History of Akron Canton Airport

History of the Akron Canton Airport

Replica of Wright Brothers first flight airplane at the CAK Aviation Park

The origin of Akron Canton Airport goes back to the days before World War II when the nation was concerned about air defense. Back in 1940, when Hitler threatened world domination, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) announced $500 million in new funds for airport construction in the United States. Ohio was to receive $15 million to establish 104 ports statewide. $216,000 was earmarked for a class 2 airfield (limited to 20 passenger planes) in Canton. Three sites were considered: McKinley Airport on Mahoning Road (144 acres), Martin Field on Harrisburg Road (170 acres), and the Harvey Miller Farm (400 acres).

In October, 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Senator Harold H. Burton announced that the CAA had approved $2 million for the construction of an airport near Canton. The airport would have 3 runways, each 5,600 feet in length by 150 feet wide, on a tract of at least 800 acres. In order to secure the $2 million in funding, Canton needed to purchase the site estimated at between $100,000 and $200,000.

Because the original sites were too small, the CAA favored a site south of Greensburg-Greentown Road in Summit County, North of Canton. This is the site selected by Henry Timken and Fred Wilkins who had searched the entire area for an ideal location.

On April 27, 1943, the commissioners announced the new airfield's name: The Canton Akron Memorial Airport, honoring veterans of the two world wars. The Stark County Commissioners adopted a resolution to issue bonds amounting to $100,000 for their share of the purchase of the land.

Fundraising Begins

J. E. Kinnison, a Canton Attorney, disputed the use of tax dollars to purchase property in Summit County and effectively blocked the resolution in 1943. Not to be outdone, The Chamber of Commerce formed a special committee to solicit private contributions to raise the $100,000 obligation. The Timken Roller Bearing Company gave $50,000 to purchase the land, with the remaining $50,000 donated by nine other Stark County Corporations: Republic Stamping & Enameling Company, Canton Drop Forging & Manufacturing Company, Morgan Engineering Company, Hercules Motors Corporation, Tyson Roller Bearing Company, Union Metal Company, Hoover Company, Brush-Moore Newspapers Inc., and Diebold, Inc.

The site was 1,163 acres consisting of 26 parcels of real estate.

With Stark County's $100,000, commissioners from both counties agreed that Summit County Commissioners would purchase the property and operate, maintain and further develop it under the CAA. Summit County agreed to name the new airport Canton Akron Memorial Airport.

Early Leaders

Governance of the bi-county airfield came in the form of a Board of Trustees. Two appointed by the Summit County Commissioners and two by the Stark County Commissioners. The trustees met quarterly, appointed the airport superintendent and employees, fixed pay, and adopted rules and regulations.

In March, 1944, the first of four trustees were appointed: Henry Timken, Jr. and Fred Wilkins from Stark County, and Lon L. Tighe and Gillum H. Doolittle from Summit County. In 1955, the Board was increased from 4 to 8 members. The airport was governed in this manner until October 1964. Then, the Board of County Commissioners of both Stark and Summit Counties approved the creation of the Airport Authority pursuant to section 308 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Airlines Make a Move

In 1945, World War II ended and the airport, although under construction, was yet to be completed. In February, 1946, eight months prior to the airport's dedication, American, Eastern, Capital, and United announced their plans to move from Akron Municipal Airport to Canton-Akron Memorial Airport. City and Airport officials in Akron were outraged and claimed that the airlines would be violating their lease agreements if they moved. The airlines argued that the natural bowl in which the Akron Municipal Airport was located, with the Goodyear Air dock on one side and Derby Downs on the other, foggy conditions and short runways created hazardous conditions for commercial pilots. City officials also protested that travel cost would increase as a result of the Airlines' move.

To help alleviate the tension, the airport was renamed the Akron-Canton-Massillon Airport. Later, Massillon was dropped from the name and replaced by "regional",representing the many communities that helped develop the airport over the years. Akron Canton Regional Airport is currently the airfield's official name.

Akron Municipal Airport lost its fight to hold the four airlines in October 1947 when the CAB recommended that they be transferred to Akron-Canton Airport. Akron Municipal, though, continued to fight the move, offering a huge terminal expansion and extension of their runways to 5,340 and 5,400 feet. It was not until March 9, 1948 that the Civil Aeronautics Board allowed the four airlines to move to the new airport.

Passenger Service

July 1, 1948 marked the beginning of passenger air service at the Akron-Canton Airport by American and United Airlines. Capital and Eastern moved August 14, 1948 bringing the total of daily flights up to 35. General, Military and Corporate aviation developed simultaneously with the commercial service.

By March 1953, the airfield needed a new terminal building to replace the small temporary structure erected hurriedly before opening the airport. But as with most of the airport's early development, building a new terminal was plagued with setbacks. It took nearly two years to secure funding and break ground on the new terminal. The building was improved again in 1962.

When the Airport reached its 10th birthday, October 13, 1956, the number of passengers flying from Akron-Canton had grown from 92,000 in 1946 to 193,000, an increase of 125 percent. Although passenger numbers were growing, many local travelers were (and still are) driving to Cleveland Hopkins Airport. In 1966, access to CAK improved dramatically with the completion of I-77 which featured a dedicated Airport ramp.

In the late 1970s, airline deregulation significantly impacted airline service at Akron-Canton as well as most small and mid-sized fields across the country. Competition forced the airlines to rationalize resources and focus on profitability. Many airlines merged, reallocated aircraft and/or went out of business as a result. Over the years many airlines served CAK including Presidential, Eastern, Piedmont, Republic, Air Wisconsin, Allegheny, Freedom and Aeromech.

To the Future

In 1981, Frederick J. Krum was appointed Director of Aviation. Under the guidance of the Board of Trustees, he has supervised the highest level of capital investment in airport history. His accomplishments include extending Runway 5/23, many terminal expansions and enhancements, acquiring hundreds of acres of property, and representing the airport's interests in the public and private sectors.

Today, Akron-Canton Airport sits on 2,700 acres of property, has three intersecting runways and a 24 hour control tower. 170,000 square feet of terminal space and a business lounge, concessions and 78 arrival/departure flights on seven airlines. It is governed by an eight member Board of Trustees who are appointed by the Summit County Executive (and approved by Council) and Stark County Commissioners.