According to Our Iowa Heritage: Located two miles southwest of downtown Iowa City in Johnson County, Iowa, the Iowa City Municipal Airport holds the distinction of being the oldest civil airport west of the Mississippi River to remain in its original location. Designated as a regional general aviation facility in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017–2021, the airport serves the local community and surrounding region. 

Despite its historical significance, the airport does not offer scheduled airline services. Travelers seeking commercial flights typically utilize The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, approximately 19 miles (31 km) northwest of Iowa City. Notably, during the 1920s, Iowa City played a role on the original transcontinental air route serviced by Boeing Air Transport, a precursor to United Airlines. However, in March 1959, United was succeeded by Ozark Airlines, which ultimately ceased operations in Iowa City in April 1970.


Ranked as the third busiest general aviation airport in Iowa, the Iowa City Municipal Airport boasts a rich history as the oldest civil airport west of the Mississippi River. Its significance in aviation lore dates back to 1921 when it was designated a crucial fuel stop for transcontinental air mail flights, a mere five months after the inception of the system. The airport's first commercial passenger flight landed in 1927, coinciding with Boeing Air Transport's assumption of responsibility for certain airmail routes and subsequent investment of over $200,000 in improvements—an impressive sum equivalent to well over $1.5 million today. 

A surge was seen in Iowa City

During the 1940s, Iowa City Airport experienced a surge in activity with three daily United flights operating in and out of the city. However, World War II interrupted the completion of half-paved runways, and United temporarily withdrew its management. It was during this period that the first Airport Commission was elected, a governing body that remains active to this day. 

The war era brought renewed vitality to the airport as U.S. Navy military training expanded in Iowa City, training 2,500 pilots in collaboration with the University of Iowa College of Engineering from 1939 to 1944. Post-war, the airport benefited from a boom in the airline service industry until the advent of the "Jet Age" in 1958. The Iowa City Council's refusal to extend runways to accommodate larger planes led United and the U.S. Postal Service to relocate their operations to Cedar Rapids. 

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Good things were coming the airport's way

However, the airport's fortunes took a positive turn when E.K. Jones and his family established Iowa City Flying Service in 1960, providing charter services to the University of Iowa and local businesses until 1997. Following Jones' passing, airport management faced challenges until Jet Air of Galesburg, Illinois secured the contract, a role it still fulfills today while actively working on expansion projects. 

What's happening now

Presently, the Iowa City Municipal Airport remains a hub of activity, conducting approximately 36,000 flight operations annually. Offering flight school programs, charter flights, and aircraft rentals, the airport continues to play a vital role in both local aviation and economic sectors. It is estimated that the airport contributes around $11.2 million to the local economy annually. 

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