Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport

Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (IATA: AZO, ICAO: KAZO, FAA LID: AZO) is a county-owned public airport 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast of Kalamazoo, in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, USA.[1] The airport is located approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of the city of Battle Creek. It is included in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017–2021, in which it is categorized as a non-hub primary commercial service facility.[3]

Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport
Kalamazoo,Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) Logo.png
Airport typePublic
OwnerKalamazoo County
OperatorKalamazoo County Aeronautics Board of Trustees
ServesKalamazoo / Battle Creek, Michigan
Elevation AMSL874 ft / 266 m
Coordinates42°14′06″N 85°33′07″W / 42.23500°N 85.55194°W / 42.23500; -85.55194Coordinates: 42°14′06″N 85°33′07″W / 42.23500°N 85.55194°W / 42.23500; -85.55194
AZO is located in Michigan
Location of airport in Michigan
AZO is located in the United States
AZO (the United States)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
17/35 6,502 1,982 Asphalt
05/23 3,439 1,048 Asphalt
09/27 2,800 853 Asphalt
Statistics (2014)
Total passengers266,758 Increase 5.3%
Total enplanements127,783 Increase 5.2%
Aircraft operations (2013)43,958 Decrease 3.3%
Based aircraft (2013)110 Increase .1%

The airport has an Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) and a Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON).[1][4] It has one passenger terminal and five gates. Three major airlines operate flights in and out of AZO.[5]


Plans for an airport in Kalamazoo began in 1925. In May 1926 the City of Kalamazoo purchased 383 acres (1.55 km2) near Portage and Kilgore roads and an airport opened. The first regular air mail service started in July 1928. In February 1929 the field was licensed as the first municipal airport in Michigan.[6] It was named Lindbergh Field in honor of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. Airline service came to Kalamazoo in May 1944. Two commuter airlines, Francis Airways and Northern Skyways, provided service to other Michigan cities, then ceased after two years. From 1946 and 1955, several small airlines offered commuter flights to nearby cities.[6]

In May 1955, North Central Airlines began daily service to Detroit, and Chicago. North Central became Republic Airlines, which merged into Northwest Airlines, which in turn merged into Delta Air Lines – which serves the airport today.[6]

In 1961 an airport traffic control tower was built and the main runway was extended from 3,900 feet to 5,300. In 1963 an instrument landing system was installed to help during poor weather. In 1977 the runway was further lengthened to 6,500 feet.[6]

In 1975 the regional air traffic control facility was moved from Battle Creek to Kalamazoo, and in 1978, a radar facility was installed. The airport eventually won an award for the safest and most efficient air traffic control system in the Great Lakes region.[6]

In 1982 the Core Council decided that the City of Kalamazoo should no longer bear the full cost of operating the airport, and in 1984, the City transferred ownership to the County of Kalamazoo. In 1989, the name was changed from Kalamazoo County Airport to Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International to stimulate economic growth in the Battle Creek area. That year, the County also renovated the terminal, doubling its size and expanding the ramp. Over the next four years, passengers increased from 200,000 to more than 500,000 per annum.[7]

In 2011 the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport was served by two major airlines who fly passengers to major hubs with worldwide connections. There was also a public charter airline operating twice weekly from Kalamazoo to locations in Florida.[8]

As of May 2012 the airport was served by two major commercial airlines who fly passengers to three major hubs. The public charter Direct Air was subject to Chapter 7 liquidation on April 12, 2012, and has since ceased all operations.

Major jetportEdit

In the 1970s there were discussions between North Central Airlines and local city officials about building a new airport to serve Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Since the two airports are close, it was not economical for the airlines to fully serve both of the airports. They proposed a "Major Jetport" in the Kalamazoo area, which might have become the third-busiest commuter airport in the nation. No location could be agreed upon, and no planning was ever completed beyond the preliminary proposals and meetings. Soon after the concept failed, most airline service was shifted to Kalamazoo, as the Kalamazoo airport had more passengers and more demand for flights.[9]

Facilities and aircraftEdit

Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport covers 832 acres (337 ha) at an elevation of 874 feet (266 m) above mean sea level. It has three asphalt runways: 17/35, 6,502 ft × 150 ft (1,982 m × 46 m), 05/23, 3,439 ft × 100 ft (1,048 m × 30 m) and 09/27, 2,800 ft × 60 ft (853 m × 18 m).[1]

Present-day taxiways delta and alpha were originally runways.[10]

In 2012 the airport had 45,445 aircraft operations (down from 45,942 in 2011, 50,697 in 2009, and 89,502 in 2006), an average of 124 per day: 79% general aviation, 21% air taxi, < 1% scheduled commercial and < 1% military. At that time, there were 109 aircraft based at this airport: 81% single-engine, 12% multi-engine, and 7% jet.[1]

2007 re-phasing planEdit

In 2007 the threshold of runway 17/35 was moved 400 feet (122 m) to the south, and taxiway B was closed north of taxiway C. South of runway 09/27, taxiway B was removed and rebuilt 100 feet (30 m) to the west.[11]

Interior of the old terminal at the Kalamazoo Airport


General aviationEdit

The KPA Fueling Center

Kalamazoo Airport is used by transient and local private pilots flying for personal reasons, business, or recreation. Many local pilots keep their aircraft in the south tee hangar complex.

In 1955 the Kalamazoo-based Upjohn pharmaceutical company began operating aircraft for its executives from the airport.

This continued after the firm was acquired by Pfizer. In 1997 after Pharmacia & Upjohn moved its North American sales office from Michigan to New Jersey, the company made daily service to New Jersey available to all employees on a 10-seat jet. Pfizer expanded the service after acquiring Pharmacia Corp. in 2003, and based two 36-passenger jets at the airport. But in June 2008, the aviation unit was closed after 53 years to save money. The move axed 27 jobs; the aircraft were moved to Trenton, New Jersey. As of April 2009, the hangar and property at the Kalamazoo Airport were up for sale.

General aviation aircraft are served by Duncan Aviation

Flight trainingEdit

Flight training is offered through Kal-Aero Flight Instruction.

The Western Michigan University College of Aviation, founded in 1939, used the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport as a base for its flight school until 1997. In the early 1990s, the flight school began to outgrow the facilities, and in 1997, the college moved to Battle Creek's W. K. Kellogg Airport, where all operations are presently housed.[12] The WMU aviation unit at Kalamazoo has been used from time to time by the college, but not since May 2006.

In the 1970s, private flight training operations were restricted to two local FBOs: Kal Aero, and Lakala Aviation. The county government received many complaints about unauthorized lessons from private parties. Upon these reports, the county government added to the flight training ordinance that violators could be fined $500, or jailed for 90 days if found guilty of offering flight lessons illegally.[13] This restriction has since been lifted, and flight lessons can be offered by any party.

Airlines and destinationsEdit

American Eagle Chicago–O'Hare [14]
Delta Connection Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul [15]
United Express Chicago–O'Hare [16]

Top domestic destinationsEdit

Busiest domestic routes from AZO (June 2020 – May 2021)[17]
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 Detroit, Michigan 26,000 Delta
2 Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 19,000 American, United
3 Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota 2,000 Delta


The facility competes with airports in nearby communities such as South Bend, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Furthermore, the airport has used several grants and incentives to attract and retain additional flights and carriers in recent years.


The former AZO Terminal and ATC Tower

The original Kalamazoo terminal was a small building made with scrap materials left over from other local projects. In 1958 a new terminal was constructed to replace the 1920s terminal. The growth led to a terminal expansion in 1979 and the building increased from 12,000 to 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2). The terminal was completely renovated in 1989, with the addition of a new concourse, an enlarged boarding area, and a new baggage claim area.

The Kalamazoo Airport's 1958 terminal had two jetways and housed the air traffic control tower. A Non-Radar Approach Control, located in Battle Creek and servicing Kalamazoo, was Commissioned in 1969. The air traffic control tower provides ATC services between the hours of 6:00–23:00 local time. When the control tower is operational, the airport lies within FAA Class "D" airspace. When the approach control is operational pilots may elect to receive radar services associated within a Terminal Radar Service Area (TRSA). The Terminal Control Center (TRACON) facility was not established until 1975, and radar was not installed until 1978.

In 2009 construction on a new terminal began next to the existing facility. The new terminal, designed by Reynolds, Smith & Hills, opened in April 2011, and accommodates additional passenger gates, security lanes, and baggage carousels.[8][18][19]

One of the Checker Cabs (Cab 804) used during production of Taxi is now on display in the terminal. The cab was built in 1978 and was loaned to Paramount Television for use in the production of the show. Once the series was cancelled in 1983, the cab was painted blue and became the Checker Motor's First Aid Car. In 2011, Todd Harroun restored the car to its original condition

Kalamazoo Aviation History MuseumEdit

Commonly referred to as the "Air Zoo", the museum offers many historic aircraft, simulators, a restaurant, and one of the regions only 4-D theaters. The museum is housed in two buildings, and is located on the south section of the field. It is an attraction for the public, and for pilots. The museum also has a fly in ramp, making it an attraction for many visiting pilots. In June and October 2011 the Air Zoo opened a new 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) building connecting it to the main building allowing all the attractions and exhibits to be in one easy to see location. The original building (East Campus) was renovated to house the restoration center.[20][21]

Incidents and accidentsEdit

Several accidents and incidents have occurred at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport. These incidents are responded to by the onsite CFR team.

On October 27, 2009, a single-engine Beechcraft crashed. The aircraft landed north of the airport, but not on the runway. It skidded through the fence and came to rest in the parking lot of Great Lakes Aviation, just outside the airfield. The aircraft was reported to be en route to Muskoka, Ontario when it experienced some mechanical problem and then crash landed at the north end of the runway. The pilot, who was also the only occupant, died in the accident.

On April 4, 2004, a Cessna 172 operated by a university aviation training program, was blown off of the runway by high winds. No injuries were reported.

On June 26, 1999, a Boeing PT-17 ground looped while landing.

On May 28, 1999, a Cessna 210 overran the departure end of runway 27 and struck an airport boundary fence and an automobile on Portage Road, which runs perpendicular to the runway.

On April 19, 1998, a Piper PA-28 Series Aircraft crashed. Witnesses reported seeing the airplane liftoff runway 5 past the runway 17/35 intersection located approximately 3,108 feet (947 m) from the approach end of runway 5. Runway 5 was 3,999 feet (1,219 m) long at the time of the accident. Witnesses reported the airplane climbed to 250 to 300 feet (91 m) when the airplane rolled left and went straight down. The airplane burst into flames and the cockpit and fuselage were consumed by fire. All passengers died.[22]

On September 19, 1996, A privately owned Grumman F9F-2 Panther crashed while takeoff on runway 35. Pilot attempted a takeoff abort but over ran the end of the runway crashed through a boundary fence, crossed over Kilgore Road, and came to rest on an embankment. Pilot suffered numerous injuries and aircraft was a total loss.

On November 21, 1983, a Republic Airlines DC-9 headed for Kalamazoo from Detroit was hijacked. The hijacker was overthrown.[23]

On July 25, 1978, a North Central Airlines Convair 580 hit a female sparrow hawk shortly after takeoff. Pilots failed to follow proper engine-out procedures and crash-landed the aircraft in a nearby cornfield. There were several serious injuries but no fatalities.[24][25]

1978 Tim Allen incidentEdit

  • In October 1978 comedian and actor Tim Allen was arrested at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport for attempting to sell 1.4 pounds of cocaine to a narcotics officer for $43,000. His testimony against his partner reduced his sentence and reportedly resulted in the arrest of 21 others. He served 28 months at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e FAA Airport Form 5010 for AZO PDF, effective December 12, 2013
  2. ^ Michigan Department of Transportation. Measures of Michigan Air Carrier Demand Archived January 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Michigan.gov, Retrieved February 1, 2014
  3. ^ "List of NPIAS Airports" (PDF). FAA.gov. Federal Aviation Administration. October 21, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  4. ^ AirNav: KAZO – Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b c d e Kalamazoo Gazette August 8, 1989, p. D2
  7. ^ Kalamazoo Gazette December 20, 1989 p. A1
  8. ^ a b Kalamazoo/ Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Kalamazoo Gazette April 14, 1971 p.1
  10. ^ GIS Data at Portage MI website
  11. ^ Kalamazoo/ Battle Creek International Airport (AZO)
  12. ^ "About | Aviation | Western Michigan University". Wmich.edu. Archived from the original on November 11, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  13. ^ Kalamazoo Gazette July 1, 1971
  14. ^ "Timetable".
  15. ^ "FLIGHT SCHEDULES". Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  16. ^ "Timetable". Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  17. ^ "Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International (AZO) Summary Statistics".
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 12, 2006. Retrieved February 9, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Russon, Gabrielle. Officials celebrate new Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport terminal at ceremony, Kalamazoo Gazette, mlive.com, April 21, 2011, retrieved 2011-Apr-27
  20. ^ Air Zoo :: General Information :: Admission info, business conference rental, memberships, about Kalamazoo and contact information
  21. ^ Google Maps
  22. ^ AOPA Online – Accident Analysis Search Results
  23. ^ ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Kalamazoo, Chicago
  24. ^ "NTSB summary of North Central crash at AZO". ntsb.gov. Archived from the original on October 30, 2008.
  25. ^ National Transportation Safety Board. "Aircraft Accident Report — North Central Airlines, Inc., Convair 580, N4825C" (PDF).

External linksEdit