Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
“Easy Come, Easy Go” has long been an advertising motto of BWI Marshall Airport. Located south of Baltimore and along the Interstate 95 Corridor, typical customers of the airport come from Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Washington D.C. and Virginia. BWI Marshall ranks as the 22nd busiest airport in the United States, handling over 26 Million passengers per year. Washington’s National and Dulles are close behind at 23 and 25, respectively.
The beginnings of today’s BWI Marshall Airport were in 1946 when the City of Baltimore selected a 3,200 acre plot 10 miles south of Baltimore and 30 miles north of Washington D.C., near Friendship Church. As construction began, the airport was named “Friendship.” On June 24th, 1950, President Truman presided over the dedication of Friendship International Airport. It was viewed as the most advanced airport in the United States. Scheduled airline service began one month later.
In the late 1950s the Jet Age arrived when the first Boeing 707 terminated a record setting coast to coast flight at Friendship. A celebration of the Federal Certification of the Douglas DC-8 happened here in 1959.
By 1973, the airport was sold to the state and renamed Baltimore/Washington International Airport. Throughout the 1970s improvements and expansions were ongoing and by 1980, an AMTRAK rail station opened providing greater transportation options. 1983 was a year of great change as a new air traffic control tower was dedicated, a General Aviation facility opened adjacent a new 3,600 foot runway, later extended to 5,000 and Piedmont Airlines selected Baltimore as an East Coast hub. A further expansion of Terminal D was completed for Piedmont. Passenger movements had reached 6.6 million.
The 1990s were a period of great growth in International Airline service and Freight. Icelandair, Air Canada and British Airways began International service. Domestically, Southwest Airlines selected BWI as an East Coast Focus City. By 1995, passenger growth had topped 13 Million.
By 2001, BWI was the fastest growing airport among the 30 busiest in North America. Passenger growth had topped 20 Million. The airport generated $6.5 Million and 85,000 jobs to the Maryland economy. Air Tran began flights between Boston and Atlanta. After the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, BWI was a pilot airport for the new Federal workforce of the Transportation Security Administration.
There was an industry wide contraction after 2001 and airlines merged or ceased operations. The ultimate winner was Southwest Airlines which now flies approximately 70% of the traveling public and is growing internationally. In 2005, the airport was renamed Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport after the Supreme Court Justice born in Baltimore.
Fast forward to today’s BWI Marshall Airport, approximately 700 flights operate per day by 17 airlines which includes contract military flights. All of the major U.S. Airlines operate here. There are 3 runways, 2 of which are primary air carrier. Just this year, an extension of the International Terminal was completed adding 8 gates total, 4 of which are offload only, fitting Southwest’s operation. The current mix of International operators are British Airways (B787), WOW (A321) and Icelandair (B757) flying to Iceland, Air Canada (E175, CRJ), Condor seasonally (B767), military charters, Atlas Air (B747, 767), Omni Air International (B777), Air Transport International (B757C), Swift Air (B737), and domestic operators from Caribbean destinations, Southwest, Spirit, Alaska, and Delta. Cargo also got a big boost with the entrance of Amazon’s Prime Air, who moved into an existing cargo facility on the south side of Runway 10/28.
One little known fact about the airport is that there is a cemetery on the property. Remember the Friendship Church? Northrop Grumman has a flight operation on the field and flies the last airworthy BAC 1-11 in addition to some other Frankenstein airframes. There are also other interesting aircraft that arrive here because of Northrop Grumman. The south side of the airport has a public viewing park to watch aircraft landing Runway 33L and it connects into a bike trail around the airport. This is also the main airport for the Honor Flight Network where veterans are flown in to see their monuments in Washington D.C. complete with a water salute from our Fire Department. The Under Armour CEO keeps a Gulfstream and a helicopter here.
BWI Marshall airport continues to grow every year. It is interesting to look back to see how far it has come in its 68th year of “Friendship”. The historical photographs are courtesy of the internet. The rest are my personal photos. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is my day job. I am entering my 18th year of airport management at BWI Marshall Airport. As long as I have been roaming this airport, I have been a plane chaser, going digital in 2003. I thought it would add to the article by putting in some airlines no longer in existence, long gone liveries and one offs. It all happened here while I chased diversions, unique aircraft, military aircraft, special events and weather events. One photographer friend said “BWI, always something surprising”