Chicago Rockford International Airport

Chicago Rockford International Airport (IATA: RFD, ICAO: KRFD, FAA LID: RFD), is in Winnebago County, Illinois, four miles (6 km) south of Rockford and 85 miles northwest of Chicago.[1] It is the third-busiest airport in Northern Illinois, behind Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway; in 2016 the airport served nearly 102,000 passengers.[4]

Chicago Rockford International Airport
Chicago-Rockford terminal
Airport typePublic
OwnerGreater Rockford Airport Authority
ServesRockford and Chicago, Illinois
LocationRockford, Illinois
Hub forUPS Airlines
Built1987 (current terminal)
Elevation AMSL742 ft / 226 m
Coordinates42°11′43″N 89°05′50″W

FAA diagram
Direction Length Surface
ft m
1/19 8,200 2,499 Asphalt
7/25 10,002 3,049 Asphalt/Concrete
Aircraft operations (2017)39,462
Based aircraft (2018)114
Total Passengers Served (12 months ending Jan 2018)191,000
Cargo handled (12 months ending Jan 2018)457 million lbs.

Chicago-Rockford was the 29th busiest cargo airport in the United States for 2016, with nearly 923 million pounds of cargo moved through the airport.[5][6] Since 1994 the airport has been a major hub for UPS Airlines, which has two facilities at the airport. In terms of passenger service, the airport offers year-round direct service to five destinations, along with seasonal destinations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017–2021 categorized it as a non-hub primary commercial service facility.[7]

From 1986 to 1994 and from 2005 to 2015, the airport was home to the Rockford AirFest (now on hiatus).

It is the sixth busiest airport of the 12 commercial airports in Illinois


RFD traces its history to 1917 when Camp Grant was established by the U.S. Army as one of the largest military training facilities in the United States. At the end of 1923, the Army closed Camp Grant as an active facility, transferring it to the Illinois National Guard. In 1941, the facility was reactivated by the Army. During World War II, Camp Grant served as one of the largest Army induction and training centers in the United States, training medical personnel, and serving as a prisoner of war confinement center. Following the end of the war, the facility served as a separation center. In 1946, Camp Grant was shut down for the second (and final) time.

After World War II, Illinois adopted the Airport Authority Act; the Greater Rockford Airport Authority was created in 1946.[8] In 1948, the Camp Grant land was officially transferred to the airport authority from the federal government. Of the 5,460 acres (plus a 6,000 acre rifle range) of Camp Grant, the airport authority acquired the western 1,500 acres of the facility[8], bordered by the Rock River to the north and the Kishwaukee River to the south. In 1954, construction commenced on the airport and terminal.[8]

In 1974, the airport demolished the final remaining Camp Grant buildings on the airport property.[8] In an effort to expand passenger airline service, the current passenger terminal was constructed in 1987. In 1994, United Parcel Service opened the first of two cargo facilities at the airport. While its centralized location in northern Illinois became a selling point for cargo service, scheduled passenger airline service struggled, ending altogether in 2001. During the 1980s and 1990s, Rockford had passenger service to O'Hare Airport, but many airline passengers in the area considered bus service or driving to Chicago a viable alternative. In 2003, the airport restored passenger service; instead of offering regional service to Chicago or elsewhere in the Midwest, the airport presented itself as an alternative for leisure-based travelers, offering low-cost flights to Florida.

In an effort to capitalize on its location (less than 90 miles (145 km) from downtown Chicago and about 30 miles (48 km) from the outermost Chicago suburbs), the Greater Rockford Airport underwent several name changes in the 2000s. Initially changing to the Northwest Chicagoland Regional Airport at Rockford in the early 2000s, in 2004, the airport became an official US port of entry and achieved international status. To reflect the change, it was renamed again, becoming the Chicago/Rockford International Airport (the slash was removed in 2007)[9], bringing it in line with the two "Chicago" airports (O'Hare and Midway). In many forms of media, the airport also markets itself by its three FAA/IATA call letters: RFD.

Today the Rockford airport is marketed to residents of Rockford and surrounding areas as an alternative to Chicago Midway International Airport and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee and Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wisconsin as well as limited service airports such as Dubuque Regional Airport in Iowa. The airlines at RFD often use their low fares as a selling point.

Airport layout

Chicago Rockford International Airport covers 2,900 acres (1,200 ha) and has two runways, both with an ILS: 1/19 is 8,200 x 150 ft. (2,499 x 46 m) and 7/25 is 10,002 x 150 ft. (3,049 x 46 m). In 2017 the airport had 39,462 aircraft operations, average 108 per day: 61% general aviation, 31% airline, 4% military, and 3% air taxi.[1]

Passenger facilities

The current terminal was built in 1987 in an effort to expand airline service in Rockford, but bus service to O'Hare International Airport kept most airlines away from Rockford. Passenger service was lost completely from 2001 to 2003. An upgrade to the terminal in 2005 brought more jetways, escalators, and improved baggage handling equipment (the previous system catered to smaller turboprop aircraft rather than jets). In 2013, the terminal was renamed the Donald A. Manzullo International Terminal.[10][11] In 2017, the airport received a grant to expand both passenger terminals and cargo areas.[12]

Cargo facilities

The airport is in a foreign-trade zone. As runway 7/25 is 10,000 feet (3,000 m) long, a variety of large aircraft can land at RFD; the largest aircraft landed at RFD is the Antonov An-124 Ruslan. In addition to the passenger terminal, the airport is home to three cargo ramps. Next to the main terminal ramp, the 50-acre north cargo ramp is home to the Rockford Regional Air Hub of UPS Airlines that was constructed in 1994. The largest ramp at the airport, it has parking spaces for up to 40 jet aircraft.

Between the two runways, the smaller south ramp is home to one of two FBOs at the airport. In 2015, the former BAX Global (through Air Transport International/ATI) and DHL Express (ABX Air) cargo facilities were demolished to begin construction on a 200,000 square foot MRO facility owned and operated by AAR Corporation, which was opened in 2016.[13]

Southwest of the UPS ramp, in 2008, the airport built a third cargo ramp and a 72,000 square foot warehouse.[14] In 2016, the facilities were leased for the first time to ABX Air to transfer air freight to trucks through the facility.[14]

Airlines and destinations


Allegiant Air Las Vegas, Orlando/Sanford, Phoenix/Mesa, Punta Gorda (FL), St. Petersburg/Clearwater
Seasonal: Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Sarasota


Amazon Air Cincinnati, Miami, Ontario, Portland (OR), Sacramento
UPS Airlines Anchorage, Baltimore, Burbank, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Hartford, Houston–Intercontinental, Kansas City, Louisville, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, Newark, Ontario, Peoria, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Seattle–Boeing
Seasonal: Harrisburg, Manchester (NH)


Top destinations

Busiest domestic routes from RFD
(Aug 2018 – Jul 2019)[15]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Punta Gorda, Florida 25,260 Allegiant
2 Phoenix/Mesa, Arizona 24,000 Allegiant
3 St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida 21,070 Allegiant
4 Orlando/Sanford, Florida 20,480 Allegiant
5 Las Vegas, Nevada 14,970 Allegiant
6 Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, Florida 2,490 Allegiant

The airport was once served as the company headquarters for Ryan International Airlines which based many of its aircraft at the airport for charter flights. Ryan operated a diverse fleet of mainline narrow and widebody jetliners. It ceased all operations in 2013.

Past airline service

Airlines included United Express, Hooters Air, Frontier Airlines (the current version and the original Frontier Airlines (1950-1986)), Britt Airways, Skyway Airlines and successor Midwest Connect, Midway Connection, TransMeridian Airlines, American Eagle, Trans World Airlines (TWA), Ozark Air Lines, McClain Airlines, Direct Air and Northwest Airlink (code sharing service operated by Express Airlines I, Mesaba Airlines and Pinnacle Airlines).

Ozark Douglas DC-9-10s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s flew nonstop to Chicago O'Hare Airport and direct to Denver in 1976.[16] TWA flew Boeing 727s Rockford to Chicago O'Hare for a couple years starting May 1980. McClain Airlines Boeing 727-100s flew nonstop to Chicago O'Hare. The original Frontier Airlines (1950-1986) Boeing 737-200s served Rockford from 1984 until late 1986 nonstop to Cedar Rapids, Madison and Milwaukee and direct to Denver[17] when the operation was transferred to Britt Airways which flew turboprops for a short time. Direct Air served the airport until March 2012.[18] The current version of Frontier offered mainline service to Denver until 2013. It also offered several charter flights, on behalf of Apple Vacations.[19]

Coleman Air Transport had a small hub at RFD in the late 1970s with Grumman Gulfstream Is and was planning to introduce Douglas DC-9-10 nonstop to New York LaGuardia Airport before losing its operating certificate and going out of business.[20]

Since 2002
Before 2002


Rockford AirFest

The Rockford airport has played host to airshows in several capacities, often becoming one of the largest events in Northern Illinois. In 1959 the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) moved its annual fly-in from Timmerman Field in Milwaukee to the Greater Rockford Airport after outgrowing the smaller Wisconsin airfield. In 1960, 1000 people attended, leading to growth each year through the 1960s.[21] 1969 would be the final year for the EAA fly-in in Rockford, as it had outgrown the Rockford airport. For 1970, the EAA would move its annual convention/fly-in to Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where it has been held ever since.

In 1986 the Greater Rockford Airport returned to hosting large-scale air shows with the Midwest AirFest. From 1986 to 1994, the show would twice feature the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. After an 11-year hiatus, the AirFest (rebranded as the Rockford AirFest) returned in 2005. The airshow is one of the few in the United States that has twice hosted the combination of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, US Navy Blue Angels, and the F-22 Raptor Demo Team.

The Airfest was indefinitely canceled in 2016. Airport officials say "The airport has become too busy to shut down the airport for a weekend."[22]

See also


  1. FAA Airport Master Record for RFD (Form 5010 PDF), effective April 26, 2018
  2. Passenger Boarding (Enplanement) and All-Cargo Data for U.S. Airports, Federal Aviation Administration,
  3. "FAA CY12 Cargo Airports" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  4. "FAA | Preliminary Enplanements at All Commercial Service Airports (by Rank), 3 July 2017" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  5. 2017, UBM (UK) Ltd. "RFD Releases 2016 Passenger and Cargo Numbers :: Routesonline". Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  6. "Final CY 2016 Qualifying Cargo Airports, Rank Order, and Percent Change from 2015, 1 September 2017" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  7. "List of NPIAS Airports" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  8. "CAMP GRANT & BELL BOWL TIMELINE | Airport, Camp Grant & Bell Bowl Prairie" (PDF). | History.
  9. The Passenger Seat » Another airport name change (this time, it's simple) Archived July 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. Chuck Sweeny (2012-11-28). "Don Manzullo honored with international terminal name - Blogs - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL". Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-03-15. Retrieved 2015-09-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. Correspondent, Robert Crozier. "Rockford airport celebrates $10.5M for cargo apron, passenger terminal expansions". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  13. "RFD Agreement with International MRO Provider, AAR, to Bring Jobs, Offer Expanded Service Capabilities to Rockford – General News – News | AAR Corporate". Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  14. Guerrero, Isaac. "Exclusive: New daily cargo flight to create jobs at Chicago Rockford International Airport". Rockford Register Star. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  15. "RITA BTS Transtats - RFD". July 2019.
  16., Sept. 1, 1976 Ozark timetable
  17., Feb. 15, 1985 Official Airline Guide
  18. Heath, Dan (April 12, 2012). "Direct Air bankruptcy goes to Chapter 7". Plattsburgh Press-Republican. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  19. Brian Leaf RRSTAR.COM. "Frontier Airlines will not resume Rockford-Denver route - News - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL". Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  20., Nov. 15, 1979 Official Airline Guide
  21. "Experimental Aircraft Fly-In". Flying Magazine: 36. November 1960.
  22. "Airshow stuff".
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