Birmingham International Airport

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Birmingham International Airport
For the Birmingham, England, airport, see Birmingham Airport, West Midlands.

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (IATA: BHM, ICAO: KBHM, FAA LID: BHM), formerly Birmingham Municipal Airport and later Birmingham International Airport, is the major airport that serves Birmingham, Alabama and Central Alabama, United States. A joint civil-military facility, it is located five miles (8 km) northeast of downtown Birmingham, near the interchange of I-20 and I-59. BHM served 3,222,689 passengers in 2007, and is the largest and busiest airport in the state of Alabama. It has also been mentioned by Atlanta talk show host Clark Howard as a cheap alternate airport for Atlanta travelers due to the presence of Southwest Airlines. Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport currently offers 87 daily departures to 28 cities nonstop and 35 cities direct. The airport was renamed in July 2008 after Fred Shuttlesworth.

The Southern Museum of Flight is also located at the Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport, immediately adjacent on the east side of the North-South runway.

The airfield is capable of handling all aircraft types. The main runway is 12,002 feet (3,658 m) long. The secondary runway is 7,100 feet (2,200 m) long. A Category II instrument landing system allows operations in visibility as low as a quarter mile.

There are currently several capital improvement projects underway, including a $20 million Air Cargo Complex expansion as well as resurfacing of the Air Carrier Apron area.The airport announced a $193 million dollar renovation project to its terminal including upgrades to the airport's existing concourse C and complete renovation of the existing concourse B. BHM says it will also add more security screening areas and a completely new concourse A, as well as US customs offices. The new airport is said to be built with new efficient building standards. The renovation is expected to begin January 2011.

Military use

During World War II the airfield was used by the United States Army Air Force's Third Air Force. In the present day, the Air National Guard has a base which includes nine KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Wing (117 ARW), an Air Mobility Command (AMC)-gained unit of the Alabama Air National Guard. The 117 ARW was previously designated as the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group (117 TRG) and later as the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (117 TRW), a Tactical Air Command (TAC) / Air Combat Command (ACC)-gained unit operating the RF-4C Phantom II reconnaissance aircraft. There is also an Army Aviation Support Facility for the Alabama Army National Guard at the airport along with an adjacent facility for the U.S. Marines First Attack Group.

Aerospace industrial use

An aircraft modification facility on the southwest side of the airport, originally built during World War II, is now operated by Pemco Aeroplex and owned by Nader Banilohi, with much of its recent work in support of the U.S. Air Force KC-135 fleet.

General aviation facilities

Atlantic Aviation operates two general aviation fixed base operator facilities, and there are numerous corporate hangars north of Runway 6-24 and east of Runway 18-36. AirMed International, a fixed-wing air ambulance company, operates its main hub from here.

Terminal and concourses

Main Terminal

BHM currently has one terminal building which is divided into two concourses, B and C.

Concourse B

Concourse B consists of 6 gates, B1-B6. Gates B2, B3, and B5 are currently not in use. American Airlines relocated operations to Concourse C on June 10, 2011. Also, by the week of June 26, 2011, US Airways and Continental will also relocate to Concourse C. Concourse B will then be closed for Phase 1 of the airport's terminal modernization project.

Concourse C

Concourse C has 13 gates: C1-C14. Gates C7, C9, and C11 are currently not branded for a specific airline tenant. Gates C7 and C9 are occasionally used by Delta for early morning and late evening flights as numerous Delta Connection regional jet aircraft are parked overnight on the south side of Concourse C. During Phase 1 of the airport's terminal modernization project, all carriers will operate from Concourse C.

Airlines and destinations
  • Note: By the week of June 26, 2011, all airlines will operate from Concourse C and Concourse B will be closed.

Airlines Destinations Concourse American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth C American Eagle Miami C Continental Express operated by ExpressJet Airlines Houston-Intercontinental B Delta Air Lines Atlanta C Delta Connection operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines Atlanta, Memphis C Delta Connection operated by Comair Atlanta, Memphis, New York-LaGuardia C Delta Connection operated by Compass Airlines Minneapolis/St. Paul C Delta Connection operated by Pinnacle Airlines Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis C Southwest Airlines Baltimore, Chicago-Midway, Dallas-Love, Houston-Hobby, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa C United Express operated by ExpressJet Airlines Chicago-O'Hare C United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines Chicago-O'Hare, Denver C US Airways Express operated by Air Wisconsin Charlotte, Philadelphia B US Airways Express operated by PSA Airlines Charlotte B

Southwest Airlines carried the most passengers through BHM in 2007; transporting 1.14 million passengers, 35.6% of total BHM passengers. Additionally, Southwest Airlines operates BHM as a connecting airport for over 180 different flight pairs.Southwest uses Las Vegas and Phoenix to connect passengers to the west coast. In March 2008 the order of carriers (including regional jet partners) for the 274,711 passengers carried that month was as follows: Southwest, Delta, US Airways, American, Continental, United Express, Northwest, and ExpresssJet.

Commercial aircraft

In December 2009, typical commercial passenger traffic included a mix of Boeing 737, Embraer 145, CRJ100/200, CRJ700/900, and MD-80 models operating approximately 140 take offs or landings daily. The overwhelmingly dominant mainline aircraft was the Boeing 737 due to Southwest Airlines service at the airport with that type (Delta occasionally uses the 737 on its flights to Atlanta), followed by MD-80 series aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. Fifty passenger or less Canadair Regional Jets were the most common regional aircraft. The ERJ 145 and CRJ700/900 family shared the second spot for regional jets. No scheduled commercial service is offered on turboprop aircraft from BHM. Unique regularly scheduled aircraft included a Boeing 727-200 operated by FedEx and an Airbus A300-600 operated by UPS, the only Airbus aircraft to routinely use the airport.

Architecture, interior design, and public art

The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport consists of a single terminal with two concourses radiating from the curved common terminal area which is outside the TSA security checkpoints and includes check-in, baggage claim, and ground transportation. The terminal reflects the International style of architecture popular for American commercial and institutional buildings from the 1950s through the late 1970s. Large floor to ceiling plate glass windows form curtain walls on the departure level of the terminal with horizontal bands of repetitive white architectural panels above and below. A slight departure from typical International style, the upper band of panels is decorated with raised circles of four sizes, two circles per size per panel. The roof is flat over the terminal and concourses; a series of steel columns painted white with stay cables for the terminal awning project from the roof. An enclosed white-clad Observation Deck juts out from the airside terminal face at a sharp angle between Concourses B and C. On the airside of the terminal, a large horizontal white sign with teal lettering identifies the city as Birmingham.

Externally, Concourse B and C are radically different than the terminal structure, consisting of straight radial spokes clad with white panels. Concourse C includes a circular end which invokes the appearance of the terminal, Concourse B terminates at a flat wall. The Concourse walls have relatively few windows, typically at waiting and dining areas. The presence of multiple shops, restrooms and service areas reduces the need for windows in the concourses. Jetways are used for the majority of the gates and aircraft, though Delta Connection and United Express uses stairs leading to the tarmac to board flights on regional jets. Passenger gates and services are located on the second floor with airside baggage handling and aircraft servicing on the ground level.

The interior of the terminal was renovated in the early 1990s at a cost of $50.4 million which included new floor surfaces, lighting, wall coverings, renovated public spaces, and public art. The flooring is a mixture of carpet and large tiles, with tile primarily in the heavily used terminal spaces, dining areas, and restrooms. Primary colors are off-white, beige and gray. Numerous planters are positioned in hallways.

Terminal expansion and modernization currently in the design stage is expected to result in significant changes to the appearance of the terminal and concourses.

Several pieces of artwork are displayed within the Terminal and on the airport grounds. Approaching the airport along Messer Airport Boulevard, travelers pass a series of white three dimensional triangular shapes placed on raised posts along the shoulder and median of the roadway with a mid-span folded crease to suggest the wings of birds in flight or aircraft. The two-story open space between the baggage claim carousels and the exterior entrances is filled with internationally recognized artist Larry Kirklandâs mixed sculptural work Birmingham Beacons. The centerpieces of this work are two tall steel towers, recalling Birminghamâs heavy industrial heritage, carved with images from nature, science, leisure and cultural activities that reflect the local environment and people. A granite map of Alabama, a small red stone house with quotes from local residents, and a series of suspended objects round out the piece. The viewing area between Concourses B and C displays whimsical sculptures of fruits and vegetables depicted as airplanes. Across from the viewing area is a display of the dedication plaque for the 1962 Birmingham Air Terminal and the large analogue clock with blinking stars which once hung above the main entrance doorway of the 1962 terminal and, with an adjacent sign, welcomed arriving passengers to Birmingham as they exited the terminal. Modified from its original appearance, the clock now includes photos of the current terminal, the 1931 terminal, and Birminghamâs Moorish style Terminal Station which served the railroads of Birmingham until being demolished in 1969.


The first commercial air service to Birmingham began in 1928 by St. Tammy and Gulf Coast Airways, operating through Roberts Field on the west side of Birmingham on a route from Atlanta, Georgia to New Orleans, Louisiana. Delta Air Service began service to Birmingham in late 1929 with six seat Travel Air airplanes along a route stretching from Love Field in Dallas, Texas to Birmingham. When American Airways (now American Airlines) began their Atlanta, Georgia to Fort Worth, Texas route, Birmingham was not included in the route because their Ford Tri-Motor aircraft could not land at Roberts Field. As a result of this development, Birmingham began construction of a new airport, Birmingham Municipal Airport on the current Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport site.

The new airport opened with great public fanfare on May 31, 1931 with a single two story, white, Georgian style terminal and a single east-west runway. The terminal stood immediately east of the later 1962 and 1971 terminal complexes. No remains of the 1931 terminal or landscaping are visible. With the addition of American Airlines in 1931 and Eastern Airlines in 1934, air traffic increased enough to warrant a second runway.

World War II saw the airport leased to the United States Army Air Forces for $1 a year to support national defense. Birmingham Army Airfield was a section assigned to the Third Air Force as a fighter base, operated by the 310th Army Air Force Base Unit. The Army Air Force considerably improved the airport with land acquisitions, paving of additional taxiways, and construction of a control tower and an aircraft modification center south of the terminal (this is now operated by Pemco).

After the airport was returned to city control in August 1948, Southern Airways began service to the airport. By March 1951, four runways were in operation, Runways 5/23 (now designated 6/24) and 18/36, as well as additional runways at approximately 45/225 degrees on the north side of Runway 5/23 and 85/265 degrees primarily south of Runway 5/23. Runway lengths were all approximately 4,000 feet (1,200 m) to 5,500 feet (1,700 m). The runway at 45/225 degrees is now largely removed, though a paved portion remains crossing taxiway F near the Alabama Air National Guard facilities, used as a location for airport equipment and helicopter landing/parking. The runway at 85/265 is also mostly removed, with remaining segments making up taxiway A5 and a portion of taxiway F east of Runway 18/36.

By 1959, Runway 5/23 was lengthened to 10,000 feet (3,000 m) and service was started to Birmingham by Capital Airlines. Capitalâs merger with United Air Lines resulted in the initiation of jet service to Birmingham with the Sud Aviation Caravelle. By the late 1960s, DC-8, DC-9, 727 and Convair 880 jets were in scheduled service at BHM.

Continued growth in passenger traffic by 1962 resulted in the construction of a second passenger terminal and a new air traffic control tower, built west of the original 1931 terminal. This was dedicated on February 11, 1962 as the Birmingham Air Terminal. Charles H. McCauley Associates was the supervising architect and Radar & Associates was the designing architect. It consisted of a single story building of repeated bays with steeply pitched roofs, which flanked a wider, higher center bay at the south end of the building for ticketing. A long, flat roofed northern section comprised the ground-level aircraft gates. The south portion remains today for various airport support functions.

In 1973 the current semi-circular terminal was completed west of the 1962 terminal and air traffic control tower. It originally had 15 aircraft gates and a 1,600 space parking deck. Allegheny Air (now US Airways) began service from Birmingham to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the late 1970s. Deregulation of the airline industry saw airlines such as Com Air, Florida Express, People Express, Air New Orleans, L'Express Airlines, and most importantly Southwest Airlines enter the Birmingham market. With the introduction of flights to Canada and Mexico, the official name of the airport was changed to Birmingham International Airport on October 20, 1993

In the early 1990s, Runway 18/36 was extended to 7,100 feet, allowing its routine use by airline jets. By the early 2000s, Birmingham had constructed a new 211 feet (64 m) tall control tower and completed significant improvements to the air cargo areas, including an entirely new facility at the far west end. The 1960s blue air traffic control tower was demolished in 2001. In 2006, Birmingham International Airport celebrated its 75th year of serving the central Alabama region. In July 2007, an 2,000-foot (610 m) eastward extension to Runway 6/24 was completed and dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Now at 12,002 feet (3,658 m) in length, Runway 6/24 allows a fully-loaded and fueled Boeing 747 to land or takeoff in Birmingham.

On June 23, 2008, Birmingham city mayor Larry Langford announced his proposal to rename the airport as the Fred L. Shuttlesworth International Airport, in honor of civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth. On July 16, 2008, Mayor Langford and the Birmingham Airport Authority voted to change the name of the airport from the Birmingham International Airport to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport after the former civil rights activist. The name change cost about $300,000. In October 2008, the airport was officially renamed again to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The FAA approved the name change and signage of the airport took place on April 3, 2009.

Incidents and accidents

One fatal Part 121 (Air Carrier) accident has occurred at or in the immediate vicinity of Birmingham International Airport since 1934; the crash of Pennsylvania Central Airlines (a United Airlines predecessor) Flight 105 on January 6, 1946. The DC-3 landed on Runway 18 and continued off the end of the runway into Village Creek, three crew members sustained fatal injuries as a result of the accident. Two Part 135 (Air Taxi & Commuter) accidents have occurred since 1962 which resulted in fatalities. The most significant accident was the crash of L'Express Airlines Flight 508 on July 10, 1991 with the loss of 13 lives. Eight fatal General Aviation accidents have occurred at or in the vicinity of Birmingham International Airport since 1962, including a flight line ground accident

Popular culture

The airport was the setting and filming location for the 2008 video of the Grammy Award-nominated and GMA Dove Award Song of the Year winning song âGive Me Your Eyesâ by contemporary Christian artist Brandon Heath. The video was filmed in the 1962 Birmingham Air Terminal and the current terminalâs Baggage Claim and lower level Arrivals roadway areas. The airport scenes include over 100 extras.


Building Activity

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