Airport History

The History of Detroit Metro Airport

1929: The groundbreaking for Wayne County Airport occurs in April 1929.

1930: On September 4, 1930, Wayne County Airport opens at the corner of Middlebelt Road and Wick Road in Romulus, Michigan.

1940: Control of the Wayne County Airport is assumed by the U.S. Army for use as a staging base for transport of military aircraft to Europe. The U.S. Army constructs new hangars, runways and other facilities. The airport is renamed Romulus Army Air Field.

1943: In all, 107 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) are assigned to Romulus Army Air Field to ferry aircraft across the United States.

1944: The U.S. Army announces its plans to release the airport.

1947: Wayne County Airport is renamed Detroit-Wayne Major Airport and expands to four square miles.

1956: The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) announces Detroit is one of the cities to receive long-range radar through the CAA’s $246 million program to prepare the nation for civil jet transports. For minimum delay and maximum safety, the new detection device enables CAA controllers to scan for aircraft up to 200 miles away.

1958: Detroit-Wayne Major Airport becomes Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW).  Also, Terminal 1 opens.

1966: Terminal 2, known as the North Terminal, opens. By June 1966, the final commercial air carriers move from nearby Willow Run Airport (YIP) to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. This brings the number of scheduled passenger airlines at DTW to 13.

1967: Terminal 1 is renamed the L.C. Smith Terminal after Leroy C. Smith, an airport founder.

1974: The Michael Berry International Terminal is built. Berry served as a Wayne County Road Commissioner and played a key role in the airport’s expansion.

1975: Terminal 2 (North Terminal) is renamed J.M. Davey Terminal, in honor of former Detroit Metropolitan Airport Manager James M. Davey.

1978: Deregulation is enacted, taking control away from the government. Airlines are now allowed to set their own fares and routes.

1986: Northwest Orient and Republic merge to form Northwest Airlines, creating a hub at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

1992: The FAA takes control of its new $15 million Air Traffic Control Tower. At 250-feet, it is the tallest ATCT in the Great Lakes Region.

1996: Wayne County and Northwest Airlines announce plans to build a new Midfield Terminal.

1997: Crosswinds Marsh, a 1,000-acre public park, opens in Sumpter Township. The nature preserve replaces wetlands disturbed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport during major capital improvements, including new runway construction.

2001: Runway 4L/22R opens, giving DTW a runway configuration of four parallel and two crosswind runways.

2002: Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s Midfield Terminal opens and is named after Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara.

Senate Bill 690, which is adopted by the Michigan Legislature as Act 90, establishes the Wayne County Airport Authority to manage Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Willow Run Airport, Crosswinds Marsh and The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The hotel is located inside the McNamara Terminal.

2005: The J.M. Davey Terminal is demolished to make room for a new North Terminal.

2008: The new North Terminal opens at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, while the Smith and Berry terminals are retired as passenger facilities.

Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines officially merge in 2008, making Delta the hub airline at DTW by 2009.

2010: Detroit Metropolitan Airport ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among large airports in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. 

2012: The Ground Run-up Enclosure (GRE) opens to significantly reduce noise in neighboring communities, when jet engines are tested at DTW after maintenance.

2014: A study by the University of Michigan-Dearborn determines Detroit Metropolitan Airport generates $10.2 billion in annual economic impact and supports more than 86,000 jobs across Michigan.

2017: The Airport Authority’s administrative staff officially moves from the former L.C. Smith Terminal into the newly constructed Michael Berry Administration Building, adjacent to the North Terminal.