WHEN FRIENDSHIP International Airport was inaugurated in 1950 by President Harry S. Truman, Anne Arundel County was still a largely rural backwater and DC-3s were state-of-the-art. Indeed only a decade earlier, the Baltimore area was still betting on seaplanes as the prevalent future mode of aviation.
In its nearly half-century of operation, the Baltimore area's only international airport has had several milestones. It was ushered into the jet age in May 1959, when a TWA Boeing 707 began regular non-stop service to San Francisco. Jumbo jets started using the airport 11 years later, when Pan American initiated Boeing-747 service to London.
Yet the biggest turning point in the airport's history happened in 1972, when the city of Baltimore sold Firiendship Airport to the state of Maryland for what turned out to be a bargain basement price of $36 million.
After the airport was renamed, a series of modernizations followed, transforming BWI into a convenient and competitive hub drawing business from the entire Baltimore-Washington region.
Two more milestones are on the horizon. The airport, which already is on the Amtrak and MARC commuter lines, next year will be linked by light rail to Ferndale and Glen Burnie in Anne Arundel County, to northern sections of Baltimore County and to downtown Baltimore City, including Penn Station.
Meanwhile, a $32.7 million contract approved earlier this year will double the size of BWI's parking garage, alleviating some of the headaches for passengers. When completed, the garage's capacity will jump from 2,900 spaces to 5,700.
BWI's popularity has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, largely due to the arrival of several aggressive domestic cut-rate air carriers. With the opening of a new $63 million international terminal in sight, state aviation officials hope to increase flights to Europe and Latin America and attract a carrier serving the Pacific Rim in Asia.
Convenient parking is only one of the requirements for a successful airport. But with so many expansion projects under way, BWI is positioning itself for bigger crowds -- and more business -- in the future.
Pub Date: 6/17/96