Today, the local airport hub is called The Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (coined in 1989), but as with most institutions that have endured almost a century, the airport has undergone several name changes, beginning with the moniker of Indian Field, and then Lindbergh Field. The airport also has the distinction of being the first licensed municipal airport in the state of Michigan, opening in 1929.
The area where the airport is located was used as a landing field as early as 1921, several years prior to the intentional planning of a city-operated air hub. In 1924, a group of local leaders convened to campaign for a city-operated airport, including George P. Wigginton, Dr. S. Rudolph Light, Claude S. Carney, Fred Appeldoorn, Howard J. Cooper, and Charles Blaney. In the spring of 1926, the city advanced the project forward with the purchasing of over 300 acres of land, three miles south of the city, along Portage and Kilgore roads. The name attributed to the budding airfield was for a brief time referred to as Indian Field, a reference to the Potawatomi, who occupied the land in the early 1800’s prior to their forced removal. Airmail service, operated by Thompson Aeronautical Corporation, debuted in 1928, along with a new $20,000 hangar that was dedicated on July 17th.
The Kalamazoo Gazette and its editors were very vocal in their desire to see the new airport associated with Charles A. Lindbergh, who had successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the Spirit of St. Louis airplane in 1927. City officials made the name change a year later. Lindbergh Field remained the name of the airfield until the late 1930’s, when Lindbergh’s public support and sympathy for Hitler’s Nazi Germany made the use of the name unpopular. By 1942, the name was commonly referred to as the Kalamazoo Municipal Airport.
Kalamazoo: The Debt Free City (1939) describes the early airport, in its first decade of service in the following:
“Already equipped with paved runways and two large hangars, plans are being developed to make this one of the finest airports in the state. The field is now well lighted and is the headquarters of a weather reporting service.”
“Flying, both commercially and for pleasure, is making rapid strides. Since the early start was made in Kalamazoo under sponsorship of such men as Dr. S. Rudolph Light, Louis Rosenbaum, Frank J. Ryan, Fred Appeldoorn.”
Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, November 2022
“We called it Lindbergh Field”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 8 October 1989, page A1, column 1
“Community leaders paved way for local landing: Airport Chronology”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 8 October 1989, page D2, column 1
“Looking Back: The first hangar”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 30 May 1993, page A6, column 2.
Kalamazoo: The Debt-Free City (1939), Ford F. Rowe (H 977.418 R87)
Local History Room Files
Subject File: Airports – Kalamazoo