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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.
Although the team approach had many merits, airport development suffered another set back. The committee drafted legislation, for Ohio State Senate approval, that would secure funding and approve the revolutionary "team approach" to managing the airfield. It was submitted and defeated after the railroad lobby effectively disabled the State legislation.
Stark and Summit County commissioners though, were determined to move the project forward. Upon further examination of the legal implications of jointly creating an airfield, it was determined that State authorities could not override local intent. So on April 27, 1943, the commissioners victoriously announced the new airfield's name- The Canton-Akron Memorial Airport- honoring veterans of the two world wars. The Stark County Commissioners adopted a resolution to issue bonds amounting to $100,000 for their share of the purchase of the land.
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.
Passenger Air Service Begins
July 1, 1948 marked the beginning of passenger air service at the Akron-Canton Airport by American and United Airlines. Capital and Eastern moved August 14, 1948 bringing the total of daily flights up to 35. General, military and corporate aviation developed simultaneously with the commercial service.
By March 1953, the airfield needed a new terminal building to replace the small temporary structure erected hurriedly before opening the airport. But as with most of the airport's early development, building a new terminal was plagued with setbacks. It took nearly two years to secure funding and break ground on the new terminal.
When the Airport reached its 10th birthday, October 13, 1956, the number of passengers flying from Akron-Canton had grown from 92,000 in 1946 to 193,000, an increase of 125 percent. The building was expanded again in 1962. In 1966, access to to the airport improved dramatically when I-77 was completed. The new interstate featured a dedicated airport ramp.
Over the years many airlines have served CAK including, Presidential, Eastern, Piedmont, Republic, Air Wisconsin, Allegheny, Freedom, American, Continental, Delta, United, AirTran Airways, Air Georgian and Northwest, US Airways and Aeromech.
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. You can learn more about Fred and view our online tribute to him here.
To be certain that the airport remains healthy, viable and vibrant moving forward, the 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 47-member team of airport employees, manages capital investments, and is implementing CAK 2018, a 10-year, $110 million capital improvement program. CAK 2018 features 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 flights, among other projects. 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 Akron-Canton Airport offers the lowest average fare of any airport in the State of Ohio. Two outstanding low cost carriers- AirTran Airways and Frontier Airlines- anchor the airline services. They, plus three network carriers- Delta Air Lines, US Airways and United Express- offer nonstop or one-stop flights to destinations throughout the U.S. and the globe. CAK offers 90 arrival and departure flights to fourteen nonstop destinations including Atlanta, Boston, New York (LaGuardia), Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Washington D.C, (Reagan National Airport), Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, Denver, Detroit, Chicago (O Hare).
The airport sits on 2,700 acres of property, has two intersecting runways (featuring ILS landing), a 24-hour tower, 170,000 square foot terminal, and branded concessions including Arby's®, Subway®, and Great Lakes Brewing Company.
The Akron-Canton Airport is a government agency formed by Summit and Stark Counties under Section 308 of the Ohio Revised Code. CAK continues to be the 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 at the discretion of the appointing county, and 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.