The History of Akron-Canton Airport
A look back to the early years of aviation development in the Akron-Canton region involves a complex cast of characters, a multitude of interests and resulted in a revolutionary government partnership.
The origin of the Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) evolved against a wartime backdrop. As with many airfields across the United States, CAK's initial funding was proposed at a time when the nation was most concerned about air defense, during World War II. Although fraught with controversy and delays, the Akron-Canton Airport's beginnings have laid an aviation foundation that contributes over $300 million in local economic impact and connects more than 1.4 million passengers to destinations worldwide.
A look back to the early years of aviation development in the Akron-Canton region involves a complex cast of characters, a multitude of interests and resulted in a revolutionary government partnership. In September 1940, with Hitler threatening world domination in World War II, the Civil Aeronautics
Administration (CAA) announced $500 million in new funds for airport construction in the United States. The Ohio Airports section received $15 million to establish 104 ports statewide. $231,600 was earmarked for a Class 2 airfield (limited to 20-passenger planes) in Canton. Three sites for the new airport were initially considered: McKinley Airport on Mahoning Road, 144 acres; Martin Field on the Harrisburg Road, 170 acres; and the Harvey Miller farm, 400 acres.
On October 5, 1942, after the invasion of Pearl Harbor, Senator Harold H. Burton announced that the CAA had approved $2 million for the construction of an airport in or near Canton. The airport would have three runways, each 5,600 feet in length by 150 feet wide, on a tract of at least 800 acres that would be available for military aircraft. In order to secure the $2 million in funding, Canton needed to purchase the site estimated at between $100,000 and $200,000. In December 1942, Canton City Council approved a transfer of $200,000 from the Timken War Profit Tax revenues to purchase a site for the new airport.
A Site is Selected
Because the original three sites were too small and the initial request had drawn out to more than two years, the CAA favored a site south of the Greensburg-Greentown Road in Summit County, north of Canton. The site was selected by Frederic S. Wilkins because its excellent elevation and because there was plenty of room to grow. To salvage Stark County's influence over the development of the new airport, the Canton Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of President B.T. Bonnot, advocated a bi-county approach to serving the 600,000 people who lived in both counties- Summit and Stark. Massillon and Alliance Chambers of Commerce also joined the committee. In 1943, Stark and Summit County Commissioners and Chamber of Commerce representatives agreed to work together on a jointly sponsored CAA airport. Early leaders of the airport development committee included: County Prosecutor D.D. McLaughlin, W.E. Spencer, legal advisor to Summit County, and assistant Stark County prosecuting attorney, Frederic S. Wilkins and five members appointed by the Canton and Akron Chambers of Commerce.
Funding and Governance
J.E. Kinnison, a Canton attorney, disputed the use of tax dollars to purchase the property in Summit County and effectively blocked the resolution in June 1943. Undeterred, the Canton Chamber of Commerce formed a special committee to solicit private contributions to satisfy Stark County's $100,000 obligation. In September of the same year, the Timken Roller Bearing Company gave $50,000 to purchase the land, with the remaining $50,000 donated by nine other leading Stark County industries: Morgan Engineering Company, Hercules Motors Corporation, Union Metal Company, Brush-Moore Newspapers Inc., Hoover Company, Diebold Inc., Tyson Roller Bearing Company, Republic Stamping &Enameling Company, and Canton Drop Forging &Manufacturing Company. The Southern Summit County site was 1,163.16 acres in 26 separate parcels of real estate.
With the delivery of Stark County's $100,000, commissioners from both counties decided that Summit County Commissioners would purchase the property and operate, maintain, and further develop it under the CAA. Summit County agreed to name the new airport Canton-Akron Memorial Airport. To fulfill their obligation to the joint facility, it was also decided that Stark County would provide 48.10 percent of the cost of the land. Summit County agreed to pay 51.9 percent of the land cost, giving them control over the operation and maintenance of the airfield. Operating revenues were restricted to an airport fund for operational purposes only.
Governance of the bi-county airfield came in the form of a board of trustees- two appointed by the Summit County Commissioners and two by the Stark County Commissioners. The trustees met quarterly, appointed the Airport superintendent and employees, fixed pay, and adopted rules and regulations. The trustees were also responsible for preparing plans and specifications for capital improvements, subject to the approval of the Summit County Commissioners. In March 1944 the first four trustees were appointed: Henry H. Timken Jr., and F.S. Wilkins from Stark County, and Lon L. Tighe and Gillum H. Doolittle from Summit County. Later Mr. Tighe died and was replaced by Arthur F. Ranney. The agreement was rewritten in 1948 and again in 1955, when the board was increased from 4 to 8 members. The airport was governed in this manner until October 1964. Then the Board of County Commissioners of both Stark and Summit Counties approved the creation of the Airport Authority pursuant to section 308 of the Ohio Revised Code. This newly enacted State legislation allowed the two counties to form the first bi-county Airport Authority in the State of Ohio. The airport has been governed by an Airport Authority since that date.
In February 1946, eight months prior to the airport's dedication, American, Eastern, Capital, and United announced their plans to move from Akron Municipal Airport to Canton-Akron Memorial Airport. Outraged, Akron City and airport officials claimed that the airlines would be violating their lease agreements if they moved. The airlines argued that the natural bowl in which the Akron Municipal Airport was located (with the Goodyear Zeppelin dock on one side and Derby Downs@ on the other), foggy conditions, and short runways created hazardous conditions for commercial pilots. City officials also protested that travel cost would increase significantly if the airlines moved south.
To help alleviate the tension, the Airport was renamed the Akron-Canton-Massillon Airport. Later, Massillon was dropped from the name and replaced by "regional", representing the many communities that helped develop the airport over the years. Akron-Canton Regional Airport is currently the airfield's official name although for advertising and communication purposes, the terminal is referred to as Akron-Canton Airport.
Akron Municipal Airport lost its fight to hold the four airlines in October 1947 when the CAA recommended that they be transferred to Akron-Canton Airport. Akron Municipal though, continued to fight the move, offering a huge terminal expansion and extension or their runways to 5,340 and 5,400 feet. It was not until March 9, 1948, that the Civil Aeronautics Board allowed the four airlines to move to the new Airport.
Leadership and Legacy
Fred Krum served as the airport director from 1981 to September 30, 2008. He began his distinguished career at the Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) in 1975 as the airport accountant, was quickly promoted to assistant director by then director Jack Doyle. After Doyle's retirement, Fred was promoted to the director's seat in 1981. During his tenure, Fred managed more than $250 million in capital improvements, helped passenger figures quadruple, attracted Piedmont Airlines, AirTran Airways and Frontier Airlines (driving air fares down in the region), acquired hundreds of acres of additional land and kept airport operating costs low. His efforts helped position the airport for continued success and strategic importance in Northeastern Ohio.
Because of his strong leadership, Krum won numerous achievement awards including the Sales & Marketing Executives of Akron's Executive of the Year award in 2002. Additionally in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, Fred was recognized among Inside Business Magazine's Power 100 (a listing of the most influential leaders in Northeast Ohio). He also received the 2006 President's Award from the Akron/ Summit County Convention and Visitors Bureau for his career-long impact on tourism and hospitality in the region and was named "Master Innovator" at the 2006 Smart Business Innovation in Business Conference.
During his career, Fred was also a tireless community leader serving on the boards of the North Canton Schools, Wayne Savings Bank, Mercy Medical Center, the Greater Akron Chamber, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Stark Development Board, and the Ohio Commercial Airport Consortium. Fred also loved coaching the multiple sports teams on which his children James, Michael, and Lisa participated when they were young.
Fred earned his Bachelor of Science degree from John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio and a Juris Doctorate in Law from the University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, and was a Certified Member of the American Association of Airport Executives.
Fred's legacy and leadership live on at the airport. After his retirement in September 2009, the airport renamed the Akron-Canton Aviation Park, which features a full-size rendition of the Wright Flyer, to the Frederick J. Krum Aviation Park.
Akron-Canton Airport Board of Trustees promoted long-serving assistant director Richard B. McQueen to President & CEO on October 1, 2008. Rick began his career at the airport as airport accountant in 1982. He was promoted to controller, then assistant director of finance and administration and then held the position of assistant airport director, the number two position in the organization.
Rick leads a 49-member team of airport employees, manages capital investments, and is finishing CAK 2018, a 10-year, $150 million capital improvement program. Most of the CAK2018 projects are now complete, including: a 600 ft. runway extension, more aircraft and car parking spaces, a new aircraft fire and rescue building, and the addition of a federal inspection facility for international, private and general aviation flights. New gates to replace our aging concourse are under design. Financed with federal funds and a 10% airport match, the new gates will add circulation space and upgraded amenities for our Customers. Construction will begin in 2017. You can learn more about CAK 2018 here.
Also promoted by the Board of Trustees, Kristie VanAuken assumed the position of Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for the airport. Kristie manages and directs all airport marketing and communication programs, including: air service development, branding, advertising, media relations, social media, and internal and external communications.
Today, the Akron-Canton Airport welcomes more than 1.5 million Customers every year and offers a mix of global network airlines (American, Delta, United and Southwest) and ultra-low fare service to popular vacation destinations aboard Allegiant.
Allegiant Air added five nonstop destinations at CAK in 2015. Now northeast Ohio travelers can enjoy ultra-low fares and affordable vacation packages to Fort Lauderdale/Miami, Myrtle Beach, Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, St. Pete/Clearwater (Tampa) and Savannah/Hilton-Head. Plus, American Airlines (LaGuardia) and United Airlines (Newark) added nonstop flights to the New York metropolitan area.
CAK takes pride in offering a relaxing customer experience and affordable fares. For more than a decade, Akron-Canton has offered the lowest average fare of any airport in the State of Ohio. Low fares to popular vacation destinations, and US and global flights are easy to find from Akron-Canton Airport. Book your nonstop flights to St. Pete / Clearwater, Myrtle Beach, Savannah/Hilton Head, Punta Gorda, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago O’Hare, Newark (NYC), LaGuardia, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Washington Reagan (DCA), Orlando, Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, and Tampa; or one-stop flights to major US and international destinations like Frankfurt, Paris, London, Rome and Beijing on our website today.
The airport sits on 2,700 acres of property, has two intersecting runways (featuring ILS landing), and a 24-hour tower. Safety is our number one priority. To that end, our airport operations crew has received a perfect score on the annual FAA airfield safety review for two consecutive years (2014 and 2015). The CAK fire department/ operations/ field maintenance crew offer first response in the unlikely event of an accident. They partner with the City of Green Fire Department (along with many others) to respond to an emergency. Public safety inside the terminal building is provided by the Summit County Sheriff’s department. The 170,000 square foot terminal building offers a variety of amenities including branded concessions like Arby's®, Cinnabon®, Subway®, and Great Lakes Brewing Company®. Other amenities include free WiFi, the Ohio Desk Business Lounge, a Step2® playport, and breast-feeding lounges.
The Akron-Canton Airport is a government agency formed by Summit and Stark Counties under Section 308 of the Ohio Revised Code. CAK is only Airport Authority in the State, allowing for significant flexibility and jurisdictional authority. The airport is governed by the Akron-Canton Regional Airport Board of Trustees. The eight board members serve four- year terms, serve with no compensation and at the discretion of the appointing county. They can be reappointed indefinitely. Four of the eight trustees are appointed by the Summit County Executive (and approved by Council) and four are appointed by Stark County Commissioners. Our current board of trustees can be found here.