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Airport History

The History of Detroit Metro Airport

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

The groundbreaking for Wayne County Airport.

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.

Women Airforce Service Pilots

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.

Wayne County Airport Tower

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.

Terminal One
Groundbreaking on Terminal One

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.

Terminal Two

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.

Michael Berry International Terminal

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

Terminal 2 in the 70s

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.

Crosswinds Marsh

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.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s Midfield Terminal

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.

2003: Willow Run Airport receives the Balchen/Post Award for Excellence in the performance of airport snow and ice control in the Large General Aviation category.

2003 Balchen Award

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.

North Terminal

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. 

2011: The Airport Authority Fire Department becomes the first in the nation to earn an international accreditation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence, Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). CFAI promotes professional excellence in firefighting and emergency services.

2011 CFAI

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

Ground Run-up Enclosure (GRE)

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.

Michael Berry Administration Building

2019: Airports Council International (ACI) selects DTW as one of the best airports by size and category (25-40 million passengers) in North America for customer service. The award is one of the highest honors in the aviation industry.

2019 ACI

2019: DTW is awarded first place in Customer Satisfaction for Mega Airports by J.D. Power. This annual study surveys passengers in six categories (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport accessibility; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

2019 JD Power

2019: DTW achieves Level Three of the Airport Carbon Accreditation program proving the team’s commitment to working with its internal and external stakeholders to create a sustainable airport.


2019: DTW launches the Art in the Airport program. The first phase includes 24 reproductions from the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Inside│Out program.

2019 Art In Airport

2022: The North Terminal is renamed the Warren Cleage Evans Terminal on April 4, 2022, in honor of Wayne County Executive Evans’ dedication to public service.

Evans Terminal Renaming

2022: Two new programs are implemented with customers in mind, DTW Dogs Pet Therapy and the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower programs, to help ease the stress of traveling.

2022 Therapy Dogs

2022: DTW achieves Level Two of the Airports Council International’s Customer Experience Accreditation.

2022 ACI

2022: The Wayne County Airport Authorizes organizes inaugural DTW Golf Classic raising $175,000 for Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit-based nonprofit.

Golf Second
Golf Third

2023: DTW earns the 2022 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Award for “Best Airport of 25 to 40 million passengers in North America.” 


2023: Sun Country Airlines, WestJet and Icelandair all begin new scheduled air carrier service within the space of one month, bringing the total to 16 passenger airlines at DTW.

Iceland Air 2023

2023: DTW is ranked number one in customer satisfaction for mega airports according to the J.D. Power 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. DTW also earned the J.D. Power Award in 2019 and 2010.

2023 JDPower

2023: In November, DTW welcomes Turkish Airlines, increasing the number of scheduled passenger carriers to 17.

Turkish Airlines Welcome