Many cities in West Virginia have maintained a somewhat remote and rural status throughout the state’s history, including Charleston, to some extent. The city of Charleston is situated in a river valley right in the middle of a major mountain chain. Before the introduction of mass communication and quick travel, it could take days or even weeks to travel from Charleston to another major city. The introduction of Yeager airport to Charleston in the form of a small airfield in 1939 changed that.
What began as a small airfield that the city government didn’t even have enough funds to maintain has grown into a sizable airport with daily flights to major hubs around the country. Service from Delta, Continental, Northwest, United, and US Air makes this airport a convenient connection to the rest of the country and the world.
Located minutes from the intersection of three major interstate highways, blocks away from a minor league ballpark, and a short drive down the road from a major cultural center with a population of over 300,000 make this airport the ideal gateway to West Virginia. West Virginia’s geographic location puts it within a day’s drive or an afternoon’s flight from about 60% of the nation’s population. That makes Charleston the ideal gateway to the nation itself.
The airport is built on the hilltops in the area surrounding Charleston after engineers and city planners realized that Wertz Field (an airfield that had been functioning as an airport for 12 years) was deemed to be unfit for the growing community. The field had no possibility for expansion, and therefore could not handle the increasing demands placed upon it by larger airplanes and more traffic. No other suitable site could be found, so engineers removed almost ten million cubic yards of rock from the top of a mountain, using 2 million pounds of dynamite.
When the airport itself was built in 1947 (it was then called Kanawah Airport), it cost roughly 8 million dollars. Like any good airport, almost constant improvement projects keep the crews busy just about year-round. Some of the current and ongoing projects eclipse the original cost of the airport by a factor of three! Runway improvement, taxiway construction, and upgrades to the terminals themselves are necessary to maintaining a viable and competitive facility.
Yeager airport in Charleston has grown into one of the region’s most important transportation centers and a major connecting tool for flights from around the country. It offers daily flights to major hubs such as Washington, Chicago, and St Louis, and is continually improving on the facilities and grounds. Within about 20 minutes of anything you’d ever want to do in Charleston, the airport is ideally located for local traffic as well.
Photo Credit: Derek Jackson