Airports of Nebraska: Central Nebraska Regional Airport 

Exterior of Central Nebraska Regional Airport
Photo Credit: Central Nebraska Regional Airport

Central Nebraska Regional Airport (GRI), in Grand Island, Nebraska, evolved with the nation’s military needs.  

Its story began in the early days of flight, transforming from a humble grass field to a bustling regional hub. 

1919-1937: Taking Flight in the Cornhusker State  

The story starts in 1919 with the Grand Island Aero Company, established by World War I pilot Floyd B. Thompson.  

This company operated a small grass airfield, approximately 1.5 miles south of the current terminal. Recognizing the potential of air travel, the city took control of the airfield in 1928, paving the way for scheduled commercial service. 

The year 1933 marked a significant milestone with United Airlines initiating service.  

Imagine Boeing 247s, the workhorses of the era, gracefully landing on the then half-mile-long sod runway. The feat was a testament to the pioneering spirit of early aviation. 

1937-1942: Arrasmith Field and a New Era 

 The next chapter unfolded in 1937 with the dedication of Arrasmith Field, named after Dr. W.W. Arrasmith.  

A local physician and pilot, Arrasmith was instrumental in securing funding for the airport’s development.  

This new airfield, located north of the original site and encompassing 640 acres, marked a step towards a more modern and expanded facility. 

Grand Island Army Airfield: Wartime Training Ground 

 The tides turned dramatically in 1942 when the U.S. government assumed control of Arrasmith Field for World War II training purposes.  

Renamed Grand Island Army Airfield, the facility underwent significant expansion, growing to 1,920 acres and boasting 173 buildings.  

Public Domain

It became a vital training center for bomber crews, with over 3,500 airmen honing their skills on B-17 and B-29 heavy bombers.  

These airmen, including those from the 6th, 502nd, and 376th Bombardment Groups, played a crucial role in the war effort.  

1948-Present: Post-War Transition and Civilian Rebirth 

With the conclusion of World War II in 1948, the Grand Island Army Airfield transitioned back to civilian control.  

The city took ownership, and the airport resumed its role as a hub for commercial air travel. The following decades witnessed the arrival and departure of various airlines.

These included names like Great Lakes (formerly United Express), Air Midwest (operating as US Airways Express), and Island Air. 

Central Nebraska Regional Airport: A Look Ahead 

Today, Central Nebraska Regional Airport, rechristened with its current name in the latter half of the 20th century, continues to serve the region.  

It offers convenient connections to major hubs, fostering business and leisure travel. The airport also plays a vital role in economic development, attracting businesses and industries seeking air cargo transportation. 

The legacy of Central Nebraska Regional Airport is one of resilience and adaptation. It grew from its humble beginnings as a grass field. Its role evolved through wartime training, and finally to its current status as a regional hub.  

As such, the airport reflects the ever-evolving landscape of aviation. As the industry continues to develop, Central Nebraska Regional Airport is poised to play an ongoing role in connecting Nebraska to the wider world. 

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By AviationSource News 4 Min Read
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