ERIE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
TOM RIDGE FIELD
In the early 1920’s Erie’s Griswold started a small airfield
at the intersection of West Lake Road and Asbury Road. In 1925 the
US Department of Commerce, Airways Section, Office of the Chief of
Air Services, Washington, D.C. licensed the Griswold Landing Field
as a Commercial Airport under the name of Great Lakes Airways, Inc.,
PA. That was eight years before the establishment of the Civil Aeronautics
Administration (CAA), the forerunner of the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA). The airport was among the earliest in the nation to be licensed
as a commercial airport. The Airport today holds an official copy
of the Aeronautical Bulletin detailing the information on Griswold
In 1929 Carl Litzenberger and Fred Downing Jr., using land owned
by Downing, and renting additional land at the airport, began operating
an airport at the present site of the Erie International Airport.
In 1933 it was turned over to George L. Aulenbaucher and Phoebe
S. Aulenbaucher, his wife and Louie J. Aulenbaucher and Shirley M.
Aulenbaucher, his wife.
On January 15, 1936 the mayor, Charles R. Barber announced that
the City of Erie planned to sponsor under the Work Projects Administration,
a Class A – 1 Municipal Airport for Erie, which would meet
all government flying regulations. Through an agreement with the
owners of the property they had agreed to deed their holdings to
the City and in turn would be given a Lease to operate the proposed
municipal airfield. The City had agreed to sponsor the project, which
would cost a few thousand dollars for the City’s share of the
In March of 1936 it was announced that engineers of the Federal
Government were to make a survey of the field and that the Work Projects
Administration had estimated an approximate cost of $491,000 for
the project which the City and County would spend a combined amount
of approximately $25,000. On April 16, 1936 it was announced that
The Federal Government approved the Class A – 1 airport for
On April 25, 1936 the City of Erie and County divided the cost to
purchase an additional 32.47 acres more or less of land adjoining
Port Erie on the West Lake Road from Earl Deighton for approximately
$11,000 in order to receive a class A –1 rating for the Erie
field by the United States Department of Commerce and the Work Projects
Administration Pennsylvania Bureau of Aeronautics.
Pursuant of the above arrangement was dated May 13, 1936 and subsequently
the Aulenbaucher’s caused a Corporation to be formed, named
Port Erie incorporated, dated June 20, 1941 and amended on September
12, 1941 and said corporation thereafter operated the airport under
an operating agreement between the City and Port Erie Incorporated
from the date of said agreement.
On May 21, 1936 the Airport began improvements under the Works Projects
Administration and continued through 1946, the city bought adjacent
lands, expanded the field and installed a drainage system, constructed
hard surface runways and a hangar which was used to house up to 26
planes and was 80 ft. by 120 ft. The original terminal building was
located at the west end of the airport off of Asbury Road.
On September 24, 1937 the first passenger plane took off from the
revamped Port Erie Lanes. They left for New York, with Gerald Richardson
at the controls. The passengers were Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Zeisinheim
and Mr. And Mrs. Neil McCray.
On Thursday, October 7, 1937 an article appeared in the Erie, PA
paper with the caption “Airport Floodlights are Brilliant Spectacle”.
It went on to describe the Port as being one of the finest lighted
airports in the nation, making the filed nearly as light as day and
assured perfect visibility for planes taking off or landing. It went
on to say that lonely onset of lights the flood reflectors on the
south and north sides of the field, still remained to be installed
and work on those were to be completed within the week. They were
3,000- volt bulbs constructed in two banks with five 3,000 – volt
bulbs in each bank. The boundary lights, runway markers, obstacle
lights, apron floodlights, ceiling projectors and hangar lights were
The first airmail to be picked up in Erie was on Thursday, May 19,
1938 by American Airlines. Thirty planes from Erie City and County,
Meadville, Warren, Sheffield, Titusville, Corry, North East, Mercer,
Greenville and other nearby ports participated by collecting mail
and delivering it to the Erie Airport on Wednesday, may 18, 1938.
The pilots were only licensed for one day to carry mail for the celebration
of the new airmail service in Erie.
In 1947 the airport became one of he first in the nation to install
an Instrument landing System (ILS). The second ILS was installed
in December of 1951, which made Erie among the first airports of
its size in the nation to have two operating ILS units.
On October 19, 1948 the City created an advisory committee consisting
of seven members, to coordinate between the Port Erie Airport and
the City Council.
On November 28, 1950 Erie City Council approved an ordinance calling
for the formation of an Airport Authority, pursuant to the provision
of the Municipality Authorities Act of 1945 the Act of May 2, 1945
P.L. 382 (the “Act”.) On January 23, 1951 pursuant to
the above desire, the Authority was incorporated. The incorporating
official’s were mayor Clairence K. Pulling, Councilmen Kenneth
W. Momeyer, Raymond J. Wagner, Thomas M. McCarthy and Charles G.
On April 20, 1951 the city purchased the Port Erie Corporation rights,
title, properties, equipment, interests and so forth in said operating
agreement back from the Aulenbaucher’s for the sum of $75,000
plus a $9,500 note held by the Company, which cancelled all other
agreements. On May 1, 1951 the Authority assumed the takeover.
At the formation of the Erie Municipal Airport Authority, Mr. Roy
C. Mauer was elected president of the Board. He was president and
retired chairman of the board of the First National Bank of Erie,
former treasurer of the American Cancer Society, and had served on
the Board of Incorporators of both Hamot and St. Vincent Hospitals.
The first five board members of the Airport Authority, under the
city ordinance were: Roy C. Mauer, President, William P. Johnson,
Jr., Vice President, Fred B. Downing, Jr., Secretary, Edwin W. nick,
Treasurer, and Thomas M. MaCarthy.
On November 18, 1951 it was announced that Mr. Roger Sekadlo was
hired as the first Airport Manager on a full-time basis. He was a
WWII Pilot of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Mr. Sekadlo joined the Air Force
in April of 1943 graduated from pilot school a year later and was
assigned to duty in the Aleutian Islands. After his discharge in
June of 1946, he studied mechanical engineering at the University
of Wisconsin for two years. After serving with the U.S. Weather Bureau
for one year at Green Bay, Wisconsin Airport, he enrolled in the
airport management and flight training school at Purdue University.
He graduated from Purdue where he also was employed at the University
airport that summer. He was married and his full-time appointment
went into effect immediately.
In January of 1952, the first snow blower was purchased for $25,000
and was built by Secard Inc. of Watertown, N.Y. This was a major
step for progress since the Airport could be snowbound for as much
as 30 days at a time.
On May 13, 1952 the City of Erie deeded the Erie Municipal Airport
Authority approximately 270.74 acres of acquired lands for airports
purpose which included the Aulenbaucher’s 100.351 acres by
voluntary deeds, consisting of lands, improvements, equipment, facilities
and so forth.
In June of 1952 the construction started at a cost of $50,000 for
a flight school and maintenance of the Erie Aviation, Inc., at the
Erie Municipal Airport. Erie Aviation, Inc., owned by C.L. McMillan,
a graduate of Columbia University and a former Lieutenant Commander
in the navy. Mr. McMillan conducted University and a former Lieutenant
Commander in the Navy. Mr. McMillan conducted a flying school for
Erie Aviation, Inc. The two new hangars were completed in September
of 1952 and occupied on October 1, 1952. One of the structures was
used as an operational hangar, while the other housed a repair shop
under the supervision of Earl Derian.
Under the new administration the Airport began scheduled passenger
service in 1953 by Capital Airlines, followed in 1955 by Allegheny
Airlines and in 1956 Mohawk Airlines began service. In 1964 lake
Central Airlines became the forth-commercial carrier operation but
Capital ceased operations. In 1965 lake Central began the first turbo-prop
air service, followed in 1966 by Mohawk and in 1969 by Allegheny
In May of 1954 Captain John B. Farver of the 325th Fighter Interceptor
Squadron, won the distinction of being the pilot of the first jet-propelled
plane a T – 33-jet trainer to land at the Erie Airport.
On October 17, 1955, The U.S. Weather Bureau leased facilities at
the Airport with Mr. Arvid S. Klemetsmo as the Weather Chief.
On September 15, 1956 construction started at Port Erie Airport
on the west side of the field in the hangar area for the Civil Air
Patrol (CAP). The building was 40 x 50 and housed the CAP’s
single plane office.
Construction began on the terminal building on October 3, 1956 at
a cost of $6,660,000 and was built by E.E. Austin and Son of Erie,
PA. It was constructed of brick, aluminum and glass. The design was by Nelson, Goldberg, & Heidt of Erie, PA. It was 225 ft.
by 70 ft. and constructed so future expansion could be carried out
easily. The control tower was built four stories high. The control
tower opened for business on December 17, 1957 and the terminal opened
for business on September 4, 1958 with a dedication on September
6 and 7, 1958. More than 50,000 people went to view the Airport Terminal
at its dedication.
The terminals first restaurant opened for business on September
4, 1958 and was named the Dutch Pantry a 158-seat restaurant. They
leased the space for $15,000 a year, invested $70,000 in equipment
and furnishings, employed 30 people and served some of the finest
food to be found in the area. This was the seventh Dutch Pantry Restaurant
in Pennsylvania and Florida. The manager was James Laskaris and the
Assistant manager was Jerry Moore.
In April of 1958, the Erie Municipal Airport Authority awarded a
$500,000 contract specifying general construction of a commercial
area and other service to Keystone Construction Co. of Meadville,
PA. For the following work: resurfacing of the 1,600-ft. north-south
runway, construction of a concrete loading apron in front of the
new terminal building, three new taxiways, an extension connecting
the runway to he loading apron, two parking areas, circular driveways
for terminal access, installation of storm sewers, water lines and
hydrants, and the fencing off and landscaping of the improved area.
Resurfacing of the north-south runway involved the placement of 5,900
tons of special bituminous material, which had been specified by
the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
In 1960 County Deputy Sheriff’s at the airport policed the
Airport Authority. They were posted 24 hours a day and were unarmed.
The maintenance and Emergency Equipment Building was erected in
1960 for $69,390. Five snowplows and snow blowers valued at over
$200,000 plus a foam fire truck and other related equipment, shop
and storage facilities were located in this building. The Westlake
Fire Department and Police Departments of the City of Erie and Millcreek
Township and the Pennsylvania State Police all provided assistance
in the event of an aircraft emergency.
In 1968, the U.S. Customs Service building was constructed and the
Airport attained its international classification.
An enlarged baggage claim area was built in about 1970 costing $35,000.
On January 18, 1973 the Authority hired Mr. Bruce Reeder, a retired
Pennsylvania State Police officer and ex-County Prison Warden for
the position of Chief of Security officer at a salary of $130.00
pre week. This was required under the provisions of a new Federal
Security Law. On February 6, 1973 the federal security measure went
into effect mandating that all airport security be armed under the
new domestic anti-hijacking program.
This measure included electronic screening of all passengers and
an inspection of all carry on baggage and the posting of armed guards
at the loading area of all airports.
On May 26, 1973 a Runway Expansion project was awarded to Mayer
Brothers Construction Company at a cost of $888,510. The 6,000’ runway
6-24 was extended an additional 500’ and included some extensions
to adjoining taxiway work. The project used 47,000 tons of asphalt
layered in five passes was nine inches in depth. The construction
work was equivalent to over 70 miles of regular highway.
On September 20, 1973 a new wing was built on the second floor of
the terminal for the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic
Division and the Federal Aviation Administration Airways Facilities
Division at a cost of $180,000.
In August of 1977 the first Radar-Weather tower was installed at
Erie International Airport. The tower is 82’ high and cost
On July 7, 1989 the groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Airport
for the 2.3 million parking lot-access road. The construction of
a new parking lot and re-configuration of the airport access road
was handled by Mayer Bros. Construction Co. while the RELCO Co. installed
the new traffic signal. The parking lot almost doubled the accommodations
of the previous lot.
In 1990 constructing a $325,000 addition was added to the west end
of the terminal building for an additional airline ticket counter
A new US customs building was constructed in 1991 at the west end
of the terminal building.
In 1992 and 1993 the Airport had several major improvement projects.
They realigned a taxiway-closed runway 10-28 added and renumbered
all of the taxiways, placed new signage on the entire airfield and
milled and overlaid the main runway.
In 1999 and 2000 the terminal main lobby area was remodeled, the
rental car agencies were located with an addition space added and
a new baggage claim area was installed along with a new baggage make
The Erie International Airport purchased two buildings, Fenestra
and Penn-Brass on the south side of the airport on West 12th street.
The Fenestra building was purchased in May of 2000 and Penn-Brass
was purchased on April 10, 2000. These buildings will be turned into
an International Freight Center.
In 2001, the airport made improvements to the passenger parking
area, relocated the tenant employee parking area and built a new
rental car service facility.
The airport secured a foreign trade zone status for all airport
property and secured a Keystone Opportunity Zone status, which excludes
businesses from paying state taxes for the next 13 years.
In 2002 an expansion project has begun at the boarding gates to
allow for three new Jetways. This will better accommodate the planes
flying in and out of the Erie International Airport.
Future projects include improvements in the air operations area,
the Powell Avenue relocation project, and the extension of the main
The Erie International Airport currently has two airlines. US Airways
Express: Has Dash 8, turboprops 6-100’s and 5-300’s daily
with an average of 250 passengers daily. The Dash 8, 100’s
hold 37 passengers and the 300’s hold 50 passengers. Northwest
Mesaba Airlines: Has Saab 340, and two CRJ/Jets with a total of five
flights daily with an average of 100 passengers daily. Seating comps
is from 34-50 passengers.
We have US customs, US Immigrations, National Weather Service; an
FBO called North Coast Air, North Coast Air Flight School, Northern
Flights a Charter Service and various tenants with aviation business.
We have three rental car facilities Avis, Budget and National and
one restaurant called “The Landing Zone”.
top of page >>