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The Alpena County Regional Airport originally bore the name Phelps Collins Field in honor of World War I pilot, Captain Phelps Collins, an Alpena resident and hero who fought and died with the Lafayette Escadrille. The airfield was first put to use after World War I, at which time “Jennies” could be seen landing and taking off from the grassy runway; but the airport was not formally dedicated until 1931. From 1931 to 1947, various Army Air Corps units used the Phelps Collins Field for training purposes. In 1947, it was turned over to the County of Alpena, and assigned to the Air National Guard in 1952. Since that time, it has primarily been used as a summer training site for Air National Guard Units. Between 1953 and 1976 that the United States Air Force utilized Phelps Collins Field to station small, permanent detachments of fighter interceptor units.
Since 1976, Phelps Collins Field has been primarily used for training reserve force units of the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and Army National Guard. The site consists of 3,001.58 acres jointly used with Alpena County, 503 acres is exclusively dedicated to the Guard. There is one 9,001-foot north/south runway and one 5,030-foot crosswind runway. The base is capable of fully sustained military flying operations. Facilities on Phelps Collins Field include a medical/dental clinic, housing for personnel, chapel, operations and maintenance buildings, hangars, a base exchange, conference center and dining halls. The Michigan Air National Guard also operates the air traffic control tower, the airport ARFF/structural fire station, and an air-to-ground gunnery range located near Grayling, Michigan.
On March 14, 1989, the Alpena County Board of Commissioners approved a recommendation to change the name of Phelps Collins Field to Alpena County Regional Airport. By mid 1990 the County of Alpena began to make improvements to the airport’s passenger terminal with the help of the Michigan Bureau of Aeronautics grant programs. Passenger traffic gradually rose during the mid 1990’s as Great Lakes Airlines provided service to Chicago. In June of 1997, Great Lakes Airlines stopped service in Alpena and Northwest Airlines began air service in July of 1997 with flights to Detroit. Passenger numbers grew rapidly, due to the service provided by Northwest Airlines through its airlink partner, Mesaba Airlines. By 1999 passenger service had grown to the point that the airport qualified for Federal Airport Improvement Funds, now the primary funding source for future airport development.
September 11, 2001, brought radical changes to airports across the nation. Alpena was significantly impacted due to the air travel shutdown and the subsequent loss of traveler confidence. As air traffic slowly recovered changes to airport and airline security were put in place. In November of 2002, the recently formed Transportation Security Administration took control of airport security at Alpena County Regional Airport. In 2012, SkyWest airlines operating as a Delta connection began serving the Alpena area and Northeastern Lower Michigan’s regional air service requirements by providing daily flights between Minneapolis and Detroit.
The County of Alpena continues to advocate the development of the civil portion of the airport as a major transportation portal to Northeast Michigan and as an economic stimulus to the Alpena area. The Michigan Air National Guard and the Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) continue to develop new training opportunities as well as enhance and improve their existing facilities and programs. Through a combined effort the Alpena County Regional Airport and the Combat Readiness Training Center ensure that this airport is ready to serve Northeast Michigan, as well as the Nation.