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If you have any information you can add please let us know we are trying to build a good enclusive history.  If you have any stories from the pass we want to hear them.  (Lee Scherwitz, director@swmiairport.com )

HISTORY OF THE BENTON HARBOR / ST. JOSEPH AIRPORT

BEH / Ross Field / Twin Cities Airport / Southwest Michigan Regional Airport

 
A: 1934 Hay field consisting of 194 Acres and one grass landing strip

 

1. H. B. Ross, Ross Carrier Company made it into a Golf Course called Michicago Golf and Flying Club.

 

2. 1939, Ross sold 48 acres of land to Benton Harbor and later another 66 acres to pave a Runway at the Airport.

 

3. Airport named Ross Field. January 2, 1940.

 

4. 1944, Benton Harbor and St. Joseph enter Agreement for Ownership and Airport land consisted of 256 Acres. Now have more than 485 Acres of Land.

 

B. 1944 Airport renamed Twin Cities Airport and Twin Cities Airport Board formed, Benton Harbor owned 27/43rds and St. Joseph owned 16/43rds.

 

1. 1944 to 1952 Airport Manager Byron Cookson / Assistant Manager Jack George

 

2. 1950 East West Runway extended from 4,300ft to 5,109 ft  cost $50,000.

 

3. Air Castle Cafe several years in 1950 and lasted to 1964

 

4. l952 to l975 Edward Weisbruch Airport Manager / Assistant Manager Norval Martin from 1952 to 1968

 

5. 1955 Runway 9 / 27 gets 1,442 foot extension East, brings runway length to 5,000 Feet. (Yerington Construction performed the work)

 

5. 1958 Whirlpool Corporation builds$100,000.00 hangar to house their DC3 Aircraft.

 

C.  1959 Civil Aeronautics Board grants North Central Airlines license to provide service to Twin Cities Airport (Ross Field).

 

1. January 1, 1960 North Central Airlines starts first service to Airport using Convair 340s', phasing out their DC3 models. Chicago, Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids service.  Later years used Convair 580 models 50 passenger types.

 

2. 1964 Air Castle Cafe closed down.

 

3. 1966 Moved out of old terminal west of runway 18/36  into new terminal east of runway 18/36.

 

4. 1968 Gene Cramer starts second airline service using Beech 18 Model Aircraft. Lasted for a while then folded.

 

5. 1972 Dr. Harzel Taylor appointed to Airport Board, through 1998.

 

6. 1973 New Air Traffic Control Tower open and New 9700 sq ft Maintenance Building built.

 

D. 1975 First, FAA Certification Part 139 Certificate issued

 

1. June 1975 First Crash Fire Rescue (CFR) Quick Response Vehicle purchased. now called Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF).

 

2. 1975 to 1976 Ron Momanny Airport Manager,

 

3. Airport Board turns Fuel Concession over to AVSAT Inc. Fixed Base Operator (FBO) Operation.

 

4. 1977-1980 Lee Schiek Airport Manager.

 

5. 1981 to 1982 Ray Hoverman, Airport Manager

 

6. 1981 Control Tower closes (Controller Strike).

 

7. December 1982 North Central/Republic Airlines pulls out.

 

8. 1982 Mississippi Valley Airlines starts service short 330 and 360 Aircraft. Chicago

 

9. 1982 to 1985 David Rhodes Airport Manager.

 

10. 1985 to 1994 John Chaddock, Airport Manager

 

11. 1984 to 87 Air Wisconsin Airlines take over Air Service. Short 360 and F-27 Aircraft. Chicago

 

12. 1987 to 1990 Iowa Airways take over Air Service to Midway Airport.

 

13. All sorts of projects going on from 1985 to present. New buildings and Modification to old buildings.

 

14. 1994 to 1997 Peter Van Pelt AAE, Airport Manager.

 

15. 1994 Twin Cities Airport renamed Southwest Michigan Regional Airport

 

E. June 15, 1995, Northwest Airlink (MESABA Airlines) starts service to Detroit. Five flights a day.

 

1996 January Airport started storing Aircraft Fuel for Whirlpool

 

1. 1997 Millage funding set up for airport passed in Benton Harbor City, St. Joseph City, Lincoln Charter Township, and St Joseph Charter Township

 

2. 1997 to 2000 Karen Conlon, Airport Manager.

 

3. August 1, 1998, Airport Board made up of Benton Harbor City, St. Joseph City, Benton Charter Township, and St Joseph Charter Township, turns over the control of the airport to the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport Authority Board, formed with millage from Benton Harbor City, St. Joseph City, Lincoln Charter Township, and St Joseph Charter Township.

 

4. 1999 H.B. Ross Terminal Building Dedicated to Harry Beach Ross in recognition of his generous role in the creation of the airport

 

5. 1999 Closure of Red Arrow Highway in preparation of making Runway Safety Area improvements to the East.

 

6. March 2000 to present Robert “Lee” Scherwitz C.M. Airport Manager / Assistant Airport Manager John Chaddock

 

7. August 31, 2000 Northwest Airlink (MESABA Airlines) stops service for lack of profitability and pulls out.

 

D. December 2000, surrendered FAA Certification Part 139 Certificate.  Airport focus went from a Commercial Service Airport to a General Aviation Reliever Airport for Business and Corporate Aircraft as well as the continued support of General Aviation.  The Michigan Department of Transportation, Bureau of Aeronautics will now inspect the airport for compliance issues.

 

1.      2001 Runway Safety Area (RSA) improvement project moving along in the engineering planning which will provide a 1,000-foot RSA at each end of runway 9/27and the extension of Runway 9/27 from 5109 feet to 6,003 feet.

2.      May 2001 Ross Warner Builds new 40 by 60 foot aircraft hangar at the base of the old aircraft control tower

3.      June 2001 Randy Rue builds a 40 by 60 foot aircraft hangar West of Tail Draggers on the West end of the field

 

E.  XXXX Taxiway Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo and Fox Narrowed from 75 feet to 50 feet and resurfaced along with new taxiway lighting.

 

 

 

F  XXXX  the airport proceeds with gaining all of the governmental approvals to proceed with the long overdue Runway Safety Area (RSA).  The residents on the eastern edge of the airport have heard for over thirty years the airport will be coming to take their property.  The Federal Government has mandated the RSA improvements get completed and are providing the funding to make it happen.

 

1.   XXXX XXXX  Public Hearings for Runway Area Safety Improvements, which will require the removal and relocation of 224 homes and families.

2.      XXXX  XXXXX Land acquisition begins for Area 1 consisting of approximately  50 homes.  Of the 31 tenants in this area the airport assisted 15 families into home ownership

3.      XXXX XXXXX  Land acquisition begins for Area 2 consisting of approximately 100 homes

4.      2005 New Roofing system installed on the H.B. Ross Terminal Building

5.      2006 New entrance road completed allowing direct access to the airport from the I-94 Business Loop, straight north on Urbandale Road crossing Territorial Road entering the airport on the new John Chaddock Drive, This name given for his over thirty years of dedicated service to the airport.

6.      2006 Insulated Glass installed on the H.B. Ross Terminal Building

7.       

 

G.  2005  Friends Of the Airport formed to support the millage renewal for the Airport Authority to operate for another 10 years.  Millage proposal to go to the Voters in November 2006.