Some months ago, I became bored with this series. I was busy with other things but guess I was also trying to cover too much information and detail. So I’m going to change things a bit. For one thing, I will summarize more. Readers can always request more detail in the comments.
The newly-renamed Greater Peoria Airport handled 22,903 pasengers in 1950. Traffic grew rapidly through 1955 when the facility served 68,058 passengers. Below is a summary of air service changes from the last post, PIA – A History: Airline Service in 1950, to March 1956.
Although the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) recommended suspension of its PIA service and replacement by Ozark, American Airlines fought to retain its route authority. In the end, Ozark was allowed Chicago rights, and AA retained its existing services.
On April 21, 1953 Byerly Aviation began a Peoria-Chicago (Midway) air taxi service using a Beech Bonanza. An evening flight was added on December 1 that year. In September 1954, service was extended to Jacksonville, Illinois.
Ozark Air Lines’ Peoria-Chicago (Midway) flights, which began October 19, 1954, proved devastating to Byerly’s own service. I’ve not found an end date for the firm’s Chicago route, but I believe it occurred prior to March 1956 (the Official Airline Guide does not mention any Byerly service). The Peoria-Jacksonville route may have continued for awhile longer, as late as 1958.
OZARK AIR LINES
On June 11, the airline began its St. Louis-Springfield-Peoria-Moline-Rockford route with two daily roundtrips. On the same date, it reduced Moline-Peoria-Bloomington-Champaign-Danville-Indianapolis route from two daily roundtrips to one. Clinton, Iowa was eventually added to the St. Louis-Rockford route, and a Milwaukee extension began on June 9, 1953.
In November 1952, Ozark requested Kansas City-Chicago route authority with multiple stops including Peoria. Its plans were opposed by the local business community for fear of losing Trunk Line service (American Airlines and TWA). In fact, the Civil Aeronautics Board studied replacing American Airlines’ PIA service with that of Ozark. The St. Louis-based local service carrier, however, had no intention of replacing American Airlines. PIA passenger growth proved sufficient for all carriers.
In the end, Ozark’s Certificate of Public Necessity & Convenience (PC&N) was renewed through September 1958 with the condition that it could add Chicago its network, but not in place of American Airlines or TWA service out of Peoria. Ozark began Kansas City-Jefferson City-Columbia-Quincy-Springfield-Peoria-Chicago (Midway) and Springfield-Peoria-Chicago (Midway) service on October 19, 1954 with a total of three daily roundtrips.
On August 9, 1955 Ozark began a St. Louis-Springfield-Peoria-Chicago (Midway) routing. Eventually Kansas City service was eliminated from Peoria routings. It seems that Peoria had been eliminated from Indianapolis routings sometime before 1956.
Ozark Air Lines obtained a permanent PC&N certificate effective February 4, 1956.
TRANS WORLD AIRLINES
In February 1951, TWA planned to drop an westbound Chicago-to-Kansas City flight that stopped in Peoria each evening. This flight was replaced by a morning one on April 29. On June 4, TWA re-scheduled its eastbound Los Angeles to Chicago C-54 cargo-only flight so it would stop at Peoria evenings instead of midday. The airline made the change due to requests from Peoria-area businesses. Strangely, though, an August 1951 article indicates this flight was stopping at PIA in early afternoon.
On July 1, 1952 TWA dropped two DC-3 flights but replaced one with a 40-seat Martin 404. Effective September 27, 1953, TWA scheduled Peoria stops on two eastbound Kansas City-to-Chicago flights and one westbound Chicago-to-Kansas City flight. Presumably, all three were flown with the 40-seat Martins. TWA dropped its Quincy stop in 1954.
Below is a schedule of passenger flights at the Greater Peoria Airport during March 1956, and a route map.
A NEW TERMINAL
Ozark Air Lines’ introduction of Peoria-Chicago (Midway) service caused passenger traffic to explode. The terminal and the aircraft parking apron became crowded. Doubling the terminal from its present 5,000 sq. ft. was considered, but in the end, the airport authority decided to build a new complex in the northwest quadrant of the airfield.
A sketch of the proposed new building, revealed in August 1955, showed a 37,500 sq. ft. building and a new five-story control tower atop.
RUNWAY EXTENSION, VISIT BY FOREIGN AIRCRAFT, ETC.
Before 1950, airport officials had plans to extend one or more runways to 7,000′ to accommodate jet aircraft. This was deemed necessary for retention of the 169th ANG wing since the F-51 Mustangs would eventually be replaced with jets (F84s or F86s, plus a Sabre Jet for VIPs).
In September 1951, it was recommended that the airport’s 5,000′ northwest-southeast runway (then 12-30, today 13-31) be lengthened to 9,000′ with 6,800′ being concrete surface and 1,000′ ground surface at each end. The airport’s East-West runway would be extended 1,000′ and the North-South strip would be extended as well.
Korean War action likely delayed funding for runway extensions. By 1954, plans for a NW-SE runway extension would give it 9,000′ in length, of which 8,000′ would be concrete. The cost of the project was estimated by a 169th officer to be $3,394,000, and would have to be paid for out of the United States Air Force budget.
No progress was made in 1955. In March 1956, however, extension by 3000′ of Runway 12-30 was included in USAF plans for facility improvement and expansion. Completion of work, by October 1, 1957 or January 31, 1958, depended on the availability of funds. A new parallel taxiway would be built as well.
Below is a diagram of the Greater Peoria Airport as it appeared in 1956.
I thought I’d mention some early development of international services out if PIA. In September 1952, Byerly Aviation was authorized to operate non-scheduled flights to Canada (Kenora, Ontario specifically) 2 to 12 times a year.
On November 13, 1955, three Trans-Canada Air Lines “Northstars” (DC-4s) landed at PIA with 150 construction contractors from Quebec. They cleared customs at Toronto. (Imagine how this crowded the terminal apron!)
The contractors were here to visit Caterpillar Tractor Co’s East Peoria and Joliet facilities. After finishing with the latter, the contractors were to fly out of Chicago Midway Airport (the DC-4s were flown there from Peoria).
Finally, I should mention one visit by a large aircraft. On August 23, 1954, a USAF Douglas C-124 “Globemaster II” landed here to pick up Little Giant Products street sweepers. At 130′ in length and a 174′ wingspan, the four-prop aircraft was the largest aircraft to land here to date.
– David P. Jordan