BURKE LAKEFRONT AIRPORT, a municipally operated downtown air terminal, was located on Cleveland's lakefront and was built to relieve CLEVELAND HOPKINS INTL. AIRPORT of the need to handle large numbers of smaller aircraft. A lakefront airport was first suggested by William Rogers during the GREAT LAKES EXPOSITION of 1936. World War II disrupted planning, and it was not until Aug. 1947 that operations began on a 3,600' dirt runway served by a small operations headquarters. Only 202 flights were logged during the first month of operations; more than 9,000 were logged during Sept. 1984. Major improvements were made to the facility during the tenure of Mayor THOMAS BURKE, and in 1958 the city council voted to name the airport in his honor; dedicating it on 9 Oct. 1960. In 1957 additional landfill deposited in Lake Erie permitted the construction of a 5,200' hardsurface runway. During the 1970s the airport added a new building, control tower, sales facilities, passenger accommodations, and a 6,200' runway, enabling it to accommodate large, multi-engine jet aircraft. Commercial operations included Bolton's Helicopter Services beginning in 1954, Tag Airlines in 1956, WRIGHT AIRLINES in 1966, Midway Airlines in 1979-80, and Beaver Air Service in 1984. However, regular airline service from Burke was not profitable in the late 1980s.
In the 1990s the airport's focus has been on corporate and general aviation. It serves as a national hub for the Federal Reserve's check distribution operation. Burke has averaged approx. 90,000 take-offs and landings over the last 5 years, making it the largest of the 5 FAA designated reliever airports to Cleveland-Hopkins. As a result, Burke occupies an increasingly important place in the Cleveland area's system of airports and is necessary for the maintenance of a safe and efficient air transportation environment in greater Cleveland.
Beginning in 1981, the airport served as the racetrack for the annual GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND, formerly the Budweiser Cleveland 500, an Indianapolis-style road race. The CLEVELAND AIR SHOW began at the lakefront airport in 1964 and has been held annually each Labor Day weekend since then.