The airport was dedicated on 26 October 1945. Airline flights began in 1954. The terminal building built in 1960 was used until the present terminal was completed in 1987. By 1969 Willard was the second-busiest airport in the state of Illinois. After the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 many airlines found service to small airports to be inefficient, the price differential to airfares from major hub airports such as Chicago O'Hare grew, which limited demand for tickets from Willard and caused airlines to leave.
On January 28, 1998 President Bill Clinton was in Champaign-Urbana for a speaking engagement at Assembly Hall and arrived at Willard Airport on Air Force One. Due to the breaking story, news media descended on Champaign-Urbana. After the engagement, just prior to takeoff, the Boeing 707 acting as Air Force One got stuck in the mud, the taxiway not being designed for aircraft as wide as the Boeing 707. After about an hour of being stuck, a backup Air Force One descended upon Willard Airport. The backup was SAM26000, which was the same 707 that took John F. Kennedy to Dallas. The trip on SAM26000 marked the last time it carried a sitting president. Several months later it was retired to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson. Many news broadcasts that evening carried live video feed of the Presidential aircraft stuck at Willard Airport.
The airport is served by buses from the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, which connect with intercity buses and with Amtrak. Several car rental agencies have offices in the terminal building. The airport is reached from U.S. Route 45, five miles south of downtown Champaign. The nearest expressway exit is Exit 229 (Monticello Road) on Interstate 57, about a four mile drive from the terminal. In addition to the curbside loading zone and the rental car parking lot, parking facilities include a paid parking lot ($5/day).