Portland International Jetport

Portland International Jetport, or PWM, is a public airport in Portland, Maine. It is owned and operated by the City of Portland and is the busiest airport in the state, serving over two million passengers in 2018. In the year ending May 31st, 2021, there were 75,459 aircraft operations. The airport covers 726 acres, and there are two runways: 11/29, which is 7,200 feet (asphalt), and 18/36, which is 6,100 feet (asphalt).

Airport history

PWM was founded in the late 1920s by Dr. Clifford “Kip” Strange, who needed space for his plane. Known initially as Stroudwater Airport, service began on August 1st, 1931, through Boston-Maine Airways (which later became Northeast and dominated the airport for years). As part of the Maine Emergency Relief Administration (MERA), two runways were constructed at the airport in 1934-5, with one running north-south at 2,400 by 100 feet and the other running east-west at 1,500 by 100 feet. The City of Portland purchased the airfield in 1937, at which point it was renamed the Portland-Westbrook Municipal Airport (hence the PWM). The first terminal was built in 1940 as part of the Works Progress Administration. Today that building serves as the general aviation terminal. During the 1950s, more work was done, and by 1957 there were four runways: 4,260 feet, 2,900 feet, and 4,010 feet, and another (11/29) that was built that year and lengthened to 6,800 feet in 1966.
In 1968, a new terminal opened, necessitated by the coming of the jet age. The first jets to service the airport were Northeast DC-9s to Laguardia in New York City. Up till 1970, Northeast had been alone at PWM. That year, Aroostook Airways began to service the airport in 1972. Although that year the service ended, regional airlines began servicing the airport. That same year, Northeast was bought by Delta Air Lines, who maintained the routes at the airport. Two baggage carousels were added to the terminal in 1980, which caused an eastward expansion, while three second-level jetways and a holding room were added, which brought about development to the west. In 1983 People Express Airlines arrived, providing the first jet competition for Delta. The airline is considered the first low-cost carrier to serve the airport, and its route still operates today through United Airlines (who merged with Continental Airlines, who bought People Express in 1987). As for United, they arrived at PWM in 1983, while USAir (later US Airways, today part of American Airlines) arrived in 1986. In 1995, two second-level boarding gates with additional space for ticketing and operations, a departure lounge, concessions, and an international customs facility were added as part of a terminal improvement project. In 2004, Runway 11/29 was lengthened to 7,200 feet, whereas the following year Delta ended mainline service to PWM (although they returned in the late 2000s and remain today). While there was a downturn following 9/11, low-cost airline Independence Air began to service the airport in 2005, whereas FedEx Express began cargo flights to Memphis later that year. Unfortunately, Independence Air went bankrupt, leaving a void at PWM for low-cost carriers. This caused JetBlue to begin service in 2006, followed by Airtran Airways in 2007. As mentioned previously, Delta returned in 2008, whereas in 2009, international service began through Starlink Aviation, flying to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Yarmouth in Canada. This service ended in 2010; however, Maine-based company Twin Cities Air Service began flying to Yarmouth that same year (the route ended in 2012 but continues on a charter basis to this day). In 2010, construction began expanding the terminal, which included several infrastructure improvements. Furthermore, there were improvements in check-in areas and security, reconfiguring the airport access and terminal roads, rehabilitation and expansion of the parking garage, and a geothermal heating and cooling system. The project cost $75 million.

Airport location

The airport is located two miles west of downtown Portland. 

Airport facts

  • As of now, some projects (expansion and renovation) are planned or in the works, including the general aviation ramp, enlarging the cargo ramp and facilities, reconfiguring the alignment of taxiways, lengthening Runway 18/36, and improving the airport's various declining facilities. 
  • In February 1982, the Portland City Council renamed the airport in honor of longtime Senator Edmund Muskie. Still, the decision was overturned three months later due to public backlash and a request by the Senator himself that the decision is changed. 
  • $4.5 million in federal funds were provided in 2020 to construct a 1,200-foot taxiway connecting the runways.

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