About the Airport
Peoria’s ties to aviation began before we had an official airport. In the summer of 1910, the Wright Brothers sent one of their instructors to Peoria for an exhibition flight. A year later, Peoria was one of the stops for Cal Rogers, the first to successfully complete a transcontinental flight across the U.S.
Charles Lindberg left his mark on the Peoria area as he made numerous stops as he flew the St. Louis to Chicago air mail route. At this time, there was no formal airport, just a small building and grass strip in the area where the Shoppes at Grand Prairie is located today.
On May 19, 1932, Peorians officially voted to create an airport that would be situated on 195 acres, which was purchased by 261 Peoria businessmen, – Peoria Airport, Inc. This early airport had only four shale runways.
In 1937, the airport was turned over to the Peoria Park District until 1950 when the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria was formed and assumed responsibility. MAAP still owns and operates both this airport and Mt. Hawley Airport today. The airport property has transformed over the years. On October 10, 2008, the Greater Peoria Regional Airport was dedicated as the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport. Ross Perot, Gen. Downing’s friend, attended and helped unveil the statue memorializing the General’s service to our Nation with while honoring his hometown.
2016, PIA dedicated a new 2-story addition in honor of former Transportation Secretary and Congressman Ray LaHood. The upper level of the building houses airline gates, while the lower level is occupied by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In addition to buildings and grounds changing over the years, so have our passenger counts. In the late 1950s, Peoria welcomed 50,000 (enplaned and deplaned) passengers a year. In 2019, PIA set an all-time record high of 689,416.
Today, we have 12 nonstop destinations on three airlines and provide the longest runway in Illinois outside of Chicago. PIA is also houses the only 24-hour FAA control tower outside of Chicago.
PIA began with less than 200 acres and now owns and maintains more than 3,500 acres, yet only employs 26 full-time staff.
Our grounds serve many tenants, private hangars, Fixed Based Operation, cargo facilities, as well as provide access to Army and Air National Guards.
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