents an additional investment of $24.3 million, bringing the total capital investment in its North Carolina facilities to more than $245 million.

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