After World War II, community leaders began to acknowledge the tremendous potential for commercial aviation. Increasing airline passenger counts left no doubt that 400-acre Bowman Field could not continue to handle the needs of air passengers forever.
An aerial survey during the 1937 flood pointed to an unaffected area that had the potential to be the home of a new airport. This survey showed a large, dry area of land, which was later to become Standiford Field. (The airport was named for Dr. Elisha David Standiford who, as a businessman and legislator, played an important role in Louisville transportation history and owned part of the land on which the airport was built.)
In 1941, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built one, 4,000-foot, north-south runway. However, the War Department delayed turning over the new airport to the community until the conclusion of World War II, as it was an integral part of both airfield operations and aircraft manufacturing. In fact, Curtiss-Wright and Consolidated Vultee both built aircraft for the War Department at Standiford Field during the war. Then, in 1947, the Federal Government turned the airport over to the Air Board, at which time all commercial flights moved to Standiford Field from Bowman Field.
Standiford Field opened for passenger business on November 15, 1947. Three airlines – American, Eastern, and TWA – were then handling more than 1,300 passengers a week. The old Consolidated Vultee cafeteria on the airport was used as a temporary terminal. For the first 2 ½ years, the airlines operated out of a World War II vintage barracks on the east side of the field.
Growing pains led to the construction of Lee Terminal, a new $1 million facility that opened on May 25, 1950, with 42,400 square feet of space, sufficient to handle 150,000 passengers annually. That terminal was named for Addison Lee, Jr., Airport Authority Chairman from 1929 to 1949. Six gates were included in the new terminal. The parking lot contained space for 300 vehicles. In the mid-to-late 1950s, two interior concourses replaced fenced, open-air gate positions. In all, air terminal space was increased to 114,420 square feet.
The 1960s and 1970s
Boardings at Standiford Field increased from 600,000 a year in 1965 to almost a million in 1970. Due to this increase in passenger activity, 1970 and 1971 brought new construction and an expansion of the terminal. The main lobby was extended; a west concourse housing USAir facilities was completed; and a 33,000-square-foot Delta Air Lines concourse was built. In addition, ramps serving the USAir and Delta concourses were constructed. The Federal Aviation Administration moved into the second control tower on Derby Day 1971. The parking lot was increased to 2,000 spaces and major airfield improvements were made.
Construction of the new landside terminal began in May 1983, with the terminal opening June 30, 1985. The modern facility replaced a terminal building first constructed in the late 1940s that was originally designed to accommodate 150,000 annual passengers. In 1985, nearly two million passengers arrived and departed Louisville via scheduled airline service. The entire landside terminal project cost approximately $35 million.
The new landside terminal was connected temporarily to Lee Terminal until a new airside terminal could be completed. Standiford Field “spread a new wing” with the opening of the airside terminal on April 2, 1989.
The future of Standiford Field changed dramatically in 1981 when United Parcel Service (UPS) began a new overnight-delivery business with hub operations at Louisville’s airport. UPS built a 35-acre apron for parking additional aircraft and initially employed 135.
Just as Bowman Field outgrew itself in the late 1930s, so did Standiford Field in the late 1980s. As a result, the Airport Authority announced an ambitious expansion plan in 1988 called the Louisville Airport Improvement Program (LAIP). In essence, the plans called for building a new airport atop the existing one, all the while continually and safely operating the airfield.
In 1993, low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines began service to Louisville, significantly increasing passenger air travel. In fact, due in large part to Southwest’s presence, passenger boardings increased 97.3 percent from 1991 to 1999.
Increased passenger activity, its ranking as a major international air cargo airport and the Airport Authority’s vision for the future, drove a name change for Standiford Field in 1995 to Louisville International Airport.
In 1998, a near total renovation of Louisville International Airport’s airfield was finished. The expansion brought the opening of the new east and west parallel runways, a new Kentucky Air National Guard Base, a new United States Postal Service air mail facility, new corporate hangars, a new fixed-based operator, a four-level parking garage to handle increased passenger activity and a new control tower.
2000 and Beyond
On September 27, 2002, Worldport®, a $1.1 billion package-sorting center, was opened by UPS at Louisville International Airport.
In 2005, a $26 million, award-winning terminal renovation project was completed. Also in 2005, UPS chose Louisville for its heavy airfreight hub after closing the Dayton, Ohio, air hub of Menlo Worldwide Forwarding.
In May 2006, UPS announced a $1 billion expansion that will increase sorting capacity over the next five years and create more than 5,000 additional jobs.
In 2009, UPS completed the first phase of a second $1 billion expansion of its Worldport global air hub, which allows the facility to handle up to 1.1 million packages during its busy, late-night sorting shift.
In 2010, the second phase of UPS expansion was completed, adding 1.2 million square feet to the facility, bringing Worldport’s total footprint to 5.2 million square feet. The expansion increases the facility’s package sorting capacity by 37 percent to 416,000 packages per hour.