In 1910, a Rock River valley pasture known as “Franing Field” near Moline, Illinois, was selected for the first coast-to-coast flight by U.S. Army aircraft. Three men leased 30 acres in this pasture, and it officially became an airport. One year later they expanded the airport to include 200 acres. In 1926, regular airmail service began and operations expanded in 1927 when Boeing Air Transport began flying between Chicago and San Francisco. Later that year, Boeing Air Transport, Valley Air Transport, Pacific Air Transport, and National merged to form United Airlines, which provided passenger and mail service to the east and west coasts, as well as to the southwestern United States.
In 1935, the city of Moline, Illinois, took over the airport as a municipal, tax-supported airport. The second largest Work Projects Administration project in Illinois was underway at a cost of $165,000 to the City of Moline and $365,000 to the federal government. A new terminal and hangar were built in 1939 with five scheduled air carrier flights per day and 24 private aircraft based on airport property.
Rock Island County citizens voted in 1947 to buy the airport creating the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County, Illinois (MAA) as its owner. Ozark Air Lines began service at the airport in 1950. In 1954, a terminal building was built to provide space for United and Ozark Airlines, as well as limousine service, car rentals, the Civil Aeronautics Administration, and the U. S. Weather Bureau. In March 1985, the new terminal, parking lot, and roadway system were completed. Another significant milestone was reached in 2001 with the opening of two state-of-the-art concourses, new concessions, and an art gallery. Since that time a number of renovation and expansion projects have impacted the airport property. Seven townships in Rock Island County provide financial support to the airport. They include Hampton, Moline, South Moline, Rock Island, South Rock Island, Blackhawk, and Coal Valley. In addition, a number of airlines, car rental organizations, parking lot patrons, and others also support MAA and airport operations.
Growth resulted in construction of a new public parking lot in 1998. An $18 million terminal expansion project followed shortly thereafter to bring the size of the terminal complex to nearly 160,000 square feet on the 2,021-acre campus. This project, completed in 2001, resulted in the construction of two new concourses, as well as remodeled space for the new gift shop tenant, new restaurant tenant, and an art gallery.
Nearly $100 million in assets are owned and operated by the Metropolitan Airport Authority. Some of those assets are in the form of buildings that serve a variety of needs on airport property. An air freight complex opened in 1992. Additionally, various hangars for private and corporate aircraft, along with an industrial park, are on the south side of the property. The longest runway extends just over 10,000 feet.
Bruce E. Carter is the director of aviation, Bryan Johnson is assistant director of aviation and operations, and Michael J. Haney is director of projects and construction.