The Lehigh Valley International Airport, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley International Airport serves as an important transportation hub for the Lehigh Valley region, including the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton. The Lehigh Valley International Airport is the fourth largest in Pennsylvania. The facility encompasses over 2,000 acres, has two asphalt runways of 7,599 ft and 5,800 ft in length, and has a modern terminal building with gates for nine aircraft and a separate cargo ramp with parking spots for six aircraft.
The airport also has a modern control tower and a separate ramp with hangars for general aviation and corporate aircraft operations. Lehigh Valley International Airport relies solely on its own revenue and federal and state grants to cover its operating expenses. In 2020, 394,764 people traveled through the airport and 210,271,578 tons of cargo was processed at the facility.
The Lehigh Valley International Airport opened in 1929 and is one of the few in the United States that continues to serve the local communities from its original location. In November 1929, American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart visited the airport and friends in the Lehigh Valley area. The first scheduled airline flight was made from the airport on September 16, 1935, by United Airlines. The construction of the first terminal building, a Works Projects Administration project, was completed in 1938.
The airport was home to United States Navy’s V-5 flight training program during World War II. The ground instruction for this program was held at the local Muhlenberg College. Over 1,000 cadets were trained before the program ended in the summer of 1944. In January 1944, a United States Class-A Weather Station was installed at the airport and a new runway was completed. The Civil Air Patrol was also active at the airport throughout the war, their duties included patrolling the Atlantic coastline and providing courier service to nearby defense plants, transporting parts and personnel between the various facilities. In April 1946, the Lehigh Valley Airport Authority was created to manage the airport and its operations.
The current terminal building was constructed in 1973 and opened in 1976. Renovations to update the terminal took place in 1997 and again in 2009 and 2010. A brand new control tower was built to serve the airport in 1995. The Lehigh Valley Airshow was hosted at the airport in 2013 and 2014, the first airshow being held at the airport in over 10 years. The events featured some of the top airshow performers from the United States and Canada. In 2016, Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered aircraft to travel around the world, visited the airport.
Today, the airport offers flights to 16 destinations throughout the United States through its airline partners. Allegiant Air is currently the biggest airline partner at the Lehigh Valley International Airport in both destinations offered and passengers flown, flying to nine destinations in the United States. The airline also has a crew base at the airport and stations two aircraft at the facility. Allegiant Air began operating at the airport in 2005. Regional airline partners at the airport include American Eagle, United Express, and Delta Connection. In December 2020, a new route and destination was added as United Express began offering daily flights to the Washington Dulles International Airport from the Lehigh Valley.
Cargo operations at the airport received a major boost in frequency and revenue when Amazon Air began operations in 2016. Amazon Air picked the airport for its operations because of its closeness to its Amazon fulfillment centers, ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and location to large population centers. The Lehigh Valley International Airport was one of the first airports chosen by Amazon Air for its cargo operations. The operations were an immense success, Amazon Air now serves more people and moves more merchandise from the Lehigh Valley International Airport than any other facility in the country. Besides Amazon Air, FedEx Express also operates cargo flights from its hub in Memphis to the airport daily.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic causing a downturn in air travel, the future looks bright for Lehigh Valley International Airport. Allegiant Air has made a commitment to serve the Lehigh Valley region long-term, as have cargo operators FedEx Express and Amazon Air.
Recent improvements to the airport facility have focused on resurfacing the runways and taxiways, a new hangar for corporate aircraft, and expanding the cargo ramp.
A variety of commercial, cargo, military, corporate, and general aviation aircraft can be seen operating from the Lehigh Valley International Airport daily. Many of these aircraft can be seen departing or arriving at the airport from the parking lots of many nearby public places and local businesses. The accompanying photographs show some of the unique aircraft seen in the skies around the Lehigh Valley International Airport.