Savannah/Hilton Head Island Airport History

The Savannah/Hilton Head airport has a long and varied history, both in terms of the airport itself, and its contributions to milestones in American aviation. If you have ever flown into the Hilton Head Island area, you are probably familiar with the airport but not with the history behind it. What began as a small landing strip less then one hundred years ago has now expanded into a full service International airport, where many flights are routed each day. In 1918, the first aircraft landing field in Savannah was constructed, and was the main source of airport operations until 1930, when a 730 acre tract was selected as a modern airport site. This airport, the Savannah Municipal Airport, opened on September 20th of 1929 and offered air service between New York City and Miami by Eastern Air Express. In 1932, a city resolution renamed the airport Hunter Field and a trolley car functioned as the first Hunter airport terminal for several years. In 1940, the U.S. Army Air Corps announced that if a war were to start, it would takeover Hunter Field, and so a second Municipal airport was constructed in response. Three runways were constructed at the new airport, but before construction was complete, the U.S. Army Air Corps d
ecided that it was necessary to take over the facility and they named the airfield Chatham Field. Chatham was used until the end of WWII as a bomber and training base for both B-24s and fighter aircrafts. In 1949, the old airport was moved from Hunter field to Travis Field and a few years later, due to an increase in air travel, Runway 9-27 was extended to a length of 8,000 feet and a new Airport Commission was created by a special act of the Georgia State Legislature. In 1960, a new, permanent terminal building was completed and served as the main passenger terminal until 1994, when it became the Airport Business Center. This new terminal was part of an improvement project that included new roads, a new aircraft taxiway, landscaping, and a new I-95 Interchange. This project totaled 43 million dollars. IN 2003, the name of the airport was changed yet again to the Savannah/ Hilton Head International Airport, and since then has undergone several large scale expansions, improvements, and renovations. This airport, although it may have started out as a small airstrip, is nevertheless a significant part of the aviation history of the area, as well as the United States, and as such, is an important piece of living history.

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