Located three miles south of the Idahoan capital of Boise, Boise Airport serves a number of critical functions for its region. Unlike many airports, whose commercial focus limits their usefulness to non-civilian flights, Boise Airport caters to a variety of parties, military or not. In fact, the facility, also known as Boise Air Terminal or Gowen Field, boasts a joint civil-military nature and is home to commercial and general aviation organizations.
The first semblance of the airfield from which Boise Airport evolved appeared in 1936; at this time, land was purchased to build and expand the airport. Quick structural growth ensued, leading to the construction of an 8,800-foot runway, the longest in the United States of America, by 1938. Boise-based Varney Air Lines moved its main hangar to the airfield in 1939, but with the increase in aircraft size, the hangar was gradually converted into a passenger terminal. During World War II, the airfield was leased the Army Air Forces for bomber training, leading to the stationing of over 6,000 American soldiers at the site throughout the conflict; it was during this military occupation that, on July 23rd, 1941, the airfield was named Gowen Field after fallen bomber pilot Paul R. Gowen. After serving as an integral training ground in wartime, the portion of the airport used by the Army Air Forces was given back to the city of Idaho, after which the Idaho Air National Guard picked up the lease (which it still holds today). As the years passed, the aforementioned hangar-turned-terminal became somewhat obsolete, leading the city to overhaul the airport from 2003 to 2005. A brand new terminal, complete with such upgrades as improved lobbies, new baggage claim areas, improved security, and improved concourses and concessions areas, was created in 2004.
The new terminal provided a much-applauded face lift for the aging Boise Airport, as demonstrated by the top-five ranking in a global passenger satisfaction study conducted in 2004. The terminal boasts a contemporary interior, which spans three stories and 378,000 square feet and sits beneath the beautiful curving steel facade, which invites patrons inside. The airfield itself currently comprises three runways on 5,000 acres of land; two of these runways are roughly 10,000 feet in length and serve a number of different organizations, while the third is just 5,000 feet long and reserved strictly for military use. A notable development on the airfield came in 2008 in the form of the Pacific Northwest’s tallest air traffic control tower, which at 295 feet remains one of Idaho’s tallest structures.
Boise Airport Statistics
Though perhaps only a quarter of all aircraft operations at the airport pertain to scheduled commercial flights, Boise Airport routinely sees around three million passengers pass through its doors each year. In addition to commercial travel, general aviation (making up around half of total airport operations) and military usage are common at Boise Airport, displaying its versatility and importance despite its somewhat small base of operations.
In addition to its conventional uses, Boise Airport serves auxiliary functions of regional and national significance. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is located in Boise and employs the airport to help support a national wildfire response system, which spans thousands of agencies; similarly, the United States Forest Service employs Boise Airport as a base for aerial firefighting operations. Though it may seem that such functions are seldom needed, the Pacific Northwest knows all too well the danger of wildfire season, and Boise Airport has proven to be an essential piece in quelling potentially disastrous situations. From flights to fighters to fires, Boise does it all.