General Mitchell International Airport

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"Mitchell Field" redirects here. For the former air base in New York, see Mitchel Field.
General Mitchell International Airport
Mitchell Field
GMIA Logo.svg
General Mitchell International Airport - Wisconsin.jpg
2006 USGS Orthophoto
Airport type Public
Owner Milwaukee County
Operator Milwaukee County Airport Department
Serves Milwaukee, WI. Chicago, IL.
Location 5300 South Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL 723 ft / 220a m
Coordinates 42°56′50″N 087°53′48″W / 42.94722°N 87.89667°W / 42.94722; -87.89667
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
KMKE is located in Wisconsin
Location of General Mitchell International Airport
Direction Length Surface
ft m
01L/19R 9,990 3,045 Asphalt/Concrete
01R/19L 4,183 1,275 Asphalt/Concrete
07L/25R 4,801 1,463 Asphalt/Concrete
07R/25L 8,300 2,530 Asphalt/Concrete
13/31 5,538 1,688 Asphalt/Concrete
Statistics (2014)
Aircraft operations 113,248
Passengers 6,554,152
Sources: airport web site[2] and FAA[3]

General Mitchell International Airport (IATA: MKEICAO: KMKEFAA LID: MKE) is a civil-military airport five miles (8 km) south of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[3]

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. Along with being the primary airport for Milwaukee, Mitchell International has sometimes been described as Chicago's third airport, as many travelers in the suburbs north of Chicago use it instead of Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports.[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 Amtrak's Hiawatha Service running between Chicago and Milwaukee several times daily. 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,[5] whose area office is located in Sullivan.


The original airfield was established in 1920 as Hamilton Airport by local business owner and aviator, Thomas Hamilton. Milwaukee County purchased the land on October 19, 1926, for the 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 (from 1938 to 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's military airpower advocate, Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell.[6] 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.[7] The present terminal opened on July 20, 1955, and was designed by Leigh Fisher and Associates.[8] It was renovated and expanded in 1985, designed by Miller, Meier, Kenyon, Cooper Architects and Planners Inc.[9] The "hammerhead" section of the D concourse was added in 1990. On June 19, 1986 the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors renamed Mitchell Field to General Mitchell International Airport.[6] The airport was formerly a hub for AirTran Airways 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.[10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

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]


Mitchell International has expanded 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), though many airports do not.

Construction of this runway safety area began at the end of summer 2009 and was completed in fall 2012.

There is also a "Master Plan" idea to increase 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.[11] These plans were, however, drafted before Mitchell saw a significant reduction in carriers and flights. More recently, in 2012, there have been discussions of closing one concourse as a cost-cutting move.[12]

Facilities and operations[edit]

General Mitchell International Airport covers 2,180 acres (880 ha) and has five asphalt and concrete runways ranging from 4,183 to 9,990 ft (1,463 to 3,045 m). The 07R/25L runway has an overpass with Wisconsin State Trunk Highway 38 (Howell Avenue locally) running underneath. In 2005 the airport had 219,114 aircraft operations, average 600 per day: 56% air taxi, 32% airline, 10% general aviation and 1% military.[3] 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.[13] 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.[14] In 2008, airport security jokingly designated an area in Concourse C following security checkpoint the "Recombobulation Area".[15]

Airline Gates[edit]

General Mitchell International Airport has three concourses in one terminal.

Concourse C Gates: C9-C12, C14-C15, C17-C25

Airlines: American Airlines, American Eagle, Southwest Airlines

Concourse D Gates: D27-D30, D34, D36, D38-D39, D41-D49, D51-D56

Airlines: Alaska Airlines, Aeromexico, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, US Airways, US Airways Express

Concourse E Gates: E60-E69

Airlines: Air Canada Express, United Express

Airlines and destinations[edit]

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.

Southwest Airlines is the largest carrier at the airport. Delta Air Lines has a sizable presence.

Airlines Destinations Concourse
Aeromexico Cancún
Seasonal: Cozumel
Air Canada Express Toronto–Pearson E
Alaska Airlines
operated by SkyWest Airlines
Seattle/Tacoma (begins July 1, 2015)[16] D
American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth C
American Eagle Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth C
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Seasonal: Cancún, Orlando
Delta Connection Boston (begins June 4, 2015), Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–LaGuardia
Seasonal: Orlando
Frontier Airlines Denver
Seasonal: Cancún, Fort Myers, Montego Bay, Orlando, Puerto Vallarta
operated by Pentastar Aviation
Indianapolis (begins April 6, 2015)[17] TBA
Southwest Airlines Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas-Love (begins April 8, 2015), Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers (ends June 6, 2015), Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington–National
Seasonal: Cancún, Montego Bay,[18] Punta Cana,[18] San Diego (begins April 11, 2015),[19]
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Cleveland, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark E
US Airways Phoenix D
US Airways Express Charlotte, Philadelphia D

Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from MKE
(Jan 2014 - Dec 2014)
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 Atlanta, Georgia 411,000 Delta, Southwest
2 Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota 283,000 Delta, Southwest
3 Denver, Colorado 257,000 Frontier, Southwest, United
4 Chicago (O'Hare), Illinois 219,000 American, United
5 Detroit, Michigan 180,000 Delta
6 Phoenix, Arizona 177,000 Southwest, US Airways
6 New York (LaGuardia), New York 177,000 Delta, Southwest
8 Orlando, Florida 144,000 Delta, Southwest
9 Las Vegas, Nevada 138,000 Southwest
10 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 118,000 American

Cargo carriers[edit]

Cargo Ramp – Mitchell International Airport
Airlines Destinations
AirNet Systems Chicago–Midway, Green Bay, St. Paul–Downtown
Berry Aviation Chicago–Executive
CSA Air Marquette, Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Rhinelander
DHL operated by ABX Air Cincinnati, Calgary
FedEx Express Appleton, Indianapolis, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Flight Line Chicago–Midway
Freight Runners Express Appleton, Bloomington/Normal, Dillon, Green Bay, Lake Delton, Madison, Marinette/Menomonie, Rhinelander, Stevens Point, Wausau, Rochester (MN)
Martinaire Iron Mountain, Ironwood
Royal Air Freight Pontiac
UPS Airlines Louisville

Military presence[edit]

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 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.


U.S. Department of Transportation data for 2nd Quarter 2010 showed 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.[21]

The airport is owned and operated by Milwaukee County. Mitchell's 8 airlines offer over 200 daily departures. Over 30 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.[22]

Ground transportation[edit]

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.[23]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • 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 three 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.[29]
  • On December 10, 1993, a Wisconsin Air National Guard KC-135 blew up on the ground. Six maintenance personnel died.
  • On August 31, 2005, a Midwest Airlines Boeing 717 bumped a weed spraying truck and damaged the plane's left wing. No one was hurt in the incident.
  • On January 21, 2007, a Northwest Airlines DC-9, Northwest Airlines Flight 1726 skidded 400 feet (120 m) off the end of a snowy runway at Milwaukee International Airport. The accident was due to an explosion in one of the engines, forcing the pilot to abort takeoff. The aircraft was headed for Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and was to continue on to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Amongst the 104 people aboard, only one back injury was reported.[30][31]
  • 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.[32] An NTSB investigation determined both pilots and air traffic control were at fault for the accident.[33]
  • On June 4, 2007, a Cessna Citation II crashed after reporting a runaway trim tab. The pilot issued a distress signal within five minutes after taking off. 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.[34] 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 April 22, 2008, a Chautauqua Airlines flight from St. Louis to Milwaukee experienced engine failure and landed safely at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. Of the 32 passengers on board, none were injured.[35]
  • On September 12, 2008, at 7:13 PM, a Cirrus SR22 heading from Milwaukee bound for Lakeland Airport in Vilas County crashed half of a mile southwest of the airport. All three people on board died.[36]


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

  1. ^
  2. ^ General Mitchell International Airport, official web site
  3. ^ a b c FAA Airport Master Record for MKE (Form 5010 PDF), effective December 20, 2007
  4. ^ "Mitchell Offers Delay-Weary Chicago Travelers Timely Alternative". Mitchell Memo. Mitchell International Airport. September 2004. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b "Historic Markers – General Mitchell Field WI221". Milwaukee County Historical Society. 1978. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved October 4, 2006. 
  7. ^ Cowley, Betty (2002). Stalag Wisconsin: Inside WW II prisoner-of-war camps. Oregon, Wisconsin: Badger Books. ISBN 1-878569-83-X. OCLC 48998212. 
  8. ^ "Here's the Program". Milwaukee Journal. July 21, 1955. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ Jesen, Dean (July 25, 1985). "Airport Terminal to Open Sunday". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ Kirchen, Rich (September 21, 2008). "Lubar: Sell Airport to Eliminate Milwaukee County Deficit". Milwaukee Business Journal ( Retrieved October 9, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Master Plan Update" (PDF). General Mitchell International Airport. July 28, 2006. Retrieved February 11, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Mitchell proposes closing one concourse". Milwaukee Business Journal. October 5, 2012. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  13. ^ "The Challenge of Airport Bookselling", Publishers Weekly, July 13, 1984
  14. ^ "State Historical marker #221". Wisconsin History. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  15. ^ Durhams, Sharif (July 9, 2008). "Airport Draws Smiles with 'Recombobulation Area'". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ OneJet, retrieved 2015-03-15
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^
  20. ^ RITA | BTS | Transtats. (2013). Retrieved on 03-15
  21. ^ "County Executive Holloway Announces A Record Number of November Passengers". General Mitchell International Airport. Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Mitchell Airport Stats". General Mitchell International Airport. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  23. ^ "Wisconsin Bus Charters". Badger Coaches. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  24. ^ "MKE Airport Connection". Airport Connection. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  25. ^ "MCTS". Milwaukee County Transit System. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Milwaukee Airport Station". Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT). Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  27. ^ "Wisconsin Coach service". Coach USA. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  28. ^ "Lamers Connect". Lamers Bus Lines. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Midwest Express Airlines Flight 105". National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  30. ^ Johnson, Mark; Kissinger, Meg (January 22, 2007). "'Scared to Death'". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved September 28, 2008. 
  31. ^ Sandler, Larry (January 22, 2007). "Safety Won't Come Easy – 3 Mitchell Runways Don't Meet Federal Standards, but Compliance by 2015 Means Navigating Multiple Obstacles". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved September 28, 2008.  (republished by Hall & Associates)
  32. ^ "Cargo Planes Collide, Burn at Milwaukee Airport". FOX News. January 24, 2007. Retrieved September 28, 2008. 
  33. ^ [2][dead link]
  34. ^ "FAA: Error Nearly Led to Jets Colliding". ABC News. Associated Press. November 17, 2007. Retrieved February 11, 2008. [dead link]
  35. ^ [3][dead link]
  36. ^ "Three People Killed in Plane Crash". WISN (Milwaukee). September 12, 2008. Retrieved October 9, 2008. [dead link]
  • "Midwest Airlines, Virgin's GlobalFlyer". Airliners (Miami: World Transport Press) (94). July–August 2005. ISSN 0896-6575. OCLC 17241224. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]