Efforts toward the development of aviation in the Tri-State areas were initiated on December 8, 1922 when the Chamber of Commerce formed its first aviation Committee to select a site for an airfield. Their original selection of Kyle Field at Kyle Landing was used until 1927 when a search for a larger and more permanent site was undertaken. Similarly, in February of 1929 the Embry-Riddle Company predecessor of American Airlines, proposed to build an airport at their own expense at South Point, Ohio, provided that various cities in the Tri-State area would agree not to build a competing airport. All area cities agreed to this except Huntington and an airport was opened in Chesapeake, Ohio, later that year. This remains the current Lawrence County Airport.
Continuing efforts by the aviation committee for site selection determined that the now location of Tri-State Airport was the most feasible. After this, the committee set out to obtain the funds necessary for its development. Several attempts at securing this money met with failure. Finally, in 1948 five organizations agreed to join in forming a Tri-State Airport Authority. An act of the State Legislature creating the Authority passed March 5, 1949. The first step made by this Authority was to appoint a committee to buy the land. Five hundred and thirty-four (534) acres were acquired. A contract was signed and the notice to proceed was issued on March 7, 1950. The first step of construction contemplated had been a runway 2900' long and 100' wide; however, the Authority was able (with other local funds and federal matching funds) to extend the runway to 4600' and increase the width to 150'. Tri-State Airport was dedicated on November 2, 1952. In 1956 the runway was extended to 5297' and in 1959 the construction of the present Terminal Building began, and was dedicated in 1961.
In November of 1973 dedication ceremonies were held on the runway expansion project. This project required an additional 115 acres of land to provide the necessary clearances and construction area for the expansion project. The construction included movement of approximately 4 million cubic yards of earth to provide an additional graded extension of 2440 feet long by 500 feet wide. This permitted a 1220 foot paved extension making a 6,517 foot paved runway, and provided for an additional 1000 feet of safety overrun on the west end and 400 feet on the east end.
The lighting of the extension, relocation of the glide slope, and approach lights, movement of the localizer to centerline, the addition of radar Visual Approach Slope Indicator and Runway end Identification Lights further improved safety at Tri-State Airport.
The earth used to fill the deep ravines in the expansion area was obtained from a 90 foot hill just south of the main runway and east of the terminal area. This graded area is now the location of the 3007 by 60 foot paved and lighted secondary runway.
The improvements were made after the November 14, 1970, Marshall University Football Team charter airplane crashed while on approach to the airport. Five (5) local banks joined forces to loan the Authority $1,355,140.00, its local match for federal funding necessary for these improvements. After a special contribution of $50,000.00 from Wayne County Commission, the Authority paid off the loan on July 15, 1993 a year early.
In recent years numerous improvements have been made to the airport. They are listed in the fiscal year of the FAA, and are as follows:
1973: Airport Master Plan
1975: Concrete apron overlay, Complete perimeter property survey
1976: Purchase fire and rescue equipment, Installation of security fence
1977: Purchase snow removal equipment
1978: Installation of security lighting, Correction of landslide at intersection of main R/W and hangar T/W, Expansion of general aviation parking area apron, Terminal alterations to accommodate handicapped persons
1979:Terminal building expansion
Construction of access road to new general aviation area
1980: Construction of two field maintenance equipment storage buildings, Renovation and additions to the private aircraft terminal, Installation of taxiway guidance signs, Airline ticket concourse renovations
1981: Airport master plan update, Fuel farm relocation, General aviation area study, Remarking R/W 12-30 for precision markings
1982: Repair landslide near Hangar T/W and for R/W 12
1983: Rehabilitate HIRL R/W 12-30, Purchase snow blower, Purchase new taxiway regulator
1984: Construct new southside General Aviation Apron and T/W, Repair landslide east of terminal, Pave fillet on terminal apron
1985: Overlay R/W 3-21 & T/W, Remark R/W 3-21 & T/W, Rehabilitate, overlay, mark and groove R/W 12-30 and parallel taxiway
1987: Install deer fencing, Purchase CFR vehicle, Purchase police vehicle, Engine generator for security area
1988: Airport master plan update, Complete deer fencing, Purchase truck with snowplow, Purchase R/W deicer truck, Purchase front-end loader
1989: Engineering Study for taxiway extension
1990: Construct partial parallel taxiway R/W 12
1991: Install Security Control System, Install 36" Rotating Beacon, Install 4 T/W signs
1992: Install Taxiway Lighting and signs
1993: Repair Slide & Reconstruct General Aviation Access Road
1994: Purchase Runway Friction Test Vehicle and Design Terminal Canopy and Improvements
1995: Terminal Canopy and Upfit, Airline Lobby Improvements, and Install Engine Generator with Switchboard
1996: Purchase Snow Blower and Broom
1997: Slide Repair R/W 30
1998: Passenger Handicap Lift, De-Ice Truck, 4 Wheel Drive Truck with Plow and Police Vehicle
1999: Snow Equipment Storage Building and Drainage Improvements