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Coordinates: 42°56′50″N 087°53′48″W / 42.94722°N 87.89667°W / 42.94722; -87.89667

General Mitchell International Airport
Airport type Public
Owner/Operator Milwaukee County
Location Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 723 ft / 220 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
01L/19R 9,690 to be 10,690[1] 2,954 Asphalt/Concrete
01R/19L 4,183 1,275 Asphalt/Concrete
07L/25R 4,800 1,463 Asphalt/Concrete
07R/25L 8,012 to be 9,012[1] 2,442 Asphalt/Concrete
13/31 5,868 1,789 Asphalt/Concrete
Statistics (2008)
Aircraft operations 183,278
Passengers 7,956,968
Sources: airport web site[2] and FAA[3]

General Mitchell International Airport (IATA: MKEICAO: KMKEFAA LID: MKE) is a county-owned public airport located five miles (8 km) south of the central business district of Milwaukee, a city in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, United States.[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. The airport is the main hub of Midwest Airlines and is also a hub for AirTran Airways[4]. Along with being the primary airport for Milwaukee, Mitchell International has sometimes been described as Chicago's third airport, as many Chicago travelers use it as an alternative to Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway.[5] 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 the Hiawatha Service line running between Chicago and Milwaukee several times daily.



The original airfield was established in 1920 as Hamilton Airport by business owner Thomas Hamilton. Milwaukee County purchased the land on October 19, 1926, for the Milwaukee County Airport. Kohler Aviation Corporation began providing passenger service across Lake Michigan on August 31, 1929. A passenger terminal was later constructed in 1940, and 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 and Polish population just beyond the fence.[7] The present terminal opened in 1955 and was expanded significantly between 1984 and 1990. On June 19, 1986, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors officially renamed Mitchell Field to General Mitchell International Airport.[6]

The airport is still owned and operated by Milwaukee County; however, some Milwaukee business leaders are advocating the privatization or leasing of General Mitchell International Airport in order (they say) to eliminate Milwaukee County’s budget deficit.[8]


Awards and recognition

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.

Facilities and operations

General Mitchell International Airport covers an area of 2,180 acres (882 ha) which contains five asphalt and concrete paved runways ranging in length from 4,183 to 9,690 ft (1,463 to 2,954 m). For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2005, the airport had 219,114 aircraft operations, an average of 600 per day: 56% air taxi, 32% scheduled commercial, 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.[9] 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. A Wisconsin historical marker documenting the airport's history is also located there.[10]

A Midwest Express Dornier 328JET on the tarmac in front of the airport's 200-foot (61 m) high control tower


In 2008, a record 7,956,968 passengers used the airport, a 3.62% increase over 2007 with 7,713,144. The airport is owned and operated by Milwaukee County. Mitchell's 12 airlines offer over 200 daily departures. Over 40 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.[11]


Mitchell International is expanding the buffer zone 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 buffer zone no shorter than 1,000 feet (305 m), although many airports do not meet this requirement.

Construction to provide this buffer zone began at the end of the summer of 2009. Current plans call for the completion by the summer of 2011. Work is being done to the west of the airport (6th Street) to move the road to allow enough room. Work is also being done to the south of the airport. College Avenue will be rebuilt to travel through a tunnel to allow a buffer zone over the road. This is similar to work already in place to the west on Howell Avenue.

There is also a "Master Plan" idea to significantly increase terminal area by either stretching the existing terminal (in some cases, to almost double the size) or begin construction of an entirely separate terminal. Nearly all cases will involve major reconstruction on the airport itself, and will have a huge impact on the airport's future traffic.[12]

Accourding to the Fall 2007 Newsletter, the proposed Concourses F and G would be built just below the Concourse E stem.[13]

In July 2007, General Mitchell International Airport completed a 10 gate addition to Concourse C along with new rampside boarding gates for Midwest Connect in Concourse D. US Airways was moved to Concourse C, leaving all of Concourse D for Midwest Airlines and Midwest Connect until June 1, 2008 when Great Lakes Airlines started its Milwaukee service. Concourse E has also been renovated due to the larger passenger volume.

Airlines and destinations

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.

Midwest Airlines is the largest carrier with the most gates at the airport. AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines also have sizable presences.

Airlines Destinations Concourse
Air Canada Jazz Toronto-Pearson C
AirTran Airways Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth [begins April 6], Denver, Fort Lauderdale [seasonal], Fort Myers, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St Paul, New York LaGuardia, Orlando, Phoenix [seasonal], San Diego [seasonal], San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Washington-Reagan C
AirTran Airways operated by SkyWest Airlines Akron-Canton, Des Moines [begins February 11], Indianapolis, Omaha [begins February 11], Pittsburgh, St. Louis C
AmericanConnection operated by Chautauqua Airlines Chicago-O'Hare [begins April 6], St. Louis [ends April 5] C
American Eagle Chicago O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Marquette C
Continental Express operated by ExpressJet Airlines Cleveland, Houston-Intercontinental, Newark E
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Cancún [seasonal], Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul E
Delta Connection operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines Atlanta E
Delta Connection operated by Mesaba Airlines Minneapolis/St. Paul [resumes April 6] E
Delta Connection operated by Pinnacle Airlines Atlanta, Memphis E
Delta Connection operated by Shuttle America Atlanta E
Delta Connection operated by SkyWest Airlines Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky E
Frontier Airlines Boston [seasonal], Denver, Fort Myers [seasonal], Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco [begins April 19], Tampa [seasonal] D
Great Lakes Airlines Ironwood, Manistee, Rhinelander D
Midwest Airlines operated by Republic Airlines Atlanta, Boston, Columbus (OH), Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Fort Lauderdale [seasonal], Kansas City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-LaGuardia, Omaha, Raleigh/Durham [begins April 1], Tampa, Washington-Reagan D
Midwest Connect operated by Chautauqua Airlines Appleton, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Dayton, Des Moines, Flint, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Louisville, Madison, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, Newark, Omaha, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis [begins March 1] D
Ryan International Airlines Ixtapa/Zihuantanejo [seasonal charter][14] E
Southwest Airlines Baltimore, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa D
United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines Chicago O'Hare, Denver C
US Airways Phoenix C
US Airways Express operated by Air Wisconsin Charlotte, Philadelphia C

Cargo carriers

Airlines Destinations
Berry Aviation Chicago-Executive Airport
CSA Air Marquette, Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Rhinelander
FedEx Express Appleton, Chicago-O'Hare, Indianapolis, Memphis
Flight Line Chicago-Midway
Freight Runners Express Appleton, Bloomington-Normal, Dillon, Green Bay, Lake Delton, Madison, Marinette, Menomonie, Rhinelander, Stevens Point, Wausau
Kalitta Air Kenosha
Martinaire Iron Mountain, Ironwood
Royal Air Freight Pontiac
UPS Airlines Louisville
U.S. Check Chicago-Midway, Green Bay, St. Paul-Downtown Airport

Military presence

The airport also hosts the General Mitchell Air National Guard Station, 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 world-wide deployment in support of Air Mobility Command and combatant commander tasking. The wing also maintains a KC-135 flight simulator, providing training profciency 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, the military installation was known as General Mitchell Air Reserve Station and was also 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.

Ground transportation

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.[15]

Incidents and accidents

  • On 4 August 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 3 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 crashed upon takeoff from Milwaukee. This was Midwest's first (and, as of September 11, 2008, only) fatal accident, when one of the airline's Douglas DC-9s crashed while taking off from Milwaukee, 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.[20]
  • 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. Investigation found Air Traffic Control to be at fault for the incident.[25]
  • On June 4, 2007 A Cessna Citation II crashed on take off after reporting a runaway trim tab. The pilot issued a distress signal within five minutes after taking off from KMKE. 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.[26] 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 December 29, 2008 a Midwest Connect flight made an emergency landing at General Mitchell International Airport after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit. The plane, bound for Flint, Michigan, returned to General Mitchell International Airport and landed without incident. None of the 40 passengers were injured.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Mitchell Airport Could Receive Stimulus Funds. Runway Expansion, Security Upgrade Projects Planned". (Milwaukee: Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc.). 25 February 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.  
  2. ^ General Mitchell International Airport, official web site
  3. ^ a b c FAA Airport Master Record for MKE (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2007-12-20
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Mitchell Offers Delay-Weary Chicago Travelers Timely Alternative". Mitchell Memo. Mitchell International Airport. September 2004.  
  6. ^ a b "Historic Markers - General Mitchell Field WI221". Milwaukee County Historical Society. 1978. Retrieved 2006-10-04.  
  7. ^ Cowley, Betty (2002). Stalag Wisconsin: Inside WW II prisoner-of-war camps. Oregon, Wisconsin: Badger Books. ISBN 187856983X. OCLC 48998212.  
  8. ^ "Lubar: Sell airport to eliminate Milwaukee County deficit - The Business Journal of Milwaukee:". Retrieved 2008-10-09.  
  9. ^ "The Challenge of Airport Bookselling", Publishers Weekly, July 13, 1984
  10. ^ "State Historical marker #221". Wisconsin History. Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  11. ^ "Mitchell Airport Stats". General Mitchell International Airport. Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  12. ^ "Master Plan Update" (PDF). General Mitchell International Airport. 2006-07-28. Retrieved 2008-02-11.  
  13. ^
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "Wisconsin Bus Charters". Badger Coaches. Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  16. ^ "MKE Airport Connection". Airport Connection. Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  17. ^ "Bus route 80". MCTS. Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  18. ^ "Milwaukee Airport Station". Wisconsin Department Of Transportation (WDOT). Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  19. ^ "Wisconsin Coach service". Coach USA. Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  20. ^ "Midwest Express Airlines Flight 105". National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Retrieved 2008-09-27.  
  21. ^ "'Scared to death'". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-09-28.  
  22. ^ Mark Johnson, Meg Kissinger (22 January 2007). "'Scared to death' : Pilot aborts takeoff as engine fails; no serious injuries reported". Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Journal-Sentinel.  
  23. ^ Larry Sandler (22 January 2007). "Safety won't come easy - 3 Mitchell runways don't meet federal standards, but compliance by 2015 means navigating multiple obstacles". Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Journal-Sentinel.   (republished by Hall & Associates)
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Cargo Planes Collide, Burn at Milwaukee Airport". Fox News.,2933,246619,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-28.  
  26. ^ "FAA: Error Nearly Led to Jets Colliding". 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2008-02-11.  
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ "Three People Killed In Plane Crash - Milwaukee News Story - WISN Milwaukee". Retrieved 2008-10-09.  

External links


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