On these colder-than-cold winter days, one’s mind tends to wander to locales with a more temperate climate. Hawaii, the Caribbean, or… Utah. Anywhere the sun is shining and the weather is above 70. Although Indianapolis is definitely a wonderful place to live, even the most ardent of city boosters begin to question their sanity as the cold weather stretches into February. Luckily, points further south are readily accessible, thanks to our modern airport located on the southwest side of town. The gleaming terminal that opened in 2008 provides a relatively hassle-free environment for travelers. Significantly, those who refer to this as “the new airport” would be incorrect, since the site has served the traveling public since 1931.
The dawn of passenger aviation in Indianapolis actually occurred a couple of miles northeast of the current airport, at Stout Field. Trans Continental Air Transport, the precursor to what many will remember as TWA, began serving the city in 1929. Indianapolis was a stop on a cross-country route. However, it would hardly be considered a direct flight. Passengers from the east coast rode trains to Columbus, Ohio, boarded a plane to Waynoka, Oklahoma, rode on another train to Clovis, New Mexico, and finally flew the remaining distance to Los Angeles, California. This took two days to complete. A two-hour layover in Atlanta doesn’t sound so bad now after all.
Since Stout Field is property of the State of Indiana, city leaders began development of its own airport shortly after passenger service began. The new site, situated south of West Washington Street and west of High School Road, was favored due to the lack of residential and industrial development. This allowed for unimpeded growth. A small passenger terminal opened serving American Airlines and Eastern Air Lines in 1931.
The airport grew throughout the years of World War II, serving as the home for a Civil Pilot Training Program (CPTP). The war also brought about a new name, Weir Cook Airport. Cook, a native Hoosier from the town of Wilkinson in Hancock County, was a fighter pilot in the first World War. Cook once again answered the call to service as a commander in New Caledonia during World War II. Sadly Cook was killed in a plane crash while training new pilots.
What many remember of the airport took shape following the war. A new two-level terminal opened in 1956. Shortly thereafter, the jet age became reality with TWA’s Convair 880s. Over the next three decades, the passenger terminal and runways expanded to handle the ever-increasing volume of passenger and freight traffic. Indianapolis grew a bit in stature in 1976, when the name became Indianapolis International Airport.
Today’s passengers are greeted by a sparkling new terminal. Development began in the 1990s. In 2008, the facility became the first to open with the new security measures put in place after the September 11th terrorist attacks. In celebration of the facility’s history, the new terminal was named for Colonel Weir Cook, a name that had been somewhat forgotten over time. New artwork installed in August traces the history of Weir Cook.
What are some of your earliest memories of taking flight to somewhere far away?
Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, 1994 Indiana University Press
Indianapolis Star, August 6, 2014