Airports of Nevada: Reno-Tahoe International Airport

View on approach to RWY16L Reno–Tahoe International Airport
Photo Credit: D Ramey Logan, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), Nevada’s busiest airport, is intimately linked to the development of Reno and the allure of Lake Tahoe.  

From its quiet beginnings as a private airfield to a bustling international hub, RNO’s story reflects the region’s own transformation into a major tourist destination. 

1929-1960s: From Hubbard Field to Municipal Airport  

RNO’s roots are in 1929 when Boeing Air Transport, a precursor to United Airlines, built Hubbard Field.  

Named after aviation pioneer Eddie Hubbard, the airfield primarily served as a stopover for transcontinental mail flights.  

Ownership transitioned to United Airlines in 1936, and the City of Reno acquired it in 1953, recognizing its potential for commercial aviation growth. 

The 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley, California, proved a turning point. To accommodate the influx of visitors, Reno Municipal Airport, as it was then known, underwent a significant expansion.  

A new terminal building with increased capacity was constructed. This expansion then paved the way for a future as a major passenger gateway. 

Richard Silagi (GFDL or GFDL), via Wikimedia Commons

1940s-2000s: Military Presence and the Rise of Reno Air  

While RNO rapidly developed as a civilian airport, its neighbor, Reno-Stead Airport (formerly Stead Air Force Base), served a vital military role in Nevada.

Built in 1942 by the U.S. Army Air Corps, Stead trained countless personnel, including astronauts before the space race.  

After its closure in 1963, the City of Reno took ownership and transformed it into a general aviation airport, complementing RNO’s commercial focus. 

The 1990s witnessed the rise of Reno Air, a regional carrier that called RNO its hub. Reno Air’s extensive network utilized MacDonnell Douglas MD-80 and MD-90 aircraft.  

They connected Reno to several cities, further solidifying the airport’s role in regional travel. However, its acquisition by American Airlines in 1999 and subsequent dissolution in 2001 left a void. 

Sirujs Enobs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reno-Tahoe International Airport: A New Era  

In 1994, reflecting its expanded reach beyond Reno, the airport officially adopted the name Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Nevada.  

This shift acknowledged the growing importance of tourism to the region. Lake Tahoe, a world-renowned vacation destination, is just a short drive away. 

The early 2000s saw continued growth at RNO. New airlines arrived, offering more domestic and international connections.  

Technological advancements like self-service kiosks, pioneered at RNO by Continental Airlines in 2003, streamlined the passenger experience.  

The airport also prioritized sustainability initiatives, implementing energy-saving measures and encouraging eco-conscious practices. 

Today, RNO serves millions of passengers annually, connecting them to destinations across North America and beyond from Nevada.

The Nevada airport continues to modernize, with ongoing terminal renovations and expansions planned to meet future travel demands.  

Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Look Ahead: Embracing the Future 

As Reno, Nevada and Lake Tahoe evolve, RNO remains a vital link, ensuring smooth and efficient access to this captivating region of Nevada.

RNO’s future is bright. Reno-Tahoe International Airport Authority actively pursues continuous improvement. Its focus centers on enhancing passenger comfort, expanding cargo operations, and upholding environmental responsibility.

RNO actively embraces evolving technology and travel trends to ensure its adaptation and continued role as a key player in Nevada’s thriving tourism industry.

The airport’s story, a testament to human ingenuity and the enduring allure of travel, promises to unfold in further new chapters. 

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By AviationSource News 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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