Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Airport type Public
Owner Kent County
Operator Kent County Department of Aeronautics
Serves Grand Rapids, Michigan
Location Cascade Charter Township, MI, USA
Elevation AMSL 794 ft / 242 m
Coordinates 42°52′51″N 85°31′22″W / 42.88083°N 85.52278°W / 42.88083; -85.52278Coordinates: 42°52′51″N 85°31′22″W / 42.88083°N 85.52278°W / 42.88083; -85.52278

Location of airport in Michigan/United States

Direction Length Surface
ft m
8R/26L 10,000 3,048 Concrete
8L/26R 5,000 1,524 Concrete
17/35 8,501 2,591 Concrete
Statistics (2015)
Total passengers 2,550,193 Increase 9.2%
Aircraft movements 76,256 Increase 1.5%
Sources: airport web site[1] and FAA[2]

Gerald R. Ford International Airport (IATA: GRR, ICAO: KGRR, FAA LID: GRR) is a commercial airport in Cascade Township about 13 mi (21 km) southeast of Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States. 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 small hub primary commercial service facility.[3]

Originally called Kent County Airport and later Kent County International Airport; in December 1999 the airport was renamed for former president Gerald R. Ford, the 40th Vice President and the 38th President of the United States.

The airport is the largest commercial airport in the West Michigan region and is the second largest airport in Michigan after Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The airport has flights to 23 domestic cities. In 2015 the airport broke its record for passengers, with 2,550,193 total.


Grand Rapids' first airport broke ground in November 1919, four miles (6.4 km) south of downtown. This was eight years after the area witnessed its first airplane landing which was a Wright biplane at Comstock Park State Fairgrounds on September 10, 1911. The airport was operated by the Kent County Board of Supervisors.

The first scheduled air service in the United States was between Grand Rapids and Detroit (actually Dearborn's Ford Airport) on a Ford-Stout monoplane named Miss Grand Rapids, which started July 26, 1926.

In 1938–39 the Works Progress Administration made improvements including new runways and runway widening, fencing, sodding, lighting,[4] remodeling the administration building and construction of a new restaurant.[5]

Circa 1940 the airport was between 32nd and 36th St, from Jefferson Ave east to the railroad; the west end was soon extended south to just north of Himes St and in the 1950s one 5700-ft runway reached south to 44th St.

In 1959 construction began on the present airport in Cascade Township, several miles east of the original one. The new airport opened November 23, 1963, and was dedicated June 6, 1964; it had 6600-ft runway 8/26 and 3400-ft 18/36.[6] The first scheduled jet was a United Airlines Boeing 737-200 on April 28, 1968, from Chicago O'Hare. The aircraft, N9003U, was named 'City of Grand Rapids'.{BOEING 737 by Malcolm L. Hill, The Crowood Press, 2002, pp. 52–53} In 1968 the only scheduled nonstops beyond Michigan were to Chicago and Green Bay.

On January 27, 1977, Kent County Airport was renamed Kent County International Airport with the opening of a U.S. Customs Bureau Office in the main terminal building.

In 1997 the new 8,500-foot (2,600 m) runway 17/35 was added to allow the airport to continue operations during the $32 million reconstruction of runway 8R/26L, completed in 2001. A passenger terminal renovation was completed in 2000 at a cost of about $50 million. Runways 8R/26L and runway 17/35 have ILS. The airport also has a 5,000 ft. general aviation runway north of the main 8R/26L runway.

In 2004 the airport served more than 2 million passengers for the first time in a year.[7] In 2010 the airport broke the 2004 record with almost 2.2 million passengers, as increase of over 23% from 2009.

On January 2, 2007, Air Force One carried the remains of former President Gerald Ford to the airport, which is named after him, as part of funeral services culminating in burial at his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids the next day.

Until October 31, 2011, the airport was a focus city for Allegiant Air.[8]

In January 2012 Southwest Airlines announced it would continue AirTran flights to Grand Rapids and eventually transfer them to Southwest.[9]

In April 2012 Frontier Airlines ended flights from Grand Rapids to Milwaukee.[10]

During the summer of 2015, Delta Air Lines operated the Boeing 757-200 to Grand Rapids from Detroit, making it the largest aircraft that is currently available to passengers at GRR, the flight will operate again to Detroit in summer 2016.[11]


Gerald R. Ford International Airport has two parallel east-west runways and one north-south runway. Along with cargo and general aviation facilities, the airport has a two-level passenger terminal with two concourses: A has seven gates and B has eight.[12]

Concourse A's tenants are Allegiant Air and Delta Air Lines. In concourse B are American Eagle/American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines [12] All gates have climate-controlled jetways.

When new baggage screening regulations were introduced by the Transportation Security Administration in 2002, the airport was one of the first in the nation to conduct trials on the new screening machines.[6] The baggage processing areas were too small for the machines so they were placed in the passenger lobby.[13]

Airlines and destinations

Gerald R. Ford International Airport is served by 5 airlines.


Allegiant Air Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa, Punta Gorda/Fort Myers, Orlando/Sanford, St. Petersburg/Clearwater
Seasonal: Fort Lauderdale
American Eagle Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Washington-National (begins April 4, 2017) B
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul A
Delta Connection Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–LaGuardia
Seasonal: Atlanta, Orlando
Southwest Airlines Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Denver, Orlando
Seasonal: Fort Myers, Tampa
United Airlines Seasonal: Chicago-O'Hare, Denver B
United Express Chicago-O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark, Washington–Dulles B


FedEx Express Indianapolis, Memphis, Flint
FedEx Feeder
operated by CSA Air
Pellston, Sault Ste. Marie, Traverse City

82,087,599 pounds of air freight were handled in 2014, representing an increase of 2.1% over the previous year.


Top domestic destinations

Top ten busiest domestic routes out of GRR
(Apr 2015 - Mar 2016)[14]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Chicago, IL (O'Hare) 214,000 American, United
2 Detroit, MI 178,000 Delta
3 Atlanta, GA 156,000 Delta
4 Minneapolis/St Paul, MN 156,000 Delta
5 Denver, CO 102,000 Southwest, United
6 Baltimore, MD 68,000 Southwest
7 Dallas, TX 66,000 American
8 Orlando, FL 37,000 Delta, Southwest
9 Charlotte, NC 35,000 American/US Airways
10 St. Petersburg/Clearwater, FL 34,000 Allegiant

Annual traffic

Annual passenger traffic (enplaned + deplaned) at Grand Rapids Airport, 2003 thru 2015[15]
Year Passengers Year Passengers

Ground transportation

The airport is at the intersection of 44th Street and Patterson Avenue. It abuts I-96 on the east, M-6 on the south, M-37 on the west, and M-11 on the north.

Metro Cab and Metro Cars provides taxi and luxury sedan service and the airport is served by Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National/Alamo rental car companies on-site.

Rapid route 17, Woodland/Airport, travels between the airport and Woodland Mall (Kentwood Station) on weekdays between 6.30am and 10.30pm. From Woodland Mall, passengers can continue on to downtown or parts of the east side of Grand Rapids via routes 5 and 6, or across town to Grandville and Wyoming on routes 24, 28 and 44.

Aircraft spotting

The airport has two aircraft spotter locations. There is an observation deck located on the mezzanine level of the passenger terminal building, which gives a relatively unobstructed view of the ramp area and runway 8R and 26L.

An outdoor viewing area on Kraft Avenue north of 52nd Street has picnic tables, litter barrels, and a portable toilet. Radio station 1650 AM broadcasts transmissions by air traffic controllers, pilots, and GFIA operations and ground crew staff. The viewing area is open year-round daily from dawn to dusk.

Planned development

Beginning in 2013, Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) began building a natural treatment system to improve stormwater management practices and safeguard the waters of the Thornapple River. The new, innovative system will include a biological treatment system that will improve collection of stormwater runoff and naturally remove sediments and pollutants before sending the water to the Thornapple River, which flows just east of the airfield.[16]

The airport has plans to eliminate the two separate security checkpoints in each concourse and create one larger checkpoint in the grand hall area to help traffic flow much faster and to be prepared for future growth. In addition, the grand hall area and the entrance area to the airport will be renovated along with more shopping and dining options. This is expected to begin in late 2015 and be completed in a few years. Concourse A and B have been recently refurbished and completed in early 2015.

The airport is partnering with the Cascade Community Foundation on plans to renovate the current outdoor viewing area to make it a larger, more inviting place for people to relax.[17]

The airport is constructing a roof over the parking deck that will offer additional close-in, covered long-term parking during all weather seasons. The roof will cover the majority of the fourth floor, although some spaces on the fourth and third floors will remain uncovered. This is due to airfield sight-line requirements for the FAA control tower. The garage roof is expected to be completed in November 2015, with a portion of the 4th floor spaces being available as early as mid-August 2015.[18]


  1. "Measures of Michigan Air Carrier Demand". Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  2. FAA Airport Master Record for GRR (Form 5010 PDF), effective January 11, 2013.
  3. "List of NPIAS Airports" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  4. "2004 Master Plan Update Executive Summary" (PDF). Airport Publications. Gerald R. Ford International Airport. 2004. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  5. "History and Statistics". Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  6. 1 2 Staff. "History & Statistics". Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  7. Staff (2011). "Gerald R. Ford International Airport – Grand Rapids, Michigan". Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  8. "Allegiant Air closing GR base, some flights". Grand Rapids: WOOD-TV8. August 12, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  9. "Southwest to replace AirTran in GR". Grand Rapids: WOOD-TV8. January 20, 2012. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  10. Jim Harger (February 17, 2012). "Frontier Airline's cancellation of Milwaukee-Grand Rapids flights tied to restructuring". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  12. 1 2 Gates (Map). Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  13. Terminal Map (Map). Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  14. Research and Innovative Technology Administration (November 30, 2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Gerald R. Ford International (GRR) Scheduled Services except Freight/Mail (Report). Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  15. GFIA Statistics. Retrieved on Apr 2, 2015.

External links

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