Central Illinois Regional Airport
|Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal|
|IATA: BMI – ICAO: KBMI – FAA LID: BMI|
|Owner||Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority|
|Serves||Bloomington / Normal, Illinois|
|Elevation AMSL||871 ft / 265 m|
Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal (IATA: BMI, ICAO: KBMI, FAA LID: BMI) is a public airport in McLean County, Illinois, three miles east of Bloomington and southeast of Normal. Owned by the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority, it is also known as Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA).
The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015 categorized it as a primary commercial service airport. Federal Aviation Administration records say the airport had 262,846 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008, 243,448 in 2009 and 274,677 in 2010.
The airport dates to the spring of 1927 when farmer Herman Will opened a 70-plus-acre tract in rural Normal Township. Bordering the field to the west was the recently paved Illinois 2 (today U.S. 51/Main Street), and to the east was the Illinois Central Railroad (today Constitution Trail). Along the IC, at the northeast corner of the airport grounds, was Kerrick, a busy grain elevator station that remains a local landmark. The Bloomington Flying Club helped rally the general public and local leaders behind the economic promise of “heavier-than-air” flight. The club owned a “Jenny”-type open-cockpit biplane, and the non-profit organization evidently helped pay for both the construction of a hangar and day-to-day operations of the field. Will offered to rent the field to the city of Bloomington for $1,000 a year, but there was little enthusiasm for a municipally owned or operated airport. In 1928 the Normal field featured a six-plane hangar, filling pump, wind cone, a circle of crushed stone 100-feet in diameter (the purpose of which was to identify the field from the air) and 75 acres of “comparatively level ground.”
Dedication of the airport was on May 30, 1928, witnessed by some 10,000 area residents. Local and visiting pilots staged an air show of “stunts and jumps and aerial tricks,” according to The Pantagraph. There was “premier” stunt pilot Steve Lacey, representing the Air King factory in Lomax, Henderson County, Ill., and Bloomington-raised escape artist Nathan B. Winslow, who thrilled spectators by freeing himself from a straight jacket during flight. A few weeks after the dedication, the U.S. Department of Commerce placed the Normal field on its list of officially recognized airports.
The following summer, on July 11, 1929, a larger crowd, estimated at 15,000, gathered at the airfield for the Central Illinois Air Derby. Billed at the time as the greatest such event in Illinois outside of Chicago, the show included four U.S. Army “ships” from Chanute Field in Rantoul, civilian aviators from places like Aurora, Champaign, Joliet and Kankakee, aerial “stunting” contests and races, parachutists and an air parade over downtown Bloomington.
Despite the efforts of local aviation enthusiasts and the business community, attempts to establish long-term passenger service at the Normal field ended in failure. In the fall of 1931, Century Air Lines added Bloomington to its Chicago-to-St. Louis route, and the little grassy square (recently enlarged by 35 acres) now served as an aerial portal to the wider world. Unfortunately the wet winter of 1931-1932 made the field too mushy for the carrier’s Stinson tri-motor airplanes. The following spring, American Airways assumed Century’s role, but after only two days (May 1–2) the company terminated service to the little airfield, and once more Bloomington lost its place on the air map.
Opposition to a municipally operated airport weakened with the promise of federal dollars through the Civil Works Administration, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s many “alphabet” New Deal programs. In mid-December 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, local officials settled on a 164-acre site east of Bloomington along Illinois 9. The new airfield (since renamed the Central Illinois Regional Airport—or CIRA for short) was dedicated in late October 1934.
Nothing survives of the old airport, but a historic marker near the north end of Constitution Trail commemorates the site. The marker is on the trail’s west side, opposite the Kerrick elevators. Much of the airport grounds are now occupied by the unfinished warehouse of shuttered local manufacturer Wildwood Industries.
Known airline history
- Post World War 2, Chicago & Southern Airlines flies briefly to Chicago
- 1977, Ozark Air Lines operates flights from Chicago-O’Hare (via Mattoon and Mount Vernon) to St. Louis with Fairchild-Hiller FH-227s
* November 1979, Britt Airways started flights from their Chicago ORD hub with Beech C99s
- Britt adds with flights to Indianapolis (via Champaign/Urbana), St. Louis (via Springfield)
- 1983, Britt operates 47-seat FH-227s and 19-seat Fairchild Metros to ORD with Beech C99s to STL
- December 15, 1985, Ozark returns in the form of “Ozark Midwest Airlines" with St. Louis roundtrips (two via Decatur) on Fairchild Metros
* 1986, Trans World Express starts STL flights later merging on October 26 with Ozark, thus eliminating the Ozark Midwest brand and flights
- November 1987, Midway Connection began flights from its Chicago-Midway hub with Dornier 228s
- November 1988, Air Kentucky starts Indianapolis flights under the Allegheny Commuter
- February 1989, Continental purchased Britt Airways’ ORD slots, later replaced by United Express
- 1989 American Eagle starts ORD flights on Shorts 330 and 360 aircraft
- January 31, 1992, American Eagle starts Nashville flights on BAE Jetstream 31's
- July 20, 1992, Direct Air started four weekday roundtrips to Chicago-Midway using 13- and 19-seat Beechcraft (ended 1993)
- September 15, 1992, Mesaba Airlines dba Northwest Airlink began four weekday roundtrips to Detroit using 19- and 37-seat aircraft
- 1994, Air Wisconsin begins contract flying for United Express with Dornier 328 aircraft
- Summer 1995, BMI had four airlines American Eagle, Northwest Airlink, United Express and Trans World Express serving to six cities
(Champaign/Urbana, Chicago-O’Hare, Detroit-Metro, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis and Springfield (Missouri)) with 22 weekly flights
- In 1996, Bloomington/Normal Airport (BMI) was renamed “Central Illinois Regional Airport” (often dubbed 'CIRA') to reflect its central location and attract flyers through the region. After heavy local lobbying in Bloomington/Normal, AirTran Airways chose BMI over Peoria (PIA) and started service on Boeing 737-200s to Orlando FL on December 19, 1996. Frontier Airlines followed suit with Boeing 737-200 flights to Denver (via Omaha NE) a month later. By 1997 the additional jet service and plunge in fares grew passenger traffic by 71 percent in 1997 making BMI the fasting growing airport in the nation. That year, CIRA handled 281,942 passengers in 1997 compared to only 164,837 in 1996. CIRA (BMI) never looked back and by 1998 AirTran Airways dropped the Orlando flight in favor of now three daily non-stop DC-9 flights from Atlanta. Delta Airlines entered the BMI market in the late 90's and took over the ATL route after purchasing it from AirTran Airways.
- 2008, United Express leaves the market ending ORD service
- 2011, AirTran flights end and service is increased on Delta Connection with CRJ900s
- 2012, Frontier Airlines returns with Denver flights on EMB 190s and Orlando service on A319s
- 2013, Frontier upgrades Denver flights to A319s
- 2013, CIRA receives grant to upgrade and add jet bridges
- 2013, Delta Air Lines begins service on main line A319 and MD88 jets
- 2013, American Eagle adds second daily Dallas DFW flight
The airport covers 1,968 acres (796 ha) at an elevation of 871 feet (265 m). It has two runways: 2/20 is 8,000 by 150 feet (2,438 x 46 m) concrete; 11/29 is 6,525 by 150 feet (1,989 x 46 m) asphalt/concrete.
In 2011 the airport had 28,016 aircraft operations, average 76 per day: 62.5% general aviation, 18.5% air taxi, 17.7% airline and 1.3% military. 89 aircraft were then based at the airport: 81% single-engine, 8% multi-engine, and 11% jet.
On November 5, 2001, the airport opened a new $14 million terminal building, three times larger than the previous terminal. The new terminal has four ground level boarding gates (Gates 1-4) and five second level gates (Gates 5-9). Gates 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 have jetways. Gates 1, 2 and 7 are jetway capable, but are not now equipped. The terminal has two baggage carousels at ground level. Conference rooms and a VIP lounge cater to business travelers. Free wireless Internet access is available throughout the building.
CIRA has a healthy general aviation presence. The Fixed Based Operator on the field, Image Air, offers standard FBO services, as well as private and advanced flight training.
Hangar rental, fueling, and aircraft maintenance facilities are available.
Airlines and destinations
Scheduled passenger service:
|Allegiant Air||Orlando/Sanford, St. Petersburg/Clearwater|
|American Eagle||Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth|
|Delta Connection||Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul|
|Frontier Airlines||Seasonal: Orlando|
|Source: The Pantagraph|
- FAA Airport Master Record for BMI ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective November 15, 2012.
- "IATA Airport Code Search (BMI: Bloomington-Normal)". International Air Transport Association. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010.
- "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.
- "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.
- "Bloomington's first airport was north of Normal". The Pantagraph. January 9, 2011.
- "Bloomington/Normal – Competition for Peoria". Peoria Station. March 18, 2011.
- "CIRA grew in 2011, will announce new air service". The Pantagraph. January 16, 2012.
- Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal, official website
- Aerial image as of March 1999 from USGS The National Map
- (PDF), effective May 28, 2015
- FAA Terminal Procedures for BMI, effective May 28, 2015
- Resources for this airport: