For biographies of Lt. Paul Baer and Art Smith, visit our Indiana Aviation Pioneers page.
Fort Wayne International Airport
The airport now known as Fort Wayne International Airport was originally named "Baer Field" as a World War II military base. The total cost of the airport in 1941 was $10 million.
During World War II more than 100,000 military personnel served at the airport. The military base was made up of more than 100 buildings. Many buildings have since been torn down to allow for parking lot expansion. Following the war, the federal government sold the airport to the city of Fort Wayne for one dollar.
The City renamed the airport "Fort Wayne Municipal Airport" in 1946. The Airport Authority changed the name again in 1991 to its current name of Fort Wayne International Airport. The Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority was created in 1985 by a law adopted by the Indiana General Assembly in Indianapolis. Community leaders wanted to create a governing body to operate the airport under higher industry standards while devoting energy into making the airport less dependent on tax dollars.
Since the Authority’s inception, Fort Wayne International Airport has undergone an aggressive improvements plan which included expansion of the terminal and parking areas, upgrades to the runways, and the creation of an Air Trade Center to promote economic development in Northeast Indiana. As a result of FWACAA’s commitment to customer service, Fort Wayne International Airport was recognized by USA Today as one of the friendliest airports in the nation.
Smith Field Airport
Smith Field is situated on 236 acres of land approximately 5 miles north of downtown Fort Wayne and less than two miles from Interstate 69. Smith Field is currently the primary reliever airport for the Fort Wayne International Airport.
Smith Field was the City of Fort Wayne’s first municipal airport and was originally called Baer Field in honor of Paul Baer. Smith Field was developed on land secured by the Park Board for the airport in the vicinity of an existing private landing field. The airport was dedicated and began operations in June 1925.
Extensive Improvements were undertaken in 1930 to meet federal requirements including the construction of the main hangar, which is still in use today. In 1930, Fort Wayne was added to regular airmail services. The first airmail flight left Fort Wayne on December 8, 1930. Airmail service continued until 1933 when it was dropped and not re-instituted until 1937. In the early 1940's, Smith Field had scheduled airline service from TWA.
Just prior to the outbreak of World War II, the army purchased a site south of the city (presently Fort Wayne International Airport) for development of an airfield. Insisting the airport be named for a military figure, the Army chose to name it’s facility Baer Field.
The old Baer Field, the original municipal airport was then given the name it has today, Smith Field, in honor of the local aviation pioneer, Art Smith. Since that time Smith Field has served the general aviation needs of the surrounding area.