Burlington International Airport sits in the middle of a quiet neighborhood in South Burlington. Planes banking towards or away from the runway give passengers breathtaking views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks, Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield.
The airport, previously a big cornfield, opened in 1920, less than two decades after the Wright Brothers launched at Kitty Hawk. Amelia Earhart landed there. And it was one of the busiest airstrips in the world during World War II. On one day in 1943 a plane landed at Burlington every 20 seconds.
Today the airport is gearing up to celebrate its 90th birthday but it also faces major hurdles: Moody’s recently downgraded its bond rating, pointing to financial problems. Air Tran stopped passenger service at BTV. And the economic downturn has led fewer people to fly.
Brian Searles is the BTV Director of Aviation. He spoke with VPR’s Jane Lindholm about expansion plans, financial issues facing the airport and its storied history.