Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport (IATA: BKL, ICAO: KBKL, FAA LID: BKL) is a public airport on the shore of Lake Erie, in the northeast part of downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It's classified as a general aviation airport and is an FAA designated reliever to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE), which is Greater Cleveland's primary airport. In 2018, based on FAA data, Burke Lakefront was the seventh busiest airport in the state of Ohio. It is named after former Cleveland mayor and U.S. senator Thomas A. Burke.
Cleveland Burke Lakefront is one of three airports serving the City of Cleveland with scheduled passenger services. The other two are Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Akron-Canton Regional. Burke Lakefront, being located in Downtown Cleveland, is the most convenient airport to the city, particularly for businesses and Downtown residents. However, the majority of passenger services are at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Akron-Canton Regional Airport, which serves the southern portion of the Cleveland area, including the cities of Akron and Canton, has some passenger services, though no rail connection to Downtown Cleveland as does Hopkins Airport.
The airport is owned and operated by the city of Cleveland, which also operates Hopkins. Though the airport's total operations have decreased over the past two decades from 100,321 in 2000 to 40,185 in 2019, the airport plays a critical role in the city's aviation system and business attraction for Cleveland. Between 2018 and 2019, operations increased by 16.5% from the 34,497 operations in 2018. Additionally, the airport is frequently used by professional sports team charter flights due to its proximity to FirstEnergy Stadium, Progressive Field, and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Originally envisioned in 1927 as a part of a plan for Cleveland's lakefront, a lakefront airport to include "landing places for land and amphibious planes," was included as part of Cleveland's "Official Lakefront Development Plan" in 1946 announced by then City Manager William R. Hopkins (namesake of Cleveland's other, primary airport).
Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport (named for then Cleveland mayor Thomas A. Burke) opened in 1947 as the United States' first downtown airport and as its first municipally owned-and-operated airport. Designed to serve as a supplemental airfield for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, it originally featured a 2,000-foot dirt runway and a small operations facility and hangar. A federal grant in 1950 from the Federal Airport Act permitted the installation of a 5,200-foot hard-surface runway in 1957.
A terminal, control tower, and passenger concourses were constructed between 1957 and 1968. In the 1970s, the airport expanded with new buildings, a new control tower, an additional runway and Aviation High School (which has since closed). The main terminal of the airport was renovated in 1993 to handle airline and air charter service. In 1998, the larger runway was rehabilitated and an instrument landing system was installed, allowing planes to land in poor weather.
Airlines and destinations
The airport is currently served only by Ultimate Air with non-stop service to Cincinnati Lunken. However, during covid-19, operations have been temporarily suspended until Spring 2021. In previous years, The airline Destination One briefly provided scheduled charter service between BKL and airports near the downtowns of Detroit and Cincinnati, and to Milwaukee, WI and Hilton Head, SC. However, this service was short-lived. Wright Airlines was based at BKL in the 1970s and 1980s, before declaring bankruptcy. From 1957 to 1970 TAG Airlines operated flying mainly to Detroit City Airport, but shut down following a fatal crash. In 1979, Midway Airlines operated service from BKL to MDW in Chicago, before moving their operations to Hopkins. In September 2015, Cincinnati based airline Ultimate Air Shuttle announced twice-daily service to Cincinnati-Lunken.
The airport was the site of the annual Grand Prix of Cleveland, last held in 2007, a Champ Car race which required the airport to be briefly shut down. Burke Lakefront Airport was the only airport in the country to host such a major car race which required careful maintenance of the runways in order to keep them safe for cars at high speeds.
Every Labor Day weekend, the airport hosts the annual Cleveland National Air Show attended by 60,000 to 100,000 visitors.On the evening of Thursday, October 25, 2012, president Barack Obama held a rally on the ramp in front of Air Force One for the 2012 presidential election. He was greeted by a crowd of over 12,000, according to various Cleveland news outlets.
Facilities and aircraft
Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport covers an area of 450 acres (180 ha) which contains two asphalt paved runways:
6L/24R measuring 6,198 x 150 ft (1,889 x 46 m) and 6R/24L measuring 5,197 x 100 ft (1,584 x 30 m). The airfield is fully capable of handling large jets including, 737s, 757s, and A320s along with the smaller general aviation aircraft operations.
Signature Flight Support serves as the airport's fixed-base operator.In 2005, the airport had 96,658 aircraft operations, an average of 264 per day: 76% general aviation, 24% air taxi, 1% military and <1% scheduled commercial.There are three flight schools located on the grounds of Burke Lakefront. These schools are, T & G Flying Club, Inc., Zone Aviation, and Precision Helicopters.Zone Aviation offers FAA approved full motion flight simulation with Redbird Flight Simulations FMX AATD simulator.The International Women's Air & Space Museum is located throughout the terminal at BKL.
As of 2007, there are 74 aircraft based at this airport. These aircraft include 38 single-engine aircraft, 13 multi-engine aircraft, 13 helicopters and 10 jets. In percent form 51.3% of the based aircraft are single-engine, 17.5% are multi-engine, 17.5% helicopter and 13.5% jet.General Aviation aircraft rentals can be made to qualifying pilots at T&G Flying Club or Zone Aviation. Flights can be chartered through a number of companies operating out of the airport.
Burke-Lakefront is a class D Airspace. In addition to airport traffic, Burke Lakefront tower and approach control typically provide radar separation to medivac helicopters en route to University Hospitals of Cleveland and Cleveland Clinic which fall within the airspace that extends from the surface to 3000 feet above mean sea level.
Cleveland Hopkins class B Airspace lies above and to the southwest of the Burke Lakefront class D.
US Customs and Immigration
Burke-Lakefront serves as an international airport and is available for entry by international travelers. US Customs and immigration clearance are available with two hour prior notice.
Non-Aviation Related Facilities
Since the city owned Burke-Lakefront was designed for significantly higher usage and future need, some city government agencies and private businesses unrelated to aviation currently occupy unused terminal space. The Cleveland Division of Police hit-skip unit, employee assistance unit, and aviation unit are currently located in Terminal 3. Weather Incorporated and the studio for KAZ Radio Television Network are located in the main terminal.
A decommissioned freighter Kearsarge (Now called Barge Number 225) has been converted to office space and is permanently owned by and docked at the airport. Lean Dog Software and Arras Keathly Advertising are currently tenants. Outdoor event space is available for rent.
September 8, 1981, the commander of the Thunderbirds, Lt. Col. David Smith, was taking off from Burke Lakefront Airport in his T-38 Talon when it ingested several seagulls, stalling the engines. Smith and his crew chief ejected but Smith was killed when his chute failed to open.
September 27, 1986, a runway was closed after debris from a mass balloon release by the charity United Way Services of Cleveland fell on the airport.
In early 2008, a small twin-engined aircraft crashed into Lake Erie shortly after takeoff. The 68-year-old pilot was rumored to have had a heart attack as he made a turn to Niagara Falls.
In September 2009, a TS-11 Iskra practicing for the air show made a gear up landing. The pilot was unharmed and the aircraft received only light damage to the cowling and left wing. The plane remains on the ground as of July 2014.
On December 29, 2016, a Cessna 525C CJ4, registered N614SB, disappeared shortly after takeoff from Burke Lakefront Airport and is believed to have crashed into Lake Erie. A Coast Guard search ensued after air traffic control tower lost contact with the aircraft around 23:00 EST (04:00 UTC) that evening. The jet had six occupants on board at the time of the incident. Days after its disappearance, investigators reported debris washing ashore and luggage found in the lake was confirmed to have been from the missing plane. The aircraft has yet to be recovered.
On February 5, 2018, a Beechcraft Beechjet BE-40, registered N570TM, slid off the end of the runway into the Engineered materials arrestor system likely due to icy conditions. Investigation by the NTSB is pending. Four passengers were on board, there were no injuries reported.
Dwindling operations and increasing interest in waterfront redevelopment have led to calls for the city to consider closing Burke Lakefront Airport.