Aviation tradition at Niagara Falls

Aviation in Niagara Falls has a proud history, dating to 1928 and the establishment of the city-owned Niagara Falls International Airport. Those four crushed stone runaways, paved a place for the airport. The first terminal opened in 1935. Bell Aerospace set up shop, where they would develop the world’s first commercial helicopter and first super sonic plane.

World War II moved the airport into an active military phase, which continues today. The United States Army Air Forces established a base in the Falls, operating the facility throughout the war. The military added and extended runways, constructed a control tower, added high intensity lights, and an instrument landing system. The base was eventually converted to an Air Reserve Base and became the upstate home of the New York Air National Guard. With the establishment of the U.S. Air Force in 1947, a U.S. Air Force Reserve Unit took up residence. In 1959, the main runway was extended to over 9,000 feet in order to accommodate the new, more demanding military aircraft.

In 1965 U.S. Customs approved the Niagara Falls Airport for international flights. In 1970 the City of Niagara Falls sold the airport to its current owner, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. In 2003, the NFTA lengthen the runway again, to 2,994 meters (9,825 feet, with a maximum take off distance available of 10,825 feet), making it one of the longest in New York State and enabling the NFIA to accommodate the largest aircraft in the air today. It serves as a frequent stop off carriers flying the Antonov An-124, one of the world’s largest planes.

The NFIA has three active runways, which serve general aviation, military and commercial flights. In 2009 a new state-of-the-art terminal opened, capable of taking full advantage of the versatile facilities Niagara Falls has been proud of for more than 80 years.

Highlights Developed at Niagara Falls International Airport:

  • Bell X-1, the world’s first supersonic aircraft
  • Bell Helicopter, the first commercially licensed helicopter
  • Bell X-5, the first aircraft to us in-flight variable sweep wings
  • Bell X-22, the world’s first vertical thrust aircraft
  • Bell P59A, America’s first jet
  • Bell Rocket Belt