Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Coleman A. Young International Airport

This facility opened as Detroit City Airport Terminal on Oct. 14, 1927. It was designed by Perry A. Fellows and built by W. E. Wood Co.

In 1922, city officials conducted a search for an airport site, eventually settling on a 263-acre location near Conner Creek on the city’s east side. Five years later, the Detroit City Airport Terminal was formally dedicated, with the first aircraft landing at the airport on October 14, 1927. In 1929, the first hangar was erected and by the 1930s Detroit City Airport was the premiere airport in the Detroit area.

The facility served as metro Detroit's primary airport until 1947, when Willow Run Airport -- and later Wayne County Metropolitan Airport (now known as Detroit Metro Airport) took over the majority of flights. This shift was caused, in part, because of the airport's proximity to Gethsemane Cemetery, which prevented adding suitable runways for larger commercial aircraft.

Following the opening of the suburban airfields, Detroit City Airport focused mostly on pilot training and handling private and corporate flights, though commercial flights continued to use the terminal until 2000. It was renamed after Coleman A. Young, the city's longest-serving and first African-American mayor, in 2003.

The airport remains home to many private and corporate jets, but hasn't had regular service from a commercial airline in almost 30 years. That's because the Federal Aviation Administration required that the City acquire land to the east of the airport — from French to McNichols roads and Gilbo to Lynch streets — because the airport's footprint did not have enough of a safety buffer to meet federal standard. That meant the City wasn't receiving federal aviation funding for maintenance and operations. That left the City keeping the airport afloat through its general fund.

But Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's administration started acquiring land from surrounding property owners to fix that, and on Oct. 13, 2022, Duggan announced that the FAA had approved Detroit's first Airport Layout Plan in 30 years. That approval is expected to unlock more than $100 million in federal funds over the next 10 years, including new hangars; a new control tower; improved taxiways and safety zone and further airport development opportunities.

The news also means that the Detroit Public Schools Community District will reopen the Benjamin O. Davis Aerospace Technical High School in the renovated main terminal to train students as pilots and for other aviation-related careers, such as mechanics. The school is slated to reopen in 2025.