Article by  Larry Stulz
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Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is located in Northern Kentucky's Boone County, 12.5 miles from Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati.  The airport is most often reached via Cincinnati's loop expressway, I-275.  Currently the airfield covers 7,000 acres and has 2 million square feet of terminal space.  In 2000, 22.5 million people passed through the airport, mostly due to flight transfers.  Only a small portion of that number actually terminated their flight in Cincinnati. As for air freight and cargo, 412,000 tons were handled at CVG.  In 1999, the airport handled 460,000 aircraft operations and flights served 77 nations.  Financially, the airport generates $3.9 billion in economic activity or $10.7 million daily.  $1.1 billion is put into local salaries and taxes and currently employs 15,000 people.  Another 54,000 local jobs are related to support activities at the airport.  The airport is expected to grow 5% annually and by 2011, is projected to employ 114,500 people.

In 1941, Northern Kentucky Congressman Brent Spence and O.G. Loomis, a civil engineer, began an earnest political movement to secure Federal funding for an airfield in Northern Kentucky.  After witnessing the damage done at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport due to the 1937 flood, Northern Kentucky officials knew that the area was ready for a new location for a major regional airport.  Only one location in Northern Kentucky near downtown Cincinnati met the Federal criteria for elevation, flatness, and arrival and departure routes and it was smack dab in the middle of William Steinfort’s 100-acre farm in Boone County.   Federal funding was secured in 1941 through the WPA (Works Projects Administration) but those funds disappeared with the beginning of World War II.  Quick political action then presented the new airfield as a military auxiliary airfield for the new Army Air Force’s Ferrying Command, which moved to Cincinnati.  Funding was approved in 1942 for a 928-acre airfield, which then served as an auxiliary landing, and practice airfield for B-17s bombers from Lockebourne Air base (later known as Rickenbacker AFB) in Columbus Ohio.  Four 5,500 foot runways were built and the first B-17 landed on August 15, 1944.

The Army Air Force used the field until September 1945 and then declared the field surplus property.  On June 20, 1946, American, Delta and TWA decided to pull their operations out of nearby Lunken Airport and contributed to the funding of a new terminal building.  Located off Donaldson Rd., the new terminal was dedicated October 27, 1946.  Although the airport was located in Boone County, it was and still is owned and operated by the Kenton County Airport Board.  This was because Boone County was still a rural county without the political structure or finances to support such an operation.  Through the next three decades, air traffic slowly increased and the "Greater Cincinnati Airport (CVG)" became the major airport for the Cincinnati and Tri-State region. Even in the 1960s, the airport maintained a small town charm.  Families could gather and picnic atop the original terminal building’s observation deck.  There was even a putt-putt golf course at the main entrance to the airport off Donaldson road.  That small town charm ended in 1973 when massive reconstruction at the airport began and three terminals were built to accommodate the increasing volume of flight operations.

Two of the 14 Union Terminal mosaics now installed in Delta's Concourse B.   Five mosaics
were moved from Concourse A (then called Terminal D) to Concourse B in 1994.

Fourteen mosaic murals were removed from Cincinnati's Union Terminal and reinstalled at the aiport during its 1974 expansion.  The railroad station, opened in 1933, housed the single largest collection of non-religious mosaics in the world between its half-dome rotunda, ticketing vestibule, and passenger concourse.   The large 20X20 foot, eight ton concourse mosaics celebrated Cincinnati's skilled laborers and prominant industries of the 1930's.  When rail passenger service stopped in 1972, the concourse and its mosaics, imbedded in the walls without any provision for future removal, were slated for demolition.  Through great effort 14 of the 15 concourse mosaics were safetly cut away, transported, and reinstalled in the airport passenger terminals where they can be seen today.  An enormous mosaic at the end of the concourse, which depicted North America and the hemispheres of the globe, measured 60ft. in width and could not be saved.  The rotunda and ticket vestibule mosaics remain at the railroad station.

The airport's currect layout

In the early 1990's Delta Airlines designated Cincinnati as its #2 hub and opened an enormous new terminal in 1994.  At that time, the four terminals (A, B, C, D) were renamed 1, 2, and 3, and "Terminal D" became "Concourse A".  The new Delta expansion was named "Concourse B" and the new Comair terminal "Concourse C".   Twin cable-driven driverless trams were built underground between Terminal 3 and the new Concourse B, with a middle station at pre-existing Concourse A.  One can also walk or take moving walkways that run through this long underground tunnel.  Those departing from the Comair Concourse C take a shuttle bus from Concourse B.

CVG now ranks in the top 30 airports of the world in size and operations -- larger than the airports of many larger and better-known cities.  The airport's present layout is straightforward, both with regards to the runways and the terminals.  This allows both for efficient movement of aircraft and efficient movement of passengers.  The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport is as new, pleasant, and logical as Logan or Laguardia Airports are old, congested, and aggrivating.  Unfortunately, recently installed security equipment has congested matters in Terminal 3, as it has at all airports nationwide.

Aside from Atlanta, Cincinnati is Delta's largest hub, offering in a few cases multiple flights per hour to major cities around the country, with headways as short as ten minutes.  At dinner time each night above Cincinnati's west side, a relentless wave of passenger aircraft approach the two north/south runways.  Often two planes approach exactly parallel to one another, making for a dramatic sight as they cross the Ohio River, located less than a mile north of the runways.  Since 747's make no domestic flights, the noise level is mostly kept within reason, but it is quite bad in Delhi, directly north of the river, and it has hurt property values in that area.   Delta offers international flights from Cincinnati to London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Montreal, Toronto, Cancun, and Nassau.  Air France also operates one daily flight to Paris in competion with Delta's.  It is speculated that a new direct service to Seol or Tokyo will be introduced in upcoming years, as well as more European destinations.  Delta also introduced in 2003 a daily non-stop to Hawaii.

In 2001 Delta opened a new reservations center in downtown Cincinnati, moving to a new purpose-built building on 7th St. from the space it had occupied in Atrium I on 4th St. for 20 years.

Graphic of airport future plans from

In summer 2003 work commenced on a new third north/south runway and an extension of the single east/west runway, slated for completion in 2005.  Also on the table is abandonment of terminal one and movement of minor airlines' operations to terminal 2 and Delta's currently exclusive A and B concourses.  With plenty of room for expansion even beyond those outlined above, the airport is poised to become one of the nation's largest and an even bigger economic engine for the Cincinnati region.

Air operations at CVG can be monitored by scanner on frequencies 134.38, 118.30 and 128.70
Visit the airport's official website at

1. Lunken Airport
2. Blue Ash Airport

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